Graham Norton has opened up about the struggles he felt as a young gay man growing up in Ireland, revealing that at the time, he ‘never came out’.
Speaking to The Irish Sun, Graham shared he hoped to travel to America to meet a pen pal. “I never came out. It didn’t seem practical,” the presenter shared.
“Living in a small town in rural Ireland in the early eighties there was no context for me to be gay in, so why tell anyone?
“I would just have been gay watching afternoon TV or riding my bike into town.”
He continued, “With no prospect of being gay in the very important boy meets boy scenario, I felt it would just have upset everyone without any real benefit.
“Instead, I resolved to go to where the boys were. My plan was to take my J1 visa from university and travel to Los Angeles for the summer.”
Graham then opened up about his pen pal in the States, saying, “I had a pen pal there, David Villapando, who had revealed in his letters that not only was he gay but that he was doing something about it. In fact, he was doing quite a lot about it.
“I know it seems ridiculous that the closest gay person I could find was five thousand miles away, but subconsciously, that was probably how I wanted it.”
Sharing that he travelled to San Francisco, Graham explained why he never made it to LA.
“As I stepped bleary and aching from the bus with my backpack weighing heavily, a flatbed truck came around the corner with three drag queens waving and screaming on the back of it.
“Obviously, I knew that the city had a reputation for being gay, but nonetheless, this seemed a little overstated. It transpired that I had arrived on the day of Gay Pride.
“I walked up to Market Street and watched the parade go by. Actual Grace Jones was on a float singing to me. My Irish head and heart were close to bursting.”
Continuing, he shared, “In amongst the drag queens, leather daddies and grey-haired proud parents marching in solidarity with their children, I remember seeing some placards with the initials AIDS on them.
“When asked, the pleasant woman standing beside me on the sidewalk explained happily, ‘Oh, it’s a bad disease they get.’ I had a vague recollection of reading something about it deep inside the Cork Examiner. A type of cancer, I thought.
“Other groups on the parade were angry that the city had forced the bath houses to shut their doors.
“The day had slowly turned from being a celebration of pride to a closing-down party. Short of money and with no more ticket to ride, I never did get to LA.”