To celebrate LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari is publishing a daily series of LGBT Heroes, selected by the magazine’s team of writers and special contributors.
Cyril Wild – Loving Father
by Paul Burgess
My parents have two sons, one of them gay. They also have two daughters, one of them gay. They are a part of that rare club of parents who can honestly say they have four children, one of each. Not easy things for a man like my father to own. At least, not at first.
Cyril Wild was a typical married man living in a northern cotton mill town. He regularly bet on horses, regularly went to the pub and socialised with other men, many of them as butch and masculine as the cast of a good Western. He was also my father.
It wasn’t a job he was great at in my younger years, and it was certainly a job I made more difficult for him.
I was an effeminate child, and teenager. I could (and would) be as camp as Christmas, often exaggerated for effect. I didn’t make things easy, and yes this was a conscious act on my part. You see, to me, this man once epitomised everything I despised about straight men. He was my example of what NOT to be, and I revelled in the opportunity to show him how different and opposite I could be, to everything he was.
On New Year’s Eve in 1989 I asked my boyfriend at the time, who was staying at our home in the spare room, to get into my bed. On New Year’s Day 1990 my Father walked into my room, saw that we were in bed together, and promptly threw me out, simply stating: “I’m not having any of that queer stuff going on here”.
I left. I became independent. I became a man myself.
Things were rocky with my Dad for three years. We barely spoke; we still harboured much resentment towards each other.
I gave up on the idea of us ever having a Father/Son relationship.
I gave up too easily.
Fast forward three years to another New Year’s Eve. It’s the end of a night out with my parents and I’m still not really speaking to Dad, we’re in the back of a taxi van and he’s about to step out of the cab. He turns to me and says; “Let’s me and you start afresh, son”. He then holds out his hand for a shake. I shake his hand and he pulls me in for a hug. I believe it was the first.
From that moment on, we got along incredibly well. With one gesture from him, he had changed our relationship deeply, and forever.
In 2009 he sat in the front row of my ‘big gay wedding’ and cried as much as my Mother. He hugged me after the ceremony and told me it was one of the proudest days of his life. We had both become two very different men to the pair constantly at loggerheads in previous years.
I had a Father and he loved me. Unconditionally.
Nothing else changed. He still bet on horses, went to the pub, had the same mates. He was exactly the same man.
He epitomised the fact that anyone can change. Anyone.
He even became a big fan of the work we do at Pink Triangle Theatre, stating that when he couldn’t drive any more, he wanted us to have his car instead of our ‘tin can’. What we did was important to him.
On January 21st 2013, Dad died. He had battled terminal cancer for over a year, and he battled hard.
Cyril Wild is my own personal LGBT Hero. He is also an important lesson for parents of LGBT people everywhere: You too can change. You too can learn to accept all and love unconditionally.