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We Are Middlesbrough: Town 'is in my blood, my DNA'

Jonathan (left) and Martin Brown Image copyright Jonathan Brown
Image caption Jonathan (left) and Martin Brown were the first male couple to marry in the town

A widower who was half of the first same-sex male couple to get married in Middlesbrough has spoken of his love for his adopted home town.

Jonathan and Martin Brown moved up from their native Kent in 2003, as they wanted a new life and Martin had always supported Boro.

Following his husband's sudden death in 2016, Jonathan said he never considered returning south.

He said that Middlesbrough "was in his blood" and he was "meant to be here".

Jonathan said that prior to meeting Martin he "didn't know Middlesbrough existed".

"The north to me was London and after that the country stopped," he said.

'Bit rough'

Martin had supported Boro since the age of three, and despite living in Ashford would make occasional trips north with his father to watch a game.

But Jonathan's first impression of the town during a weekend visit was not favourable.

"We both lived in Chatham at the time," he said,

"And while it's not exactly paradise, it would be quiet in the town centre through the week because everyone was at work.

"Here it was so busy, and I thought it was a bit rough too."

Image copyright Jonathan Brown
Image caption Martin and Jonathan married in the old registry office in 2014

However, Jonathan was persuaded to move and soon fell in love with the town, mainly because of the people.

He said: "Everyone is proud of Middlesbrough, I've never yet met anyone who would sort of diss the town."

They soon settled in, moving to the Longlands area, and became part of the community.

The pair decided to get married and it was a point of pride for them that they were the first male same-sex couple to do so at Middlesbrough Registry Office.

'Badge of honour'

When Martin died suddenly of a heart condition, Jonathan said he never considered moving away and instead was joined by his mother and stepfather who now live with him.

"I've no interest in moving back down south, it's too hot and everything is expensive," he said.

"Besides, I always say Middlesbrough is in my blood, in my DNA - I was always meant to be here, even if I didn't know it."

Jonathan regards it as a "badge of honour" to be the widower of a single-sex couple, and has never encountered any prejudice.

"I may be the only gay in the village, as it were, but that's why I love it here, what you do indoors is your business.

"I've made some great friends here, some I consider as family.

"It's the people that make Middlesbrough great."

This article was created as part of We Are Middlesbrough - a BBC project with the people of the town to tell the stories which matter to them.

For more information about We Are Middlesbrough follow #BBCWeAreMiddlesbrough on social media. You can also email us wearemiddlesbrough@bbc.co.uk

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