There are some moments in our lives that define us. For better or worse, that moment is permanently etched on our life, and there is no going back.
I had one of these on Thursday.
First, a little background; when I was 17, I came to realise I was more interested in women than in men. It wasn’t really talked about back then, although the climate was beginning to change and the taboo was beginning to lift. My mate Chris had come out not long before, and when I told him, he said he could introduce me to some women I might be interested in.
But I got scared and backed away from my feelings.
This set the pattern for the next 14 years; every time I would begin to come to terms with who I was, something would happen to scare me off admitting it, often even to myself. When I joined the church at 19, it was made perfectly clear that ‘gay is not okay’. So when I caught myself admiring a woman, I’d force myself to “admire” a man instead. As such, I had a series of shallow and empty relationships with men, never achieving the fulfilment that should come from unity with another person.
I spent the past two years single and soul-searching, and when I was absolutely sure that it was women I was interested in, I began to send out feelers. I would ask questions of openly gay friends, asking how they came to terms with it, how they told their families, what kind of response they got, etc. A few of these friends apparently cottoned on, but I never really came out and said it.
About six months back, I decided to take a leap of faith, and told a very small circle of my closest friends that I was gay. They were cool, took it in their stride. After a week or two, when I saw that it hadn’t affected our friendship at all, I told a wider circle of friends, including some I knew were anti-gay. Those that responded were cool with it. Those that didn’t respond have remained friends anyway. That’s fine, it wasn’t rejection.
So I decided to tell my family. That was the hard part.
I had decided to tell Mum first, since I view her as the head of the family. The only trouble was, every time I got up the nerve to tell her, she would talk about TV or some person she’d met at random or something, anything else besides what I wanted to say. I doubt she was doing it on purpose, but it hurt all the same, and we’d end up fighting.
After one such fight, I got home and was sobbing and went up to my brother and blurted it out, saying “I’ve been trying to tell Mum but she keeps changing the subject and I know you won’t change the subject and I need to get it out and I’m gay!”
He simply said,
That was about three months back, and he’s been cool since then. My friends have been cool since then. It’s like nothing has changed. So I regained my courage to tell Mum (which had wavered, along with my resolve). I again tried to tell her, with about the same success as before.
So back to this defining moment.
Mum and I were out for a drive on Thursday. I was behind the wheel, Mum was my supervising driver (I’m on my learner license), and she got talking about Ellen DeGeneres. I used the opportunity to sniff out her feelings about gay folk, and then I said “do you remember the conversation we had in that cafe in Adelaide, about two or three years back?” This was the closest I’d come, and the conversation in question referred to the hypothetical situation of me bringing a woman home. She said she didn’t remember the conversation, and I lost my nerve. I changed the subject.
When we got to the part of the road where we swap drivers, I got out, took my L plates off, and walked around to her side of the car.
“That conversation was about the hypothetical situation of me bringing a woman home. Well,” and I blurted it out before I could lose my nerve again … “the next time I’m in a relationship, it’ll be with a woman.” I held my breath. Her face went blank for a moment, and then she spoke. I can’t remember the precise words, I was too nervous about what her reaction would be, but she accepted me.
I told Dad the next day, over coffee, with Mum’s support. I couldn’t quite get the words out, so Mum told him for me. I burst into tears, and he came over and hugged me and said it’s okay, it’s fine. And they’ve both been cool since.
But yeah, that was one of those defining moments. I’m no longer “Kitty, who is secretly gay but terrified to admit it”. I’m now “Kitty, who is openly gay, no big deal.”
So much can change in a moment.