"Crispin Blunt wishes to make it known that he has separated from his wife
Victoria. He decided to come to terms with his homosexuality and explained the
position to his family. The consequence is this separation. There is no third
party involvement, but this is difficult for his immediate and wider family and
he hopes for understanding and support for them.
The family do not wish to make any further public comment and hope that their privacy will be respected as they deal with these difficult private issues."
When David Laws came out, I wrote this in a column in the Mail on Sunday...
... It’s healthy to be open and completely transparent, and I am sure that
now David Laws has taken that massive step to ‘out’ himself, he will wonder why
he didn’t do it years ago. But we need to understand why he didn’t before we
rush to judge him. Intensely private people - and yes, some politicians are just
that – recoil from talking about their sexual proclivities. There are some
things you just don’t do. We’re not Americans. We don’t like baring our souls.
And most of all we don’t like hurting our families. I know. I have been there.
I have wanted to be an MP all my adult life. But the thing that stopped
me going for it was my own homosexuality. I grew up in a small village, among a
community with very conservative views. Despite attending a left wing university
in the early 1980s, I did nothing to act on my ‘inner gay’. I went through most
of my twenties not acknowledging my own sexuality to anyone but myself, let
alone my own family.
In the mid 1990s I started a relationship with my now civil partner, John.
He would often visit my parents’ home and they all got on like a house on fire.
To my family he was my ‘friend’. Nothing more. But when I reached the age of 40
and decided I wanted a political career I knew I would have to be open. I
certainly didn’t want anyone to ‘have’ anything on me. Everyone told me that my
parents would already know. But they didn’t. It proved to be one of the most
difficult conversations of my life. I then told several long standing friends,
all of whom I felt I had let down by not having said anything before. No one who
hasn’t been through that experience can comprehend the trauma I went through
through. The same trauma David Laws is going through this weekend.
So I understand David Laws wish to remain private and not have to tell his
family. But in this age of transparency, openness, blogs and Twitter it is
simply not possible to maintain that veil of secrecy over such an intensely
personal part of your life.
It’s all very well for people to assert that times have changed and there
is a greater acceptance of different lifestyles in society. Of course that is
true, but it doesn’t make it any easier for family members with devout religious
beliefs to accept a lifestyle they have been taught is both wrong and will
result in eternal damnation. And that’s the same whether you’re a gay
politician, gay welder or a gay chairman of a FTSE 500 company. Just saying that
‘time have changed’ is over simplistic and ignores personal realities.
All of that and more applies to Crispin Blunt today. I'd love to think that this will not be a big story in the media, but I suspect my hopes are whistling in the wind. Quite understandably, many people will be thinking of Crispin's family, and the undoubted trauma they are going through. There will be a profound sense of shock.
But I hope people will also be able to understand and empathise with Crispin. Yes, there will be those who condemn him for doing this. They will ask why, if he has managed to suppress his feelings for all these years, why has he felt the need to 'come out' now? The answer is simple. Because he at last decided to be true to himself and face up to the man he is. For anyone to do that at the age of 50 is a very big deal. I did it at 40, and I can tell you that it was the most traumatic thing I have ever done - and I wasn't married with children.
There will be those who ask why, in this day and age, didn't he do it before. They forget that it's really only in the last decade that homosexuality has become almost totally accepted in this country. For those who have had a rural upbringing, or in Crispin's case come from an army family, it is just not the same as for those who have lived all their lives in metropolitan centres.
As the years pass, it becomes easier for everyone, but for those who are no longer teenagers, or even in their twenties, the longer time goes on, the more difficult it gets. You know you're living a lie, you know in your heart (but not always your head) who and what you are. You aren't ashamed of it, but none of your friends know. You feel you have lived a lie, and the longer that lie goes on, the more difficult it gets to do anything about it. You think if you suddenly announce it, you'll lose some really good friends. You don't, of course. Real friends stand by you and help you through it. If Crispin Blunt doesn't know this already, he will find out very soon.
Today will be the most difficult day of his life. For his wife, it will be the second worst day of her life. The worst will have been the day Crispin told her. I hope that the media will treat this story with a huge shrug and move on. But I wouldn't bet my mortgage on it.