Top News

Truro man recalls dangers of being gay in the old country


Homophobic abuse, bullying and violent beatings were an everyday occurrence for gay teens 40 years ago – and Adrian de Montfort is old enough to remember it all

As a rugby player, Adrian de Montfort could just about get away with being gay.

But life in the closet was “hell, really,” fearing both his parents’ reaction and violent bullies prowling the hallways and playgrounds of his English boarding school.

“There was a boy in the year above me from Japan who was incredibly effeminate and he was beaten up almost daily,” recalled de Montfort. “I have no idea if he was gay or not, but he was so camp and he paid for it.”

Nearly 40 years on and thousands of miles away, de Montfort and his husband Matthew Guy joined throngs of other people at the Truro Pride Parade Saturday.

But reaching that point of triumph was a long struggle for de Montfort.

The 49-year-old grew up on the Isle of Man, a deeply religious community in the 1970s and 1980s, between Britain and Ireland.

Back then, romantic homosexual encounters were limited to furtive meetings with other boys and de Montfort was always careful to watch his back.

In 1980s Britain, the age of consent for homosexuals was 21, which meant gay teens could be arrested for sexual offences if caught.

But coming out was unthinkable, as then-PM Margaret Thatcher enacted the ‘Section 28’ law, forbidding schools from ‘promoting’ homosexuality.

This, along with fears over the AIDS epidemic, helped create an atmosphere of hostility and bullying for LGBTQ+ schoolchildren, forced to stay in the closet to survive in places like de Montfort’s former boarding school.

“I’m the only person I know from that period of school who came out and I know of at least one or two [others],” said de Montfort.

But he never had the ‘coming out’ conversation with his parents.

“My mother found a letter from my then-boyfriend and I was already living away from home,” he said. “At the time I ducked out and didn’t talk to them for a couple of years, because my dad was incredibly homophobic.”

But life slowly improved for de Montfort, who met his current husband Matthew Guy and went with him to his first-ever Pride in London, in 1989.

His father eventually “came round,” in de Montfort’s words, accepting their relationship, while British laws slowly became more liberalized. The age of consent was lowered to 18 and then 16, while gay and lesbian couples could enter into legally-recognized civil partnerships.

But de Montfort and Guy eventually left the old country for Canada, seeking a simpler life in rural Nova Scotia.

The pair got married in Canada in 2012, one year before Britain’s parliament finally voted for same-sex marriage.

“Our battle’s won – we’re married, we have children, we’re visible, people meet us and they don’t bat an eye,” said de Montfort.

The July 13 Truro Pride Parade through the streets of downtown saw dozens of floats featuring everything from drag queens to antique vehicles.

Afterwards, people enjoyed music, dancing and fun activities such as a bouncy castle at Civic Square.

Recent Stories