'I created an LGBTQ+ collective so no queer kid feels isolated like I did'

Glyn Fussell always knew he liked guys. He remembers helping his dad, out at Sunday football in the park when he was only 11 years old and thinking his father Roger’s ‘slightly chunky, middle aged’ friends were hot.

‘I used to be the orange boy that would run on with orange segments at halftime,’ the now 43-year-old says about the football matches. ‘Just this flouncy homosexual asking if the boys would like some Vitamin C. For me, it was like heaven. I’d reached nirvana.’

For years prior to the Sunday football matches, Glyn recalls feeling alternative, but not necessarily gay.

‘The sexuality thing didn’t really come into play,’ he says. ‘The things I loved and the people I hung around with masqueraded my sexuality.’

Growing up in a working-class area in Bristol with six other siblings, Glyn recalls feeling isolated in his sexuality, scared of the social repercussions of what it would mean to come out of the closet.

‘I always knew I had those feelings, but I didn’t understand them emotionally,’ he remembers. ‘There were no visible role models for me to understand and there were limited resources for a young queer kid who knew he wanted to wear dresses and run away. There was nowhere I could find a light at the end of the tunnel.’

Pride Month 2023

Pride Month is here, with members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies celebrating their identities, accomplishments, and reflecting on the struggle for equality throughout June.

This year, Metro.co.uk is exploring the theme of family, and what it means to the LGBTQ+ community.

Find our daily highlights below, and for our latest LGBTQ+coverage, visit our dedicated Pride page.

  • Map shows London Pride parade 2023 route and best places to stand
  • 5 things you (probably) don’t know about the ‘world’s largest sexual minority’
  • New rainbow plaques will stop ‘hidden LGBTQ+ histories’ from being ‘lost forever’

While all the other kids lived outwardly, Glyn turned inward, creating imaginary worlds he’d like to live in one day.

Those years of quiet creativity would later be the inspiration behind his initiatives Sink the Pink, a LGBTQ+ collective and night club that would run 15 years, and Mighty Hoopla, a summer pop festival celebrating alternative and queer culture.

Even though he didn’t feel free to express himself as a child and young adult, Glyn says he always felt safe in the confines of his home.  

‘My mum and dad are the loves of my life,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Even though our lives were loud and full-on, the things they taught me were a sense of values, healthy pride, and the importance of family. I’m so close with my family.’

Glyn’s dad could see his second child was ‘odd’ and made an effort to ensure sure his boy felt protected amid the harshness of the real world.

‘He would always make sure he dropped me at places and picked me up,’ Glyn recalls. ‘That would be the time we’d listen to and sing along with all the gay icons – Dusty Springfield, Dolly Parton, Barbara Streisand.’

After getting two GCSEs, Glyn decided not to go to college, but work odd jobs to earn enough money to move to Australia.

‘I knew I would do anything because there was an end goal in sight,’ he says, describing visions of the Sydney Mardi Gras on the news. ‘It was like gay on steroids. It was the first time I had seen this amazing coming together of queerness. That was the pilgrimage I needed to make.’

With £2,000 in his pocket, Glyn booked a plane to Australia when he was 18, not knowing what exactly he was going to do when he got there.

‘My mum cried solidly,’ he remembers. ‘Those first few weeks, I experienced the truest sense of being homesick.’

After being turned down for several jobs in Australia, Glyn walked past a coffee shop blasting Kylie Minogue. He went in, asked for a job, and started the next day.

‘Turns out it was a gay café and everyone that worked there was gay,’ he says, laughing at the coincidence. ‘I found my new family. They became my everything. And my life transformed, really transformed.’

During his 18 months in Australia, Glyn felt he could finally let loose and be himself.

By the time he left, he was wearing crop tops and leopard flares, and had his first boyfriend.

‘I literally exploded when they gave me this license,’ he says. ‘I’d never felt more free.’

A week before he moved back to England, Glyn rang his mum, Marian, only quickly slipping in the fact he was bringing his boyfriend home to live with them.

It was his first coming out to his family. In retrospect, he wishes he would have given his family more time to adapt.

Even with the short notice, Glyn’s parents welcomed the couple home with open arms.

‘And my dad – he was unbelievable,’ remembers Glyn. ‘The most exemplary example of kindness. He just protected me more. He would drop me and my boyfriend off at the gay club and then he’d wait up until 2am and come pick us up. What a gift that was for me, and it gave me an amazing boost in life that I could do the same for everyone.’

While his five sisters had ‘no worries’ about Glyn’s sexuality, his relationship with his younger brother, Leighton, took time to navigate following his coming out.  

‘It’s been a long journey for me and him, and yet today, he’s one of the closest people in my life,’ Glyn says. ‘I couldn’t operate without him. He loves and is proud of me.’

The support of his family gave Glyn the confidence to relocate to London in 2001 at age 21 after breaking up with his boyfriend.

‘I was going to make a success of myself,’ he naively remembers thinking. ‘But if I’m really honest, I felt very overwhelmed. You have all these dreams and ideas, and then get to London and it bashes them out very quickly.’

After a string of jobs and toxic relationships, Glyn met Amy Zing, a producer at Radio 1.

‘We told each other we could do anything,’ he says. ‘We went after adventures, going out on weekends, do crazy things, like a pilgrimage to where Freddy Mercury lived. We started going out clubbing and experimenting with our identities and taking risks like wearing a hat or mascara. We felt like we were part of this unbelievable wild, underground, rebellious family. We knew we wanted to be part of it, so decided to start out own night club.’

For 15 years, Glyn and Amy ran Sink the Pink, creating a space of ‘joy’ that they had both craved in their teen years.  

The initiative has since gone down in history as the ‘parties that changed London forever’, after having started with two shows in a tiny bar in Islington.

Soon after, the monthly bashes with endless glitter, pop songs, and drag queens made their home at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

It welcomed guests like the 90s band B*Witched, Sam Smith, Olly Alexander, Jake Shears, Jade Thirlwall, Little Mix, and Melanie C – just to name a few big names.

Although Glyn has said a sad farewell to Sink the Pink in April 2022, following the pandemic, he has continued to throw himself into the Mighty Hoopla, which he co-founded in 2017, and writing a book, Sink The Pink’s Manifesto For Misfits.

He has also launched a podcast called We Can Be Heroes, giving space to hear from those who have harnessed the power of being different and turned it into the reason they’ve achieved success.

His favourite interviews so far, says Glyn, have been Dustin Lance Black, Skin, and Jake Shears.

‘We all need role models,’ says Glyn. ‘In queer culture, we struggle to find those people outside of spaces where there are drugs and alcohol. Those mentors don’t jump out at us. Without those heroes, who is passing down those stories from our culture? Who is telling us the lessons they’ve learned? I didn’t have those people. I need to lift those people up.’

Even with all that is going on in his career, Glyn has found his life partner Jermaine and recently became engaged to be married after proposing in January on the top of Mont Blanc.

The pair met on Tinder after Glyn had taken a two year vow of celibacy.

‘This guy is everything I’ve ever wanted,’ he says of his fiancé. ‘I just love him. On a deep, visceral level. I love him I think the way my mum and dad love each other. We’ve formed a sanctuary for each other. I’m blessed.’

While Glyn always thought he would have kids, he describes something changing over the last two years.

‘I feel quite content in that I don’t need to bring a child into the world to solidify my position,’ he says. ‘I’m a great uncle and spend a lot of time with my friends’ children.

‘I’ve got a lot more to give in my career and wouldn’t ever want to compromise that.’

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