Better late than never! Former Oxford professor Mike Soper didn’t officially come out until after his 91st birthday.
Now, two years on, he’s writing a gay romance, The Heart Entrapped! Oh, gramps, you saucy thing!
Like so many homos, Soper grew up feeling isolated and it wasn’t until well after college that he even found another gay person. Even then, Soper’s position at Oxford’s Christ Church College and societal pressures kept him in the closet…
Of his queer experience, Soper says:
I had to keep quiet about my sexuality when I was lecturing at Oxford, as undergraduates would not have been very kind if they had known I was gay. I took some risks when I was young – I could have appeared in court because of my job and the attitude at the time – so I had to be discreet.
Society has changed so much now. People can express their sexuality. But during the 1960s, 70s and even the 80s, I had to be very quiet about my personal life. I lived my life in the shadows and of course it was difficult coming to terms with it.
As an undergraduate, I thought I was the only gay in the world.
He soon learned otherwise, of course. Despite having a lover for four decades, Soper waited until 2005 to break his life-long silence. And he’s hoping to inform a younger generation.
The novel revolves around a gay man’s life from the 1960s to the present. Writing it, Soper wanted to communicate a more rooted, informed identity:
I wanted to try and present a different view on gay life. There is this image of gay people that you see time and time again on the television, as a community that only thinks about sex.
I’m seriously worried the younger generation have forgotten about AIDS. My novel looks at a different aspect, at gay men who are in loving, long term relationships.
Gay men aren’t the only ones who may learn a thing or two. The ladies at Soper’s nursing home are begging for the book. Soper makes sure they know what they’re getting themselves into:
When all the old ladies heard about the book, they asked if they could read it. So I had to tell them I was gay and that it was a gay-themed novel.
Gays can be a shock to grannies, yes.