Well hello there, thanks for joining me! Am I glad you decided to join me and the HEQ family? Without a doubt. Do I think you’ll regret it? Absolutely not.
I’m Ross, but my full name is Ross Edward Kent. I’m 29 years old and I am the founder and Editor in Chief of Happily Ever Queer.
Now let’s get one thing straight. This will be the only straight aspect of this blog mind you. I am gay, I’ve been gay since I came out of my mum's womb back on that glorious, bright day on July 20th, 1993. So really there isn’t anyone better to create a hub like Happily Ever Queer than yours truly is there? No, quite frankly there isn't.
I believe that to get to know the brand that I have created with complete transparency, you have to also get to know me. So let’s go back to the beginning, where it all started.
I was born in Kent. Yes, Ross Kent from Kent. This is extremely cringe but when I was younger I told myself my family owned Kent. The Garden of England? Owned by my family? I think it’s safe to say I have always been a dreamer. How I was so wrong. My parents, Tony and Maureen said I was the lovely surprise they never knew they wanted. Now, we all know that means I was an accident that they didn’t want but try their best to be kind. But fortunately for them, the powers above had other ideas. I brought personality and charm into the family. Fourth time lucky, as I’m the youngest of four siblings. I was extremely loving and very sensitive all at once. I remember my Dad coming home from work for lunch every day and being inconsolable when it was time for him to return to the office. My mum says I would get so upset I would throw up. Even in the capable hands of my sisters and brother, I would projectile vomit everywhere when our parents went out for the day. I suppose you could say that I had every trait of a cancer in me. Soft, nurturing, loving and extremely emotionally unstable. The sad thing is, over time, the softness I held within me faded away.
Life as I remember in the 90s seemed ordinary, like any other household. My life was surrounded by running home to MSN with the dial-up internet that made your computer sound like it was going to combust like a NASA rocket going into space or prioritising your Tamagotchi over anything. That’s probably what put me off having kids. The constant demand was not something I was going to sign up for. However, at the age of 8, my parents tragically separated which destroyed my family and me. Life became tough and suddenly was a place filled with dread and darkness. I had the job of navigating the struggles of separated parents, puberty, and growing up gay. No process manual provided the answers to questions, especially the one I asked myself every day. Who am I?
From the age of 10 years old, I felt like the odd one out. I felt weird and strange like I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me. Now if you’d spoken to my family, they’d probably say that me wanting the Chocolate Rabbit Family figures from Sylvanian Families or putting my sister's tights on my head pretending I had long hair to using the cleaning mop as a hair model to play hairdressers would be a huge indicator I was Gay. But to me, I was just in my little world. I was just happy, innocent, and free from judgment. I didn’t label myself as gay because I was too young. But in those moments I was just Ross. My sister-in-law has always alleged that she knew I was gay from the day she spotted me in Tonbridge Park walking my pet rabbit called Barney on a lead.
Fast forward a couple of years, I must have been about 12 years old and the realisation that I was different from my friends and classmates began to set in. These overriding thoughts of being attractive to boys possessed my mind. I distinctly remember talking to mum about gay men and how they made love and feeling overwhelmed, scared, and quite repulsed. I think it’s because I knew that I was gay and the thought of growing up as a gay man frightened me. I felt ashamed and in denial. Ashamed that I had let my family down. How would I tell my parents that I had turned into this monster? I didn’t want to feel these emotions. I just wanted to be like every other small boy who wasn’t gay. I told myself to be normal, I had to do normal things like heterosexual men and boys. Getting a girlfriend or behaving masculine was mentally and emotionally exhausting. It was difficult to present myself in a way I wanted people to see me when I didn’t even believe it. I didn’t know anyone who was gay. I wasn’t aware of the gay culture and icons and had really no gay role models to who I could talk to. I just focused all my time on playing sports and suppressing my emotions.
School for me was extremely tough and I hated going every day from the years of 7 to 11. My friendship group at secondary school was all girls and my voice wasn’t masculine like the other boys. I didn’t behave like a stereotypical straight boy. My mannerisms indicated as to who I was and I got bullied. From the name-calling to the questions. I can still feel the dread and shame of being asked if I was gay. I tried with all my might to deny it but the school kids knew. They could sense I felt uncomfortable and that’s probably why they did it. You could see it written all over my Scarlett-coloured face. From a very young age, I knew and understood that people in this world could be very cruel, a life lesson I’ve carried with me since a young boy. I taught myself from a small boy to defend and protect myself at whatever cost. I didn’t have many friends at the secondary school I attended. Only my immediate friendship group and I found it very hard to fit in or create relationships with other peers. I wanted out of Hugh Christie Comprehensive School and the constant reminder of not fitting in.
Being gay and being bullied for being gay is one of the most isolating, terrifying, and unhappiest times of my life. Even if you’ve come out or not. People will still be nasty regardless of knowing the truth. The bullying and not knowing what my identity was made me begin to have suicidal thoughts. Growing up experiencing these thoughts at such a young age was so damaging. I felt alone and desperate to tell someone who I truly was. But the reality of it stopped me. When I suddenly got the courage to speak my truth, the overwhelming feeling of disgust overtook me. So I buried it deep down in the pit of my stomach and tried to ignore the depression for years. If it wasn’t for my older sister Katie, I truly believe that I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have. With the separation of our parents, we learned from a very early stage how to be independent. Kate worked three jobs, attended art college, ran a home, and was the maternal figure in that home. Due to my Dad being in the deepest depression of his life due to his wife leaving and our mum working full time and living with my eldest sister, it was just us two. It was the two of us for a very long time until I got the dreaded news that Kate was moving out and moving to Hastings. She had purchased a property with her long-term boyfriend and now my brother-in-law Ryan. Another blow where my world came crashing down on me. It broke my heart that she was leaving me but I knew that she deserved to begin her own life.
In the summer holidays of 2009, I met a friend who went to another school that was an all-girls school. She talked about how amazing and supportive the school was. You could see on her face that she thoroughly enjoyed school. I envied her. It reminded me how sad and depressed I felt knowing I had to return to Hugh Christie within a matter of days. Until she said that they took males in the sixth form…
Without question or hesitation, I got my hands on the application form and an interview date was set. Thankfully, I already knew a few people that went to Hillview School for Girls, so I wasn’t phased if I got in. Luck was definitely on my side and I sailed through the interview and was given a place. A fresh start is exactly what I needed. I was excited to leave my old self, the negative thoughts, and Hugh Christie behind.
September 2009 was the beginning of my new life and a period that changed it forever. I finally felt at peace and accepted. I hadn’t even come out yet. But I instantly felt better about myself. This was all down to the people that I met. The friends I made at Hillview School for Girls would turn out to be my friends forever. They finally made me feel like I was in a safe enough place to reveal who I truly was. It’s true what they say, you should only surround yourself with people who truly love and care about you. It was a couple of months after my 17th birthday and the enormous urge to come out of the closet grew and grew and grew. Until one day I decided to take the plunge. Now my friends will hang draw and quarter me for saying this, but I can only remember telling two of them. The rest is a mental blur. Operation coming out was in force and D-day was upon me. I was going around my friend Lauran’s house with another friend called Olivia and I thought great, I can start telling people I was gay. I hadn’t known these girls before moving schools, but they just become my best friends in a matter of months. I was so nervous and asked them to sit down as I needed to tell them something. Now at this point, I couldn’t say the word gay. It made me uncomfortable. So, I told them that I didn’t like women. They both paused, looked at each other, and started laughing. Their words after the giggles stopped which they were purely shouting was 'tell us something we don't know’. I expressed how nervous I was and both of them reassured me. Lauran then proceeded to start shouting at the top of her voice to her mum that I had just come out. In our group, nothing is off-limits. We love to laugh, mainly at the expense of the people in our group. We’re outgoing, outrageous, and boundary pushers.
This instantly took the pressure off and the three of us just laughed. For the first time in my life, I felt like people truly knew the true me and it felt good. The emotion was addictive, and I couldn’t wait to continue telling my immediate circle. I’ve never thanked them for receiving the news so well. If it had been a different reaction, my coming-out stories may have had a lot more pain in them. They gave me the power and confidence to be proud of who I was. I told the rest of my friendship group which then led me to my parents.
My parents and I were not without our troubles. He fought, loved, and fought a bit more. On a particular day in question, I had prepared to tell my mum. But weirdly I decided not to speak the words, I chose to write them down on paper. A simple sentence that was brief and straight to the point. ‘I’m not into women.' The fear of the word gay was still prominent. My mum was getting ready to head out to work for the day. She was a community Midwife and loved her job. I asked her if I could give her something which she welcomed but for some reason I retracted. I don’t know whether she knew what I was about to do, but she rugby tackled me to the ground and prized the note out of my hand. She read it whilst my eyes locked on her face, waiting for her reaction. She looked up and said ‘I know, I’ve always known.’ Shocked, I asked how?! As if I thought that I had been the mirror image of Jason Statham all my life. She replied and said ‘Because I’m your mother! Of course, I would know, it’s my intuition.’ We embraced and she went on her way to work, only she did return shortly after calling into work saying she wasn’t going in, as her son had just come out as gay and she wanted to spend the day together.
Now moving on to sharing the news with my dad. To this day, the awkwardness of our conversation haunts me. It makes me want to curl up in the foetal position and not unwind. Growing up my Dad and I was extremely close. I’d probably say the reason we enjoyed each other’s company so much was because we spent most of our time at Bluewater Shopping Centre. Normal people’s reactions to a traumatic experience are to talk about it to each other or a trained professional. Not us, our therapy was shopping. We would go to Bluewater every single weekend without fail. Dad loved shopping as much as I did and I loved spending his hard-earned money on myself. Until that dreadful day when he told me I had to get a job. He explained he couldn’t afford to fund my lifestyle anymore. I’m not sure if it was possible to experience a cardiac arrest at the age of 17 but I know I suffered one as those words left his mouth. With anger and resentment, I began to look for a job. Thankfully the job hunt didn’t last too long and I managed to bag myself a sales representative role at Ted Baker in Maidstone at House of Fraser. The role was part-time where I worked on Sundays. I loved it and the people I worked with made it even better. I still made Dad take me to work from Tonbridge in his car. Call it payback for making me get a job. So on this particular fresh Sunday morning, where I was probably dying from a hangover from the night before where, I’d used a 26-year-old ID who lived in Cranbrook called Josh to go to Beluga Bar in Maidstone. (My friends and I still say that this was and is the best place on earth. I truly believe it shaped us as people) Thanks by the way Josh, whoever you are. You made my years of 16 to 18 incredible. I decided to tell dad I was gay. With a stiff but confident tone, I said I had something to tell him and that’s that I am not into women. Now the next part of this story is pivotal to me as I will never forget it. The absolute shock that my dad was experiencing meant very few words came out of his mouth. After a few stutters, he said that he acknowledged what I was telling him, but wanted to advise me on sexual health. Dad continued to explain to me that sexual health is very important and that the ongoing issues surrounding HIV and AIDS meant I should use protection at all times. This was not the reaction I was hoping for, but I can look back at it with a smile. My Dad was always a very analytical person and has a wealth of knowledge. I think he felt slightly blindsided and unprepared by what I was about to tell him. But that piece of advice has always stuck with me, for either the good or the bad.
Fast forward 12 years, and I’m no longer scared or nervous about who I am and what people's opinions are of me. I live quite a private but unapologetic life. I do not live in Kent but now reside in Monmouthshire in South Wales. My partner David and I have been together for almost eight years and have three wonderful children. Our three English Bulldogs Stanley, Minnie, and Montague. Life has certainly got better since I was the young, confused little boy trying to find out who he was.
If there was one piece of advice that I could tell my younger self it would be that things get better. They don’t get easier, but as you learn and grow, you become more resilient. You have to appreciate the good times and respect the bad, they will humble you.
After 10 years of working within the insurance sector, I’ve decided it is time to stop procrastinating and being stagnant and do something exciting and new. That’s why after feeling lost for such a long time, in August 2022 Happily Ever Queer was born.
I’m excited to begin this adventure and I hope that you come along for the ride.