I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I wanted this letter to end. I’ve spent a majority of my life making other people happy and making others smile that I have imagined what it has been like for people to read this. The last part left me feeling numb. It’s always hard to revisit the past, but I’ve learnt so much from it. I feel I’m heading to a better place because of it. It’s just taking its sweet ass time getting there. Typical of me to take my time and do things my way.
So I came out to a pigeon. It didn’t care. I started dating and exploring who I was meant to be. I had ignored that voice in me for so long. It was difficult to do but that journey led me to a gazebo where I twirled around until Joel fell madly in love with me. Happily ever after? For the most part no.
My career spiraled out of my control. My biofamily and I were doing the same. Friends and other family members were disappearing left and right and it all came to a terrible conclusion that…
Not all Coming Out Stories are wonderful. They’re not a big party. They aren’t full of relief and satisfaction. The rainbow does not always appear after the storm. In fact, after everything that was happening, I concluded that Coming Out is a terrible situation to be in. It is not fun. It is damaging. It is an unnecessary step that heterosexuals do not have to take. So, why does everyone else have to fight and parade around just to be themselves? I can understand and see the perspective of how Coming Out was a brilliant thing because I remember sitting in front of that pigeon. But it didn’t care. And quite frankly, the rest of the world shouldn’t care who I sleep with or who I love. It is only a part of me. It doesn’t encompass me.
Coming Out for me meant losing everything except Joel. It meant getting slapped in public by religious parents from schools I used to work at. They’d interrupt me at cafes with Joel or doing our food shopping. They’d point their fingers at him and demand to know who he was. I was even accused of pedophilia. My biobrother was posting his religious articles he found that discussed the same thing. Already I was starting to see what I saw happen as a child to gay people…now happen to me. With the aftermath of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and many countries starting to make Same Sex Marriages legal, Australia started to talk about the same things. The government wouldn’t just pass it alone. Instead, they made the Australian public pay for a plebiscite. Now, LGBT people were not only being blamed and targeted for attacking religious freedoms but now we were being blamed for costing citizens money. At least, that’s what Joel and I experienced.
Just 5 minutes away from where I live there is a church who does Conversion Therapy. They became aware that a gay couple lived near them. I had to start threatening to call the police in order for them to stop their Sunday visits to my front door. I asked the local bakery if they were excited to expand their wedding services and found out they wouldn’t. Yes, the plebiscite passed and Same Sex Marriage was voted in but it came with a hefty price. Mental Health for LGBT was in jeopardy and services were struggling to meet the high demand. (There isn’t a lot out there for mental health anyway). Posters had been put up filled with homophobia. Sky writing was even being used in the sky to entice people to vote No. I live in a state where the majority voted NO.
Joel and I were alone and we felt even more alone…in our eyes we were unwanted. Cast aside. We just had each other and it took years to bring ourselves back up out of the pit of despair we were in.
Our relationship has never been closer. But I won’t lie. I’m open and honest about my mental health. Everything I shared so far weighed heavily on me and one day my brain just snapped. I was illogical. I was lost. My thoughts were spiralling. All I heard in my head was how I lost my biofamily, how I lost my job, how I lost my friends, how I lost a community…all because…
I love you, Joel.
There were many attempts I tried to take on my life. But there he was again, just like he was when I was crumbling over being a Gay Primary Teacher, he was there out of the darkness taking my hand, slapping me awake and alluring me with his words.
Joel saved me.
He told me how important my story was…our story…how I had a way with words…one of the things he fell in love with me over…the way I connected with people…he told me to write. He told me to write and never stop. While he had the full time job and I was busy putting the pieces of my life back together, I wrote a book: He Was A Boy Who Smiled. It was an absolute mess and it was all over the place. I didn’t know what my story was going to be about. I had no idea the direction I was going to take it.
And there was Joel again, reading the book and seeing what it could become, he directed me to find an editor and I did. Her name was Rita Hart and we connected immediately. She helped me so much in spreading the story out. One book became three. There were many titles and many tears. She pushed me places where my brain was unwilling to go previously. I took a chance and I wrote my truth.
It was liberating and it helped me heal. So while I went to LikeMind, a mental health service nearby, they helped keep me sewn together and I unravelled the past. I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. I went through a couple of years of treatment, even when the government kept taking mental health services away, even when hospitals would turn me away because I wasn’t severe enough. Joel was even told not to bring me back in unless I had open wounds, taken a bunch of pills or was dying because of my attempt.
I attempted to join a Writing Group but my mental health wasn’t quite up to dealing with the responsibilities and drama that that brought into my life. I secluded myself from the world, even after the government cut me off of Disability payments and try to tell me I was ready to get back into the work force. To go back to teaching. To go work in other religious places.
Joel has been my financial support, but he can’t be for long. It’s becoming increasingly impossible to live in Sydney. Rents are going up. Electricity costs are out of control. My medical bills alone, despite getting help here and there from people, has put us over $5,000 in debt.
And you know who’s fault that is? Mine. Because I couldn’t keep it together, right? I couldn’t just be a normal godly person who loved the right person, right? On my dark days, I struggle not taking the blame. But even on those days, I have Joel to remind me. I have Likemind a phone call away. I even have Anglican Counselling opening their doors for me and denouncing the poison that the Anglican Church spouts into Australia (Gays can be fired from religious school and gay students can be expelled).
Coming Out was the worst thing I could have done. It almost killed me. I didn’t want to do a song and dance. I didn’t want to have to say in a round about way, “Hey, I like to have sex with men.” I didn’t want to do any of those things. I wanted to be me. I didn’t want to have to explain myself.
And that’s another reason why He Was A Boy Who Smiled is so damn important to me and has been for others, too. It is a unique voice with a strong story to tell. It has its sad bits, it has rough bits and it has hard-to-read bits, but it isn’t about any of those things. It’s about a boy, standing in front of the world, asking them to listen to him. It’s a story of hope within a smile and the people around it.
He Was A Boy Who Smiled is my way of Coming Out, not just parts of me, but all of me. It’s how it should be for every single human being out there no matter how they are defined.
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