English author David Ledain, who has written three non-fiction books dealing with gay issues and sex, asserts that gay behaviour is normal but shrouded in mystery because it isn’t talked about
When renowned gay author David Ledain was going through separation from his wife, he felt there was nothing he could relate to. And as intriguing as it might sound, he thought he must be the only guy in the world to whom such a thing had happened. ‘But of course, that is not true,’ avers Mr Ledain, speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction. He says that he wrote his first book Gay Dad: Ten True Stories of Divorced Gay Men With Kids because he could find nothing that told the story of his getting separated from his wife back to him. ‘I needed the support of other similar stories to mine,’ he lets us know.
Mr Ledain, consequently, ventured to write the book himself and that was very much a part of his coming out of the closet. He tells us that he contacted ten other men through an online group, their stories later being featured in his debut book. ‘They very kindly and bravely told me their stories, often for the first time, about their feelings and the process of coming out to their wives and children and the practicalities of that,’ the sixty-year-old author, who fathers two male children, shares.
Unravelling the Gay Culture
Currently living in West Sussex, which is a county on the south coast of the UK, Mr Ledain lets us know that while researching for his debut book, he discovered there was so much LGBTQ+ culture and history that he just had no idea about. ‘I thought, why is that, I’ve lived quite a long time, I read and am interested in history, and yet I knew nothing about my culture – my gay culture and the stories of gay people who came before me,’ he says thoughtfully. And that’s when he decided to write his next book. ‘I wrote This Forbidden Fruit to educate myself, but also to spread those stories to other gay men who might not understand or appreciate the depth and importance of gay culture and history in the world and the positive impact that has on everybody’s lives,’ he explains.
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His latest book Having Gay Sex is also about filling a gap. Mr Ledain, who tries to write something every day, tells us categorically that the most often asked question that men pose when they call helplines such as Switchboard in London happens to be ‘How do I have sex with other men?’ Going on to say that he found this utterly extraordinary, he lets on that he cannot imagine a situation where a heterosexual man would ask somebody ‘How do I have sex with a woman?’ He then asserts that it is so only because people know it intuitively. ‘It is abundant in our cultures and societies. I thought about this and all the other aspects of gay male sex, like kink and cruising and water-sports and fetish-wear and exhibitionism – these and many other sexual activities we know go on but often know little about,’ he tells us.
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‘Gay Sexual Behaviour Normal’
Quite naturally, he feels sorry that those who are not understood often become demonised monsters. ‘It is only when you talk to the men who enjoy experimenting and exploring their sexuality in all these different ways that you discover they are perfectly ordinary guys,’ he asseverates, adding, ‘Gay sexual behaviour is normal, and it has always been for a significant proportion of the male population, and yet it is shrouded in mystery because it isn’t talked about, and when it is, it is usually in terms of it being dirty, degrading, and unnatural. I wanted to put that right.’
Upon being asked whether becoming a writer was a conscious decision, the author, who has hitherto written only non-fiction, says that he has always been writing in some form or another as long as he can remember but taking the step to publish something was certainly a moment of ‘yes, I can do it’.
He lets us know that as a child and teenager, and into his twenties, he wrote diaries, which he is so thankful for now that he can look back on them and try to understand how that boy felt about things. ‘Being gay, writing has always given me a way to express my feelings, whether it be through my diary entries or short stories or my early attempts at plays and novels. It was very important to me, I think, that I had this means of expressing myself,’ shares Mr Ledain, who is not precious about who or what he reads.
Gay sexual behaviour is normal, and it has always been for a significant proportion of the male population, and yet it is shrouded in mystery because it isn’t talked about, and when it is, it is usually in terms of it being dirty, degrading, and unnatural. I wanted to put that right.– David Ledain
A Music Lover Who Is Passionate About India
Even as Mr Ledain asserts that he reads anything that comes along and doesn’t really have any favourite writers, he says that he is one of those who always try finishing the book, come what may. ‘Generally, I’m grateful that I do. At the moment, I’m reading the brilliant The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore, which is a gay grand tour romp through the eighteenth century Europe, with lots of seduction and decadence and gritty realism of the time,’ he lets us know.
Like many authors who once juggled a full-time job and writing, Mr Ledain feels that juggling a family life and working to pay the bills and finding time to write was not easy. ‘But when you are passionate about something, whether that be writing or playing an instrument or doing sport, you enjoy doing it and so it is less arduous – it is still difficult though, but nobody got anywhere by not getting on and doing,’ he states. A lover of music, he tells us that he is a huge David Bowie fan. ‘I love theatre and museums and galleries. I have always had an interest in history, and I’m passionate about India,’ he says with a smile. As a matter of fact, he had thought of visiting India later this year, but because of the pandemic, that has been put on hold.
‘Don’t Worry About People’s Reactions’
Having become a full-fledged author now, Mr Ledain shares with us that his latest project is about helping other LGBTQ+ people by publishing their personal stories. ‘This is what people are interested in reading about, and it is such a healing process when you sit and physically write down your thoughts and feelings about your experiences and your life-journey. I want to show my community how they can do that,’ he says.
To budding authors, who lose motivation if their works don’t do well, the gay icon has one definite piece of advice: When you have finished something, be thinking about the next thing you’re going to work on. He says, ‘Once your book or article or blog is out there, people will react to it in all sorts of ways you have no control over. Don’t worry about it. Believe in your passion and what you are trying to say to the world and at least some people who come across you will appreciate what you’ve done. You cannot please all the people all the time.’
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‘Always Looking to Make Contacts’
‘And what’s the one thing he would like to be changed in the world we dwell in? ‘Coronavirus,’ he says, adding, ‘and the lack of understanding about our destruction of the environment and that if it continues, will lead to more pandemics in the future. But I have faith in man’s ability to adapt and change as needs must.’
As the conversation comes to a close, Mr Ledain, who has been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and numerous other radio and blog interviews, lets us know that he is always interested to hear from people, especially other LGBTQ+ writers, and he is always looking to make new contacts. ‘I am more than happy to talk about my books and gay issues on panel discussions or interviews,’ says the author, signing off.