Joni won Mr Gay England early this year to represent England in the freshly vamped Mr Gay Europe competition. I got the opportunity to interview him and ask him about his win, Stereotypes and advice he would give to other #lgbt persons facing issues with their sexuality.
Many of the readers won’t know the area you were born, so could you describe it, especially the attitudes towards LGBT members, if any.
I was raised in Gateshead, a town just south of Newcastle, by my Mom. I went to a Roman Catholic School so you can guess coming out at the age of 16 still in school wasnt the easiest. I was even asked by a faculty member if I had considered becoming a priest to abstain from my natural born inclinations haha… obviously I declined. We are going back 12 years now so being gay back then was still a Taboo subject. But I survived.
Tell me about your early years in general, what was your childhood like?
Growing up with a single parent was OK I guess. My Father committed suicide when I was 7 so the years after that were extremely hard. I was young and all I wanted was my dad… don’t get me wrong my mom did an amazing job playing the roles of both Mother and Father but I always wanted my Dad as i had so many questions left unanswered. That out the way… I’d say I had quite an awesome childhood…. nothing else really bad to say.
How old was you when you came out, did you find help out there?
I was 16 when I came out as Bisexual.. but i knew i was Gay. I used Bi as a kinda stepping stone.
My coming out to my mom was kinda Funny.
I said to mom “You know my Girlfriend Natalie?”
She replied “Yeah!
I said “Well she’s really called Nathan”
She hit the floor laughing, so I feel I was very lucky in my coming out to my family. My brother and sister were both very accepting too.
At what point in your life, when you were questioning your sexuality did you find any role models out there?
I don’t think I had any role models to be honest. I guess I was a kind of a lone Wolf. I came out, that was it, going through my sixth form years looking out for number one. Some people who I thought were my friends before i came out turned away from me. I experienced homophobic abuse from them. An example of this was I was Head boy and someone would write things such as ‘give a lot of head boy’ in the common room in front of my name. Very original! Often I would be called ‘puff’ and bender (UK terms on parallel to faggot) before I came out, but after some became friends and I gained respect for making the leap and coming out.
How the tables turn eh!
Do you think more could be done in order to help questioning teens to come to terms with their gender and/or sexuality?
One of my missions is to set up like an online live chat with myself and other influencial LGBT members to anonymously ask questions and ask for advice etc. This would work across the board from coming out advice to suicide prevention etc. Not too sure if something like this already exists but I would like to start my own. I think i have a lot of advice to give.
Tell me about the attitudes towards your sexuality at the time when you was first coming out?
When I came out as Bisexual. I still had sex with girls. To see if I could change! Obviously i was still questioning myself, I now know its not a Choice. We are born this way,simple as that. Once I came to terms with this I became a very proud gay lad, loving and accepting who I was, who I am. I love being gay and I love men!
Do you think attitudes have changed since then?
In the UK yes 100%. We have stepped out of the taboo area into the accepted area, still a hell of a lot of work to be done though. As for other countries, I even think some are going backwards.
Do you think your early years have affected you and your wonderful personality?
Erm, Yeah I guess. I didnt grow up with money. So i guess I learned to appreciate and value things more, my mom did an amazing job of raising me. I was “brought up not dragged up” haha.
Tell me about your family, there reaction to your sexuality, are they as supportive as they are with other parts of your life.
Not all of my Fathers side know about me being Gay, but then again I rarely see them, for them to even have a factor in my life. My Family is literally myself my brother and my mom, oh and my friends too. My brother is very supportive. He’s one of those guys that’s big and manly and doesn’t show emotion, however after becoming Mr Gay England and holding Newcastle’s Vigil for Orlando. To get a message from William, my brother stating that he is very proud of me, that meant the absolute world to me, as you may have already guessed my mom is my rock.
More to come from Mr Gay England, in the meantime you can follow him on Twitter at @mrgayengland and view his fantastic YouTube channel clips at