John Grant: ‘I had a really hard time coming to terms with my sexuality, because I was taught to hate myself’

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As a child growing up in Buchanan, Michigan, John Grant was often taken to the local scrapyard by his father. You couldn’t miss the entrance, a short drive off the main road – to get in, you had to drive through the legs of a huge, imposing 20ft metal bull. “That thing scared the shit out of me,” Grant says. “But I was fascinated by it.”

That fascination would take a dark turn. A sensitive child, Grant knew “between the ages of seven and 10 that I was interested in men” – a fate forbidden by his staunchly Christian family and the wider, ultra-conservative townspeople. His father loved him, he says, but as a Sunday school teacher didn’t want Grant to turn into “one of those”.

And so, from an early age, Grant began to internalise the disapproval. “I understood from what I saw around me that this was the most horrible thing that could happen to you.”

He projected those fears on to the bull, which became the physical manifestation of Grant’s enveloping trauma. Trips to the scrapyard soon became an ordeal. The bull began to consume his thoughts; it kept him awake at night, interrupted his dreams.

“It was looming over me,” Grant says. “It symbolised this thing that was standing between my father and me, the horror of this wedge being driven between you and the people that you love. And you think you’re at fault for it, because that’s what you’re told. You’re either genetically defective or making a terrible choice – take your pick.”

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