Rafael Ballesteros and Ray Collins, in an image made during a visit to Granada. THE WORLD
Rafael forms with Labor Ray Collins one of the most influential gay couples in the British political arena
The 50 most influential gays of 2019: a decade of new references and also absences
Rafael Ballesteros scrutinizes his memories and, looking back, recognizes that the road was not easy. "It wasn't. I arrived in London invited by an English boyfriend whom I met in Ibiza. A week later, he put me on the street . He wasn't the same person I knew. He didn't have money or work. He didn't even speak English. He said he would not survive. And I said yes. He had always been a survivor, "this 50-year-old from Granada tells LOC. That small shipwreck happened in 1996. And Rafael ended up overcoming the stumble and winning the bet. "I did things that I shouldn't have done and I ended up washing dishes in a Spanish restaurant in London where they abused me," he recalls. Already before landing in the United Kingdom he had resisted other blows. I was used to going against the tide. "I was clear from a young age that I was gay. I left the closet very early. It was very vindictive. I got into the world of the night. I left Granada to Malaga and from there to Barcelona," he outlines.
A year after settling in the city of the Thames, Rafael found who has been his accomplice ever since. "I met him at a disco, dancing," he says with a laugh. "It was a crush. I liked men with a beard and, instead, he was blond with blue eyes. He caught my attention a lot. Then, I fell in love with him because of his character. He behaved very well with me. He is a calm person, the opposite of me, "he remembers. Her husband is Ray Collins (65), an institution in the world of British trade unionism . Between 1984 and 2008 he was one of the main leaders of the Transport and General Workers' Union , which would end up merging with Amicus to create the largest union in Britain. Collins, who was one of the warders of that union, became general secretary of the Labor Party between 2008 and 2011, at the time of Gordon Brown . For nearly nine years, he has been Lord, a lifetime charge granted by the queen, with the title of Baron Collins of Highbury .
"I have met many important people thanks to him. I have a pass to go to the House of Lords. It is a pride. If I were a woman, it would be Lady but still here in England they are not sure," he jokes. Of the meetings he witnessed, he remembers fondly that of Barack and Michelle Obama . "Barack asked me where he was from and I told him that Spanish. It was very fast. You know how these things are," he replies. "I know Queen Elizabeth II to greet her. We've been to Buckingham Palace a couple of times. I've also greeted Kate Middleton. But that doesn't impress me. It's normal people."
After a tortuous work journey - "I used a kitchen sink as a cleaner; from a cleaner to a canteen manager" - Rafael works as a florist. "I trained for five years as an interior designer and florist. Now I work at a very large florist in Hampstead. We have clients like Elton John or Emma Thompson, " he says. "I consider myself lucky even though we work hard. My husband is retired and charges when he attends the sessions as Lord. We live in a decent flat in one room, near the Arsenal stadium, and we have another in Alicante, where we spend four days a month. We are a normal couple, without luxuries , who have worked hard ", slides who admits that he found his passion late. "I only regret not having studied at the time but finally I did. I remember that as a child I went to Priego de Córdoba with my aunt and I really liked to plant and make bouquets. I am interested in colors and combinations."
Ray and Rafael form an influential couple . A decade ago, the PinkNews publication chose English as one of the most influential gay politicians in the United Kingdom. "I have married the same person three times," Rafael says jokingly. "In 2004 we thought that the law would change and we organized a wedding with 300 people. My mother and my aunt came with the mantillas and the combs, of flamenco. It was a show. In 2005 we celebrated a civil union hours before we also Elton John did. And on December 21, 2015, after homosexual marriage was legalized, we got married, "he enumerates.
Rafael recognizes that the time for stability has arrived. "Ray would like to work until he was 90 years old. I want to retire at 65 to take care of him. My dream is to live in peace. I would like to spend more time in Spain because I left very young and I don't know her well and it's a very pretty country," he mutters. "England has given me everything I am but I am not going to change my passport, even now with Brexit. I don't want to lose my roots ." The distance has not deprived him of remaining linked to his land. "In the United Kingdom there is also homophobia but it is penalized. It hurts what is happening in Spain . I think the gays have to keep fighting to keep what we get. When I was told something, I put on heels. I have even been drag queen We have done a lot but I don't understand why young people don't go out on the street now. We shouldn't let them shut up. We shouldn't let them scare us. "
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