When you think about life’s regrets, you might particularly ponder those times when you didn’t take action. Indeed, that’s the case with this photographer, who spent the majority of his life concealing the fact he was gay. But now he’s come out to the world and let others know it’s okay to be yourself.
In many respects, recent times have seen signs of progress regarding LGBTQ rights emerging throughout multiple societies. However, not everybody can take freedom of sexuality for granted. Indeed, even in contemporary times many people can find coming out to be a particularly difficult process.
Attitudes towards sexuality, however, do change over time and this is sometimes reflected in the nature of television shows of a given period. Take, for example, the popular 1994 sitcom Friends, which was considered quite progressive for its time. Yet even so, it still occasionally used non-straight sexuality as a springboard for humor.
Nevertheless, the fact that the show featured LGBTQ characters at all might have been considered a step forward. And nowadays TV shows have characters of all orientations, many of whom aren’t treated differently for their romantic preferences. But unfortunately acceptance, in reality, still isn’t total.
Some people today fear coming out, for one reason or another. It might be because they’re scared that their family won’t accept them. Or they might be concerned that less progressive communities and societies might treat them differently.
Indeed, on July 27, 2017, The Guardian reported that homosexuality was still criminalized in many countries around the world. However, more and more locations are removing their unfair restrictions on love. And Matt Horwood, spokesperson for an LGBT charity called Stonewall, hopes that is just the beginning.
“Same-sex relations are illegal in 72 countries, and punishable by death,” told The Guardian. “We all have a part to play in ensuring all LGBT people are accepted without exception. And all we can hope is that, in 50 more years, we will have lots more progress to look back on.”
Even in countries we might today think of as progressive, general tolerance to the LGBTQ community has been a relatively recent occurrence. Indeed, as an illustration of this, one need look no further than high-profile coming out stories of celebrities. For instance, things were a lot different for A-lister Sir Ian McKellen when he publicly revealed his sexuality.
McKellen is probably best known for his performances as Magneto in the X-Men franchise and as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He’s also a famously gay man who helped found the Stonewall charity. And in 2018 he celebrated his 30-year coming out anniversary.
The prolific actor first announced his sexuality on BBC Radio 3 on January 27, 1988. It was a far less forgiving time, and McKellen was discussing the controversy surrounding the Local Government Bill 1988. Specifically, section 28 was the point of focus.
That part of the bill put restrictions on local authorities to prevent them from “promoting homosexuality.” Naturally, the actor was against it. “It’s offensive to anyone who is, like myself, homosexual,” he said on the radio broadcast. “Apart from the whole business of what can and cannot be taught to children.”
Fast forward 30 years and Sir McKellen has never looked back on that moment. And he announced as much on Twitter. “I’ve never met a gay person who regretted coming out – including myself,” he wrote. “Life at last begins to make sense, when you are open and honest.”
Ellen DeGeneres is another pro-LGBTQ celebrity who famously came out on a public platform. The chat show host made her announcement to Time magazine on April 14, 1997. She even made it to the front cover, with the simple headline, “Yep, I’m Gay,” drawing the wider media’s attention.
Indeed, the buzz was reflected on DeGeneres’ sitcom Ellen, in which her character also came out. Known famously as “The Puppy Episode,” the lead actor’s personal announcement made interest in the show skyrocket. In fact, it increased Ellen’s viewers by a factor of three.
Degeneres has since spoken openly about her sexuality on such shows as Oprah and Diane Sawyer’s 20/20. On April 25, 1997, she discussed her decision to come out with Sawyer. And despite the media’s response causing DeGeneres depression, she claimed she had no regrets.
“I decided this was not going to be something that I was going to live the rest of my life being ashamed of,” DeGeneres commented. And in more recent times it’s not just gay celebrities coming out. So are other people who are part of the LGBTQ community.
Lady Gaga is perhaps one of the better known stars to reveal their non-straight preferences. When the singer discussed her bisexuality on RuPaul’s Drag Race in March 2017 it was big news. And back in 2009 she revealed that her orientation had inspired one of her hit songs.
To be more specific, Lady Gaga was talking about her bisexuality when she sang the song “Poker Face.” But despite her support for LGBTQ groups, some criticized the popstar and claimed her announcement was a publicity stunt. These accusations were so persistent that they provoked a response from Gaga.
When she released her Artpop album in 2013 Lady Gaga directed a speech specifically at her naysayers. “You know what? It’s not a lie that I am bisexual and I like women,” she said at the time. “Anyone that wants to twist this into ‘she says she’s bisexual for marketing,’ this is a f***ing lie. This is who I am and who I have always been.”
Despite certain incidences of pushback, the world is by and large more accepting of LGBTQ communities than it once was. And these changing attitudes have opened the doors for many people hiding in the shadows. Indeed, some now feel they can finally step into the light and be themselves.
One such person is a man called Martin, who, as a senior, finally came out. In fact, Martin addressed the world on May 15, 2018, through YouTube channel 5 Gum. And the video allowed him to tell his story, which is both deeply moving and incredibly inspirational.
You see, Martin grew up in an age where being gay was a punishable offense by law. He explains in the video how he even chose a career to conceal his orientation. “I started photography when I was about 16,” he says. “I was literally having to hide my sexuality.”
“But who’s going to accuse me of being gay because I’m photographing a guy?” Martin continues. No doubt it was like the young man was looking at a world he couldn’t take part in. “It’s tough to be an outsider,” he tearfully adds.
“I regret being such a sissy,” Martin states. “So nervous, so bloody shy. I left it until I was actually 85 years old to really basically come out.” As a result, there are lots of things the senior hasn’t had the opportunity to do – and one of them is settle down with a partner.
“I missed the boat with regards to finding a lovely partner, a soulmate that I could love,” he continues in the clip. Martin wishes that other people learn from his experiences and live true to who they are, regardless of sexuality. He doesn’t want people unhappy because of what others might think.
“If you ask me,” Martin says, “if you want to set up with another young guy, go ahead, do it. You’ve got it. You owe it to yourself. And to him.” Indeed, this is a point that gets to the heart of the clip as a whole, which forms part of a video series called “No Regrets.”
As part of the series, five seniors were featured in short, powerful videos revealing their life stories and regrets. The tales are poignant and they each hold an important message, urging people to make a happy life. Indeed, this is apparently the reason 5 Gum chose its specific speakers, as the company told Huffpost in May 2018.
“Regret is a powerful, universal emotion,” Ashley Findlay, brand manager at 5 Gum, commented. “5 Gum believes that you regret the things you don’t do in life more than the things you do.” And that’s what made Martin’s story so meaningful to the brand.
“When we heard Martin’s story, we knew we had to help him share it with the world to encourage younger generations to live life to the fullest,” Findlay explained. And judging by public reactions, that’s exactly what the video did.
The 5 Gum short shows Martin watching recordings, presumably sent to him by complete strangers. They feature happy, smiling people who reveal how much he moved them. They explain how their own lives have improved thanks to the senior’s emotional message.
“Martin, your story inspired me to be true to myself and to be proud of who I am,” one young man says. And a female couple then agrees with this sentiment. “Yeah, I think that the video made me very happy to be in the place I am now,” one of the women says.
Another recording shows a man proposing to his partner on a windswept beach. And this is followed by a tearful Martin talking to his son, who seems so proud of his father. However, it doesn’t end there – the short has one more scene to reveal.
The final part of the 5 Gum video shows Martin attending a LGBTQ pride parade for the first time. His beaming face reveals that it’s never too late to be proud of who you are, whatever your orientation. The video fades to black as Martin joyfully dances around with a rainbow flag.
The clip ends with the last part of Martin’s advice. “Go to it, be together – it’s wonderful.” And the senior’s 5 Gum feature has inspired many people since its upload to YouTube. In fact, internet users have viewed it just under 85,000 times to date.
In addition, Martin’s story has moved people to send him kind comments from across the world. “Thank you Martin and 5 Gum,” one viewer wrote. “Martin has just made countless friends and admirers… and most importantly is inspiring many to come out.”
“I want to hug this man so much,” another person wrote. “I want to hug him for the sorrow he feels. But I also want to hug him to celebrate his courage and his strength. Martin, you truly are courageous, and an inspiration to me and to countless others! Love you!”
Others took strength from Martin’s words and braved something they’d been putting off. One YouTuber said, “This touched my heart and convinced me to come out to my family, thank you.” And social media users don’t think Martin’s beyond love yet, either.
“Martin, you are still alive so it’s not too late,” a commenter said. “Even this late in life, people can still find love.” Another left him a message stating, “You are lovely Martin; it is never too late to be yourself. Welcome out!”
So as sad as Martin’s story began, his future looks to be filled with love and acceptance. And it’s wonderful that he’s now living in a time when he can be himself. He no longer feels that he needs to hide.
Martin believes it’s important to live your life happy. And this means loving who you love without shame and being who you are. And although society still has a lot of work to do, it looks like things are starting to move in the right direction.