I was 19. No, 15. Actually maybe I came out when I was like 8… The point is, we spend our whole lives coming out… to somebody new.
When I was a small boy, I played with dolls. I’d steal my sister’s mostly. I had no interest in cars or trucks like other boys.
As I got older something strange happened. My focus shifted to traditional boys’ shows. My favourite shows and movies were things like Thundercats, GI Joes, X-men and Batman.
But the clue that I was different was that I always loved the female heroes. Princess Leia, Rogue, Catwoman and She-Ra. I loved them if they were tough glamazons. Looking gorgeous and hitting hard in a fight!
By the time I was in High School, I was a huge fan of Xena: Warrior Princess. It’s all I talked about and soon enough rumours began. I joined a small group of role playing gamers who played Dungeons & Dragons during the school lunch hour.
At 15 years old I was well into puberty and these were the closest thing I had to real friends in a while. I decided to do something that would change my life forever. I lied that I had a boyfriend, and used a crush from Tae Kwon Do as the description. I’m not exactly sure why I did this, but my inkling is that I wanted to confess that I was gay, but wanted them to think I was popular enough to already have a boyfriend. I desired to finally be popular.
Generally attracted to men older than me, my imaginary boyfriend was 21 and this was scandalous!
What I thought was a secret between close friends turned out to be something worse. For anyone who’s been outed against their wishes you know what I’m talking about. The fact that I was apparently dating someone older made it much, much worse.
The next day at school was awful. Stares, smirks, whispers etc. For the remainder of school I was bullied for being the school fag. I was also VERY alone.
In 2001 I started university. Joining the Queer Space on campus I made friends. By 2002 they invited me to go in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
What force on Earth would make me say no to that? My friends wanted to make me feel included in the biggest Pride celebration in the world!
On the eve of Mardi Gras, it dawned on me that this parade is aired on TV. I would need to tell my parents in case they saw me on the screen.
By the time I conjured the courage my mum had gone to bed but dad was sitting in the lounge as usual.
“Dad can I talk to you?” I said in a jittery voice. My dad gave me this knowing look. “I’m gay”, I stuttered.
After talking about it with him for a while he told me the reason he hoped it wasn’t true was that my life would be harder. He told me he loved me. I asked him to not tell mum as I wanted to be the one to tell her. He agreed.
The next day my mum was nowhere in sight. Gone shopping. I had to leave to get ready with my friends. The parade was electric. I’ll write more about the Mardi Gras in a separate blog.
I later found out that the parade wasn’t even screened live and it would be aired a week later! For the next week I saw less and less of my mum and there was never a right time to tell her. Her behaviour seemed skittish too. Like she was deeply uncomfortable and wanted to avoid me. She knew.
I had a conversation with dad and he said “Andrew, I can’t withhold something like that. She’s my wife.”
A week later I found myself in the lounge as my mum walked in and gave me a disgusted stare.
“Are we going to talk about this?” I blurted out.
“Talk about what?” She spat back, Before I could say anything else, she continued. “What should I say? You think I like talking about it? That my son is a homosexual?”
“It needs to be talked about mum.” My leftist rage was driving me more than the sentiment of someone who had just broken my mother’s heart.
“I can’t change it. I don’t like it. I never will” she screeched, “and let me tell you something Andrew. Don’t go telling anyone in my family this. Noone should know. Don’t tell anyone. Noone wants to know this about you.”
My dad entered and what happened next still escapes me. I remember dad saying to my mum “darling, he’s trying to talk to you” but it was no use. She became angry and took her anger out on my dad behind my back, blaming his genes for why I turned out gay.
The next 6 years were a mess of my awakening gay lifestyle disrupting my studies, living out and proud as a gay rights activist, going through the darkness of an abusive relationship and seeking counselling for depression.
The counsellor was the best one I’ve come across to date, and she would later counsel my long term relationship through its ups and downs.
During one of my sessions talking about my sexuality, we had a breakthrough.
On one hand I was a queer officer on campus who facilitated events and services for LGBTQI students. On the other hand, I had crawled back into the closet the moment my mum said “Don’t tell anyone. Noone wants to know this about you”.
In public I was a fearless champion of gay rights. I private, I hid the elephant in the room. My mum thought I should be ashamed of who I was, and i validated that by acting as if I was, by hiding it from her.
So I acted on the advice I received from my counsellor. And honestly to this day, it was the most life changing advice I have ever received. I’m going to share it with you.
Answer it directly, truthfully and without hesitation.My counsellor, 2007
“You need to teach people how to interact with you Andrew. That you’re not ashamed of what you do or who you are. Don’t tell your mum things she hasn’t asked for. That’s shoving things down a person’s throat. But, if she asks you a question, answer it. Answer it directly, truthfully and without hesitation. She will start to see that this is your life and she can then pick and choose what she wants to know about with the question she continues to ask”.
The next day I was at a boyfriend’s house. Mum called and said “Where are you?”
With my heart in my throat and taking all the courage I could muster I responded. “I’m at my boyfriend Peter’s house”. After asking me to repeat it in what appeared to be disbelief, she changed the subject and finished the call.Several years later, I’ve learned a lesson, things take time but they need to be given the chance to succeed. That chance is the truth. In the past decade, mum has attended my engagement to my ex, gone shopping with him for a Christmas present, asked me about gay celebrities that have come out etc. There is still a level of discomfort with certain topics. That is inevitable for a sheltered Catholic Mauritian woman of the Boomer generation. But things are better. And that’s enough for me.
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