OPINION: Wall’s Words

Meet the guncles by Mike Wall.

So apparently the new word for a gay uncle is guncle. Am I happy to be called guncle? Well in short, no-ish. I’m gay and I’m an uncle but the word guncle makes me sound somehow strange.

Would a child not expect to find a guncle to be a character in a book that lives in the shed at the bottom of the garden? But then I remind myself on a regular basis that, yes, I’m getting older and therefore won’t always understand what is going on in a younger person’s world.

Anyway, I digress. I was thinking recently: what’s expected of me in my role as an uncle, gay or whatever? When I was growing up, my aunts and uncles fell into distinct categories: ones that were close and ones that weren’t. I think that the common theme across them all was that I would never have dreamt about ever asking them for advice on sexuality matters. This wasn’t only a generational discomfort but also a social discomfort. Remember folks we’re talking about mid-1980s rural Ireland, so think 1950s Brighton.

So, here I am today with six nieces and nephews of my own and four nieces and nephews through marriage, which includes the spouse’s. We also have Roger’s great-niece and great-nephew. Would a gay great-uncle be a guncle?

Again, I digress. So what should our role as uncles be today? I remember back to my youth and I would have loved to have been in a position where I felt I had any senior member of my family that I could have approached to talk about my sexuality. So, I feel that as a guncle it’s now my role just to be there for my nieces and nephews if they need me. To date not one of them has approached me to ask me advice or even just to have a chat about their sexuality, but I hope that any one of them would be comfortable chatting to me about it if they wanted to.

“Every one of my nieces and nephews have grown up knowing that their uncle Mike is gay and has a husband”

The one part of being a gay uncle that I very much enjoy is that every single one of my nieces and nephews have grown up their entire lives knowing that their uncle Mike is gay and has a husband. I remember one particular story that my sister told me where our nephew asked her a question in the car to my house one day several years ago. It was the same year that Roger and I had got civil partnered so we were basically newly weds and they were on their way to visit for the day.

During the journey my nephew piped up; “Aunty, can I ask a question?” 
“Of course,” responded my sister.
“Can men be married to each other?”
“Yes, they can,” responded my sister
“I knew my friends at school were wrong,” he said, and quietly went back to staring out the window. My sister said that it was a lovely moment to be able just to say yes and that it was completely normal in a six-year-old’s mind.

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