Gays, the Church and my story

I expect it is hard for most people to imagine a time when being a gay person meant just that — someone with a happy, cheerful disposition. So when did gay come to mean homosexual? Not that it matters. I daresay it might be hard to believe that anyone in their twenties could not have heard that some men prefer sex with one another. But in my younger years, my imagination did not stretch far enough to see such possibilities. These things were never discussed, at least not in my hearing. We did not have sex lessons at school, and what was whispered in the confines of the girls’ toilets regarding sex and sexual acts appeared quite laughable. As were certain drawings in public toilets.

It might have been the reporting of the 1967 Act of Parliament, decriminalising homosexual acts in private between men, both of whom have reached the age of 21, that made me think more clearly about the matter. I thought it incredible that what was done in private between consenting couples could ever have been a criminal offense. But I was 35 at the time of the relaxing of the laws and you would think I might have met one or two homosexuals socially. Maybe I had and, for good reasons, they kept their sexual orientation secret. For those not of my generation perhaps a bit of personal and social history is necessary to explain my ignorance, and also how, eventually, I came to write my novel — The Dark Mirror.

I was born in 1932. Schooling was basic in those days and working class expectations the same. The critical spur to urge me out of poverty and do something with my life was a friend’s snobbish father, whose derogatory remarks caused me blushes of shame. That and the fact that I was the only person in the whole school not to have a navy gabardine coat — I wore a second-hand, too small, pea-green woolen coat that made me stand out like a parrot in the playground. My dad had become seriously disabled and money was in short supply. Books at our house were like toys — almost non-existent.
With no recognised qualifications, I worked in a factory, training in dress design. Later I became a successful freelance designer. When our three sons arrived, I turned to Education and trained to be a teacher. The teaching of reading, creative writing and art were my most successful subjects. Never, in any situation, was homosexuality discussed, or even mentioned.
At the age of fifty I felt called to give up teaching and work in non-stipendiary church ministry. I was the first woman to preach in most of our local churches, conduct funerals and engage in other duties usually considered the reserve of male clergy, some of whom preferred to keep women in their ‘proper’ place.
In my early sixties, deeply interested in the human condition, I took various courses in Person-Centred Counselling, going on to a two-year certificate course.
Next came the Archbishops’ Diploma for Readers. Now hooked on research and writing, three years later, I gained a BA (hons) at the Open University. When I was no longer able to drive, and somewhat disillusioned with the church, I turned to writing full time. All my personal experiences and research into the heart of man came to the fore.

My son created Magpies Nest Publishing for my first book, When Phones Were Immobile and Lived in RED BOXES, memories of 1939—1953, which I wrote to raise money locally for a particular children’s charity. With its success we then published my five novels (two in pen names) and other works. I was approached by the Australian publisher, Dare Empire, to publish my five novels in E format, complete with delightful new covers and formatting. The novels were published in the name G B Hobson and made available in paperback. My Dare Empire novels have now been taken over by other publishers. The Dark Mirror by Storm Moon Press and Awakening Love, Desire and Checkmate by Turquoise Morning Press. They will all be available shortly (March 2013 for The Dark Mirror) and September 2012 onwards for the others).

The Dark Mirror (originally When Angels Lie) was inspired partly by the controversy over gay clergy, something I wished to explore, and partly by my own experiences of the church and spiritual awakening. Writing the book was also a journey of self-discovery into my own beliefs. Golly, at one time I did not think women should be in the pulpit or minister the cup at Communion. But I guess I had a St Paul-like conversion. That came when I received ‘the call’ myself. God gives His gifts to whom he will, even if that person initially resists. My hubby found it hard to understand how his quiet unassuming, mousy, wife could stand up in the pulpit and preach. Or lead the worship. Previously I had refused to read the lesson because I was so shy. Of course, there was some cold-shouldering from certain members in the church. I think some clergy also feared for their authority.

I became interested in the gay priest debate while I was on the ministerial staff of my last parish. We were discussing the issue as directed from the ‘top’. But this important topic was quickly moved on. I looked up the ongoing debates, especially what was being said by the new Archbishop and others taking part. What did I really believe? I tried to put myself into the shoes of a young priest who, against all of his Evangelical persuasion, discovers his true sexuality when he falls in love.

So I wrote the book, trying to get into the heart and mind of Paul: his problems, his heartaches over love and duty. His calling to serve God had already been proved by the fruits of his ministry. He needed to believe he was still in the will of God. Had he and Nick been truly drawn together by God? Women threw themselves at him but he felt no desire for any of them, only for Nick. I was not certain myself how the book would end. Did he really have a choice about being gay? Did his lover? Does any gay man? All avenues are explored in this heart-wrenching story. Opposition from his churchwarden, added to bizarre happenings within the parish, put his vocation, and his love for Nick, to the test. Well, by the time I finished writing the book, I was convinced.

I am a person who believes in life-long partnerships as the ideal, even if seldom attained. Flagrant promiscuity (any gender) causes many social problems as well as personal ones. Until recently, gays have been stigmatised for living together. I am glad such partnerships are now recognized here in Britain. In some countries gays are imprisoned or killed. Even in ‘civilised’ countries, they are often used as punch bags by the ignorant. Would gays really risk the treatment handed out to them if they had a choice? That is a question I had to ask myself, even as I wrote the book. Falling in love can defy all logic, as many people know.

I hope this explains why this issue is so important to me, and why I believe this book is the best novel I have written — it came from the heart. Some parts are also from experience of religious and church matters. It also explains why I refused an invitation to post on someone’s blog because this book was cut out of the piece I submitted. even so, I respect a blogger’s right to include what they will on their own blog.

I have a number of blogs. My author site is Gladys Hobson — Author (go there for book details, reviews etc).

By my bookshelves

A portion of a review by Andy O’Hara (full review on my author site):

Smoothly, expertly written, the author captures the essence and conflict of human love and religion as they struggle to coexist in a judgmental world. Hobson reveals a church hierarchy attempting to compromise with a nervous reality, and walks the reader ever so beautifully through the torment of a young man deeply devoted to his vows and wanting fervently to serve his parish–with the support of a loving partner. As the story unfolds, however, his options grow more desperate and his torment ever more intense.

Hobson is a writer of the first class, able to build a story quickly and maintain excitement throughout the book. Her characters are full and multidimensional—at times, the reader is torn by compassion and empathy for one and then the other. Such is the making of a fine novel and a book well worth reading. It is unfortunate that books such as these, so worthy of recognition, go unheralded by the literary establishment. I, for one, give it “tens” across the board.

Andrew F. O’Hara, editor, The Jimston Journal
author, The Swan, Tales of the Sacramento Valley

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