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Stephen Fry ponders growing up, love and being gay in a letter to his 16-year-old self

Henrietta Ronson April 30, 2009
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Stephen Fry has written a letter to his 16-year-old self about his melancholy adolescence and his desperation never to grow up.

The missive is a reply to a letter sent by his 16-year-old self to his future self and is published in Gay Times’ 25th anniversary issue, out this month.

In it, the broadcaster says that frequently, love, rather than being gay, causes the most problem in gay people’s lives.

He writes: “Gay people sometimes believe that the preponderance of obstacles and terrors they encounter in their lives and relationships is intimately connected with the fact of their being gay. As it happens at least 90 per cent of their problems are to do with love and love alone.”

“Straight people are encouraged by culture and society to believe that their sexual impulses are the norm, and therefore when their affairs of the heart and loins go wrong…they are forced to believe that it must be their fault.

“We gay people at least have the advantage of being brought up to expect the world of love to be imponderably and unmanageably difficult, for we are perverted freaks and sick aberrations of nature.”

Fry also confesses his constant quest to confirm that he was not alone.

He needed affirmation that there were others like him: “I know what you are doing now, young Stephen. It’s early 1973. You are in the library, cross-referencing bibliographies so that you can find more and more examples of queer people in history, art and literature against whom you can hope to validate yourself”.

“So many great spirits really do confirm that hope! It emboldens you to know that such a number of brilliant (if often doomed) souls shared the same impulse and desires as you.”

Fry also writes of his envy of straight people. “They won’t have to spend their days in public libraries, public lavatories and public courts ashamed, spurned and reviled. There is no internet. No Gay News. No gay chatlines. No men-seeking-men personals. No out-and-proud celebs. Just a world of shame and secrecy.

But he promises his young self that things will get better: “You will emerge from Cambridge and enter a world where being “out” is no big deal.” At the same time, Fry alludes to themes of doubt. He admits that “a whole theatre of war remains.”

The young Fry wanted to remain young – he did not yearn for adulthood or things that came with growing up. His future self concludes: “I think you are right.”

The 25th anniversary issue also features letters from celebrities such as Elton John and Paul O’Grady.

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