I remember being quite young and asking my stepdad how babies were made – the infamous question that I believe most parents hate being asked. Do they lie to their kid and leave them confused until they’re old enough to understand? Do they try to give them a more complicated answer as to what really happens? Do they-
“What?” I asked in shock.
His bloodshot eyes, red from the amount of alcohol he had taken that morning, stared into mine. His breath a mixture of fresh tobacco and tare fuming across from my face, he repeated the phrase.
“No way!” I said.
I think from then on, I saw sex as a mere biological process, a simple thing in life that was as common as waking up in the morning and preparing a cup of coffee with buttered toast. But this story isn’t about sex. It’s about more than that. It’s about who I am.
Late primary school was an interesting stage of my life. Everyone was developing crushes on each other, Tony Abbott was in charge, and the feud about whether or not to approve gay marriage was ongoing. We’d received a note from our Catholic school to take home to parents. It was a folded piece of paper that all students were given, discussing the topic of whether gay marriage was the correct approach.
Everyone, including those in kindergarten, opened the notes before anything could be done. We all read the word “gay” and “homosexual”, and everyone was giggling to themselves at how funny that word sounded.
The principal, a short and plump woman with wrinkles and glasses and a bowl haircut stomped fiercely in front of the entire school with a microphone in her hand.
“Everyone! Listen up! That letter is for your parents, it is not for you to open.”
But it was already too late. That was when I think I really understood what being gay meant. I also understood that those who were gay were seen as different from the norm. It didn’t help that people would laugh to themselves about it as if it were a joke of some kind.
Weeks went past and I noticed that I wasn’t adjusting as well as all the other students. I didn’t like any girls, and that’s all people seemed to be talking about. I looked over at the person sitting next to me. She was smart, had good grades and was always well-spoken. Those are good qualities to look for in a person, right? Someone sensible, who had their homework together. Going home in my mum’s car, I told her I had a crush.
“Oooooo, you do, do you?”
“Yes,” I said, having no idea why she was so excited.
“What do you like about her?”
I thought about it for a moment, “She’s quite smart.”
Let’s move forward a few years. I now have a couple of friends who know I’m gay. Once again, I find that there is still debate on gay marriage and the word “gay” is often used as an insult within the classroom.
Sitting next to a friend, I announce, “I’m gay.”
He looks at me with a slightly surprised look on his face, not expecting me to be so open. “I know.”
High school ends and I move out. I move into a house with several housemates, all millennials in their early thirties. I’ve become more comfortable with my sexuality. I tell my friends, tell my housemates in conversation, et cetera. One day I tell my housemate, a short plump girl with frizzy bright hair and a clumsy stature. When I tell her I see a smile on her face, and then hear the following words:
“You are? Oh my God, I didn’t know!”
Of course you didn’t know, I thought to myself. I never told you. Something adults do, I notice, is tell you that they had no idea. As if being gay is something you can easily detect. Perhaps in the way a person presents themselves or how they talk. Soon after, my housemate says, “I actually know a friend who’s also gay. You two might go well together?”
I cringe, but intrigued, I ask for a photo.She shows me her phone and I see a picture of someone who looks old enough to be my uncle, with stubble all over his chin. “He works at Bunnings,” she says, in a tone of voice that implies he’s the hedge fund manager of Apple.“Jesus Christ.”
“And he’s only 27.”I’m 18 years old.“Jesus Christ.”
“Age is just a number.”
“Jesus fucking Christ.”
From the very first time I was told how babies were made, I’ve always seen sexuality as a normal thing that everyone goes through. That’s why I connect with people who don’t care about that stuff; who don’t look at you with a wide expression and say,“Oh my God, I didn’t know.”
At the end of the day, I like books, drawing, writing, video games and video making. I’m a humanities guy. I have a simple life with two housemates. I go to university. My favourite outfit consists of long black trousers, a long-sleeved shirt, a jacket and a pair of gloves that allow the tips of your fingers to show. Nothing about me tells other people that I’m gay, or so I’ve been told by close friends.
I don’t just want to be gay. I want to be a person.I want to be me.