Bear and I had a beautiful gay wedding and tragically a turbulent gay marriage. Am I a statistic, a question I keep throwing back and forth in my mind, being that I am throwing it of course I keep dropping the ball on this one, if I file for divorce am I just a statistic? Am I working in a detriment to all those still fighting to have gay marriage legalised by failing at my own and giving fuel to the fire as to why some may feel we do not deserve this equal right?
I know I need to file, we have been separated for two years now, in my defence this is in part down to Bear for a year telling me that he had done so, meaning this was not something I needed to deal with, now it is.
As a member of the gay community there is an extra pressure, almost like there is a spotlight being shone on not only you, but your actions and relationships. I do not fail, it is not something I allow myself to do no matter the task. This was really the first time I had failed in my life and Dear Lord had I gone down in the most catastrophic way humanly possible.
TRYING TO FIX IT
After going through the marriage, dealing with guests who would not attend due to them ‘not agreeing with the choice’, to finding a venue which was okay with holding our nuptials, even simply getting our heads around the name change and where what goes. All of that, 85-guests at the all-day event with an owl as a ring bearer and stilt walkers handing out cake, to have to admit to people that after six and a half years together, one year of marriage, it was over. I had failed.
How could I continue fighting for marriage equality, when I could not even fight for my own marriage? I tried, am trying, to fix what is broken, at what point though do we accept that the champagne flute we loved so dearly, had some many memories with, once broken cannot be placed together anymore, even if it could, would it work in the same way? Would the same memories still ring true or would they be tainted, slowly running out of the cracks until there is nothing left.
The first time it happened….
I will never forget the first time it happened, the fear, the shame and the not knowing who I could talk to. I am certain it is the same feeling which runs through all in the same situation, what do you do? How are you meant to feel? It was my fault I deserved this, I brought this upon myself because of my own actions. Can I report it, do I report it, do I laugh it off, fight back or run and hide, there are so many emotions which run through you, which ran through me, too many to process in the millisecond it takes for it to happen. The first time Bear hit me.
I grew up in a duel heritage home, my mother being white British and my father black Jamaican, overall it was a relatively happy home with my Sister, my brother and myself. It was a happy home to me, as I was 8-years old when my parents got divorced, so until the day my father finally hit my mother in front of my sister and I, I didn’t realise the hell my mother was actually living in. I had grown up in a house where domestic violence frequently occurred, and I was none the wiser to any of it for the most part. My mother for ever the protector ended her 10-year marriage as soon as my sister and myself witnessed this for the first time, for this reason and so many others I understood how wrong such an act is and further the fact it is not something we simply put up with.
PAYMENT FOR LOVING HIM
I had done something wrong I had chosen not to acknowledge my then fiancé during a verbal fight. A stupid argument, about my not wanting to attend an event, or a family lunch or me simply not being the life and soul for a day. I was exhausted and yet again having to explain to Bear that I could not be at 100% all of the time. I spent every day being my everything for everyone being the light in every room as I walked in, controlling the mood of all in my presence simply by the aura I myself decided to exude, it was exhausting and I didn’t need to be penalised for it. I simply wanted for him to take said burden and let me simply be with him, calm, quiet and give myself the opportunity to recharge.
For Bear this was not acceptable, it was me being selfish, moody, ruining his evening as I wasn’t giving the 110% that I owed him for every moment he was with me. That is what I did, I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t giving him enough of me, no matter as to what this took out of me or the fact I was already giving him all of me, most of the time, he wanted in of me all of the time, it was his to have, not mine, I was his possession and I would dance when told, tell a joke when told and carry conversation, that was my payment to him for him simply loving me.
NOTHING AND EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME
But I couldn’t, that day, that one specific day, I couldn’t, I was exhausted, I shut down. I didn’t do my routine, I forgot my music notes, I had fucked up the performance I owed Bear that night and to him this was unforgiveable.
Bear started asking why I wasn’t engaging, I of course explained, my explanation was not enough, so the asking became yelling, yelling at me for not being happy enough for him, this was his house a house in which I only, was bringing down the ‘vibe’. In the eye of confrontation what did I do? I walked away, I shut down further and walked away, I didn’t have the energy to be happy let alone to have an argument.
To Bear this was an act of aggression on my part, my doing nothing but wanting to be left alone in that instance was me making the first strike against him, he followed me from the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen, where he kept on over and over again, asking what was wrong, I said nothing, I had nothing to add I had explained I was not sad I was simply in need of a recharge a moment to come back to myself and find my light, a kindness he refused me again and again as the night went on.
I left the kitchen, walked into the dining room and began to look over my accent up the stairs, when Bear cornered me again, each of us one side of our two-seater dining room table. He asked again, the same question and in such a horrible tone, a tone I had never heard from Bear before, Bear was no longer speaking or yelling at me, he was growling and I didn’t know what to do, I could feel my eyes beginning to fill, with tears, with pain, with such disappointment that this was the man I loved making me feel so isolated, alone, scared.
He pushed our solid oak dining room table across the hard wood floor and firmly into my upper body. The dining room table I myself was using to distance myself from him, to protect myself from him. I yelped, I burst into tears, I didn’t know what to do. I pushed the table off of myself, he began apologising, but I didn’t hear I had already ran up the stairs and barricaded myself in the bedroom, his bedroom. Time passed, maybe 10, maybe 30 minutes for me it was a lifetime, I was beside myself, I for once in my life didn’t know how I felt, how I was meant to feel or who this person I was living with had given my life to was. He came up the stair he stood the other side of the door I was leaning against to give myself some form of feeling of protection, the feeling of protection I had once needed nothing more than Bear to have.
He said it, through the door Bear simply utter the words he was sorry, I was sobbing I couldn’t catch my breath I was drowning in my own upset not able to come up for air not able to breathe.
“Keye, I really am sorry, but you are overreacting a little”
There it was, the first brick, he had handed me the first brick to begin rebuilding the way he himself had so delicately taken down. I knew it wasn’t my fault, I knew I hadn’t overreacted, I had thankfully learnt from my mother’s mistakes, she had taught me right from wrong and for that I will be forever grateful.
I understand I should not have shut down, I should have tried to respond better, to adhere to what Bear wanted from me, I know that it is not a healthy part of a relationship to not talk about your problems, but I had told him what was wrong, I had no other way to articulate said message and that evening I couldn’t give him the performance that he wanted, I couldn’t.
NO ONE DESERVES NOT TO FEEL SAFE
I understand that no one deserves not only to feel unsafe in their home, but to not feel safe in the company of their partner. On the flip side of this, Bear had made himself my world, my all. Where else was I to feel safe at this point?
I got myself together I had to, I needed to discuss this, I needed to know where we stood, where I stood. I made my decent down the stairs, a few hours had passed, Bear stood in the kitchen leaning against the counter-top. I asked why he would say I overreacted.
Bear’s response, “We are both men, this isn’t domestic violence, it’s different, a man can hit another man”.
This was the man I intended upon marrying. Wasn’t the same? Was it not? Was I simply being stupid, naïve? Was Bear correct, was I overreacting? Was it in fact acceptable for two men in a relationship to hit one another, was this in any way different from what my mother had experienced? I like her felt scared, ashamed, as though this had all been my fault and, in some way, I had simply received what I deserved.
Dark, I know. I am aware that this ‘act’ was not deserved and in no case is physical violence ‘deserved’ by anyone, in that moment though, when actually in that moment it was all I could think, at least if I deserved it, it was justified in a way and I could still love my fiancé as he’d had done nothing wrong, simply served a punishment in the same way of the judiciary.
Photo by Jospeh Frank @josephgruenthal
It’s not My Fault
Isolation, what we need to remember is before something like this happens, before the first time a hand is laid upon you, your person, your partner, your best friend has emotionally and psychologically stripped you bare. Your friends and your family do not recognise you, you have no one to turn to, they have made themselves the only place you feel safe, ironically as they are not a safe place, at least not for you.
I felt as though I had nowhere to turn, I had gone from such an easy going and social human, to a person I did not recognise, I was a shell of the person who once lit up a room upon entry. My friends, my family could not stand me, the person I once was who smiled all the time had gone, he had died and inside I was dead. I had lost weight, something Bear had attempted to pin on Phyllis, one of my closest friends, something used again to turn me against those I loved the most. In fact, it was Bear who made me so fearful of the way I looked physically, a ‘simple’ and unnoticed jab by himself pointing out that I did not have abs, said at his friends birthday in front of 15 people, all the while he was complimenting the man there who had them, the man he went on to date after me, for a short and brief time, but did so at the same time we were meant to be working on things.
I was not happy. I was not me. Keye-Luke, Keye, Keke, had gone, moreover he had been taken from me, by the one person I thought I could trust above all else.
It takes a certain person, to manipulate someone to such an extreme they feel they have nothing and are nothing. I was in actuality nothing by the time Bear had finished with me.
It was not my fault. Nothing gives another person the right to lay a hand on you, ever, under no circumstance, your sex, background, none of this has a bearing, you cannot lay your hands on another, it took me some time to draw said conclusion, but I now know, and I know what I will not and no one should tolerate.
Photography by Joseph Frank @josephgruenthal
LOss and BRUISING
I accepted what Bear had said to me, he was my everything, he was after all my person. We continued upon our lives, probably mistakenly as it was the first time, but it was definitely not the last. He had weaponised my own emotions against me, to the point I could no longer trust the way I felt over any situation not only with him but with anyone, never sure if I was simply ‘overreacting’, I didn’t want this to happen again, I learnt how to control my emotions, to rebuild my wall, to bottle everything up and show nothing, nothing but a fake smile, a fake smile only Bear would ever believe.
When Bear took all around me away from me, who he had transformed me into and not in a positive light made those around me dislike me, Bear left me with no escape, Bear was my only escape, Bear was all I had.
It was done in such simple ways, ways in which my friends and family did not notice, even I did not until it was almost too late. Acting the ‘victim’ when in public, meaning when I took frustration out on Bear I did not feel safe to share in my own home, I appeared the bully, “poor Bear”, “look at what he has to deal with”, Bear, of course agreeing with glee every time, happy that his cover up, my pain, and basically rules of reaction and cause were covered once more and of again, in his favour.
Bear you see, had absorbed into my friendship group, the same group I had, had for seven years prior. Bear had no group, Bear lost his group through lack of trying, but speaking with him it was always in some way my fault, my fault for simply existing I suppose. Now I can of course look back and know this was not the case, but when you are on the merry-go-round you don’t see the end and I in turn could not see the park exit.
I think looking back what brings the most sadness is not the loss of all around me or even the actions of Bear. I let the person whom I had spent 21-years creating and developing, a person who was comfortable in his sexuality, his passed and everything he had been through which made him stronger, the person I had finally begun to love, I allowed someone to take that away from me. I gave Bear the power to control not only my actions, but who I fundamentally was through to the core. I never should have given the power to Bear and I guess I didn’t, he stole it from me, he took what wasn’t his and made it his own, he took me away from me.
I drove myself to A&E the next day due to the pain I was in, I had of course asked Bear but this was something he was unable to do, maybe due to embarrassment, because he still thought I was overreacting or the simple reason he gave, he had lunch with his family, a lunch I too was meant to be in attendance for. I never asked as I didn’t want to know but I am sure Bear came up with a believable reason as to my lack of attendance.
That was the first time Bear hit me. Bear fractured three of my ribs that day.
Written by Keye Tortice-Lunn
If you or anyone you know is suffering from anything you have read today then you can find support at Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity