Singer Brian Kennedy opens up about being closeted in Belfast during the ‘70s

After moving away from home, Kennedy cut all contact with his parents and wider family, starting a new life for himself in London.

A selfie of Brian Kennedy.

In a new interview, Brian Kennedy has revealed that his parents wanted him to become a priest after they realised he “wasn’t like other boys”. The gay singer grew up in Belfast during the ‘70s and ‘80s, at a time when homosexuality was still criminalised.

Speaking on his experience of being closeted at the time, he told RSVP Magazine: “Well it was illegal, first of all. There was so much religion and so much control from the church. It was really, really dangerous. I got really good at covering it up, pretending I wasn’t gay.

“I threw myself into my work, into my art, so there was a ‘reason’ I might not be like the other boys. I was a singer.”

He continued by admitting, “My parents were keen for me to become a priest, which was, of course, their way of understanding that I was different. That was the only place for me.”

After leaving home at 16, and moving to London at 18, the now 55-year-old cut all contact with his parents and many of his family members. He spoke on the difficulties of this, saying: “One of the darker gifts of estrangement is, it really does cut you loose, because you know you can’t go back and live in Belfast or go to family events.”

He continued by noting: “After a while, when you keep turning up with no girlfriend, it’s very obvious that you’re not like the other boys. And especially in the early, mid-80s when HIV appeared, along with that came a lot of ignorance, a lot of fear and a lot of violence. And a lot of death. It was a very difficult set of things to have in your life.”

It wasn’t until the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that Brian Kennedy made the decision to come out, as he told people in his inner circle and management that he was gay.

“I was still working it out for myself. I was only half-cooked!” He told RSVP Magazine. 

“I didn’t have the confidence to know who I was. I was still having little flings with girls here and there and then secret liaisons with men. I did that on and off for a few years until I decided to stop pretending to have relationships with women because it wasn’t fair on them or anybody.

“It only takes you falling in love with one man to realise that you are who you are,” he concluded.

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