Miriam Margolyes thinks her coming out caused mother’s stroke: ‘I shouldn’t have told them’
Miriam Margolyes still wishes she never came out as gay to her parents and thinks the shock sent her mother to an early grave.
The Harry Potter actor opened up about her tumultuous coming out in her new memoir This Much Is True. In an excerpt published by the Daily Mail, Margolyes reflected on the “regret” she still feels about coming out to her parents in the 1960s.
In the heartbreaking excerpt, Miriam Margolyes explained that she had a “completely loving and open” relationship with her mother, adding that they “talked about everything”.
At the age of 27, Margolyes met Heather and embarked upon her first “mature loving relationship”. They “didn’t get out of bed” for a week after they started seeing each other.
“One weekend soon afterwards, I went home to Oxford and told Mummy I was gay,” Margolyes wrote in her memoir.
“She immediately told my father. I don’t think they really believed it. They knew it was possible, but Miriam wasn’t going to be like that because Miriam was perfect and to be a lesbian was imperfection, so it simply couldn’t be entertained for one moment.”
Margolyes said her mother “really couldn’t handle” her coming out, adding that homosexuality was still seen as “shameful” in 1960s Britain.
Her parents forced her to swear on the Torah that she would never “have relations with a woman again” after she came out.
“I did as they asked, but I broke my promise,” the actress wrote.
“I stayed with Heather because I loved her, because my whole soul cleaved to her, it would have been impossible to stop.
“And because, somewhere along the line, I knew they were making an unreasonable request.”
Miriam Margolyes worries she might have ‘in some way caused’ her mother’s stroke
Just days later, Miriam Margolyes’ mother had her first stroke – and the actress still believes that her coming out might have “in some way caused it”.
Three months later, she had a second “devastating” stroke that started her on a path of “appalling illness”. She eventually died in 1974.
“I had caused the person I loved most in the world a pain she could not bear. It was a horrendous time and I was very unhappy. I knew I couldn’t change what I was; I should not have told them,” Margolyes wrote.
The actor now believes it’s “indulgent” for LGBT+ people to say that all queer people should come out to everyone in their lives.
“Some people cannot accept their loved ones being homosexual. And if they can’t, they shouldn’t have to.”
Margolyes admitted that she and long-time friend Ian McKellen disagree on that topic. He believes queer people should “come out as an encouragement to others and be true to yourself”, Margolyes said.
But she believes it “depends on who you’re coming out to”.
“It’s better if people can truly be who they are meant to be – but my insistence on opening up hurt the ones I loved most in the world.”
Reflecting on her mother’s stroke now, Margolyes believes it was likely “an accident waiting to happen” – but she thinks it’s possible her coming out “exacerbated it”.
Despite her parents’ objections, Margolyes and Heather stayed together. Their relationship has now lasted 53 years – something Margolyes doesn’t believe would ever have happened if her mother had remained in good health.