Updated: Oct 21, 2021
If you think someone is gay and they’re not “out”, don’t “out” them; to them or to others. It’s cruel, you‘re not doing them any favours and you could be halting their "coming out" process. You don’t know what the hold up is, or if they’re even gay at all. Just leave them alone. Please.
I knew I liked girls since the start of primary school. I liked a girl in my class, but I didn’t know what gay was, and I didn’t think girls liked girls or boys liked boys, not when I was six in 1990. Lucky I already developed a vivid imagination, and whenever I wasn’t engaging with other humans, I was fantasising. Easy, I would imagine I was a good-looking, nice and likeable boy, who always got the girl. I remember the first imagination of this kind. I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep. I felt so naughty, but I pushed through my care, thinking God might not be listening tonight and no one could read my mind. I was Diesel (an Australian singer) and I had to choose between Paula Abdul and the girl at school. I chose the girl at school. How liberating. That was me, I would escape to another world whenever I was alone.
My imagination was my little secret. By mid-primary school, I was drawing my imaginations, acting them out (in private), and playing them with my GI Joe and Disney princess figurines. I stopped playing as I neared the end of primary school, but kept playing in my head. In grade 8, I got my first guitar - and at a great time. I started experiencing bouts of depression because I really started liking girls and hiding it was really hurting me. I used to write cryptic songs about the girls I liked. I actually did this throughout the entirety of high school and it really helped. I wrote a lot of songs. I liked a lot of girls! My unfulfilled desires consumed me. It was a hard time.
In grade 9, Ellen DeGeneres came out, and the back-lash was hurtful. I followed the hate crowd. The same year, I answered the home phone. The lady on the other end said, "Sorry I'm just calling to say your sister didn't get the room because I didn't know she was a lesbian. I don't feel comfortable with that." She was talking about my older sister, who was 23 at the time. I didn't know she was a lesbian. I hated that word. I was upset. I heard mum and dad talk negatively about her "coming out" and how "in-their-face" and disrespectful she was being. She lost all her long-term friends. I stopped talking to her for a while and her response was (words to the effect) You're only angry because you're a lesbian and I got to it first.
I swore I would never tell any one I liked girls. Don't tell me who I am. You don't know me. The age gap, my sister and I weren't close. She never spoke to me about my feelings. She had no right to make that assumption. This same sister, several years later, told me I had a phobia of phones because of that phone call, and sniggered. She hurt me. I felt in some way she was being passive in taking her pain out on me.
Mum talked to me a lot about my sister. Mum seemed to dislike lesbian figures on TV, but not gay men. She thought gay men couldn't help it. Um. (Just remember, this was the 90's, and my mother was from the middle east). Mum shared a story with me about one of the arguments she had with my older sister. My older sister queried mum as to why she can't accept her sexuality and reminded her when I was in pre-school, one of her school friends mothers told mum, "Betty is going to be a lesbian when she is older" and mum responded, "So? I love her no matter what!"
I found a puberty book in the school library that said some teenagers spend some time confused about their sexuality. GREAT! It's just a phase. I tried to date boys, but no boy wanted to date me. Good. But, it wasn't a phase.
I remember one girl I was quite fond of wrote, "Betty is a lesbian", on the math classroom wall. My best friend at the time saw her do it, and immediately scratched it out before I or anyone else saw it. I had a suspicion the girl who wrote it was maybe fond of me, because there was no reason for her to intentionally hurt me like that. Thinking this reassured me anyway, and made it hurt less.
One afternoon after school I was so sad and lay on my bed crying, asking, "Whhhhyyyyyy am I like this?" Then out of the blue, mum walks in, like she knew what I was crying about. She asked me, "Are you a lesbian?" I was horrified and laughed, "No way mum. Don't you worry about that." Epic fail. I was so ashamed. What am I doing to make her think I'm gay?
A slight turning point September 2000, I met my best friend Jo. I was hosting my Film & TV group at my house, and one of the girls was friends with Jo - who lived two houses down from me. We were filming a couple of night time scenes, and Jo helped. I remember she was flicking through one of my Soap magazines (I had a huge crush on Carrie from Days of Our Lives) and Jo pointed her out and said, "She's hot!" I was beside myself. I was excited. I asked, "Who else do you think is hot?" and we went through the entire magazine and pointed out girls we thought were hot. Jo had a boyfriend at the time. We spent the next few years talking about our girl crushes, but never openly said, "I'm gay". It really helped to finally openly talk about girls I liked with Jo, one less thing I was keeping inside. We weren't gay though!
I'd started uni, and one year I had a big birthday celebration at my favourite pub. I invited some old friends from primary school. I was pretty drunk and jolly until one old friend from primary school confronted me, asking me if I was gay because her and other primary school had been talking about my sexuality and both thought I was a lesbian. I was angry, not even upset, angry. I hated them, both. Who did they think they were? They didn't know me. I hadn't seen them in over seven years. I was still a child when they last knew me. This really set me back.
I wanted to prove any one who ever thought I was gay, wrong. Even if I started hooking up with girls, I was not gay. I continued to hold onto my secret.
I moved to Mount Isa in 2009. I became close friend with a guy who was in the same boat as me - to the point his older sister is also gay. He wasn't "out", not to his sister and definitely not to his mum. He didn't want our work mates to know he was gay, because he used to hear their negative comments towards another gay guy at work behind his back. Fair enough. Our job, then, didn't have many openly gay men - gay women on the other hand... I finally dated a girl in 2010, who was hurt I wasn't open about my sexuality. When my younger sisters wedding was approaching in 2012 (I was 28), I couldn't leave my partner aside, that's mean. I told my younger sister about my partner and in-turn, "came out" to her. She was so approving. I put off telling my mum, but I eventually sent her an email. My partner (then) came to my sisters wedding as my partner. It was so awkward being around a lot of my younger sister's friends some I knew since primary school. My older sister was there too.
I don't know any one who likes to hear, "I told you so". I had to wait 28 years, fourteen years after my older sister assumed I was gay, before I could uncomfortably "come out", just so I wouldn't hear, "I told you so" or "I knew it". For this same reason, I no longer speak to any one from school - primary and high school - only Jo.
Had my older sister been kinder and a little more respectful with her sensitive younger prepubescent sister, instead of using her to come out, maybe she could've helped or encouraged my coming out sooner. Maybe I could've gone to her for advice? Maybe if those "friends" of mine just kept their mouths shut and not pretend like they knew me better than I did, I wouldn't have felt too "proud" coming out. Maybe I wasn't gay? Why would I be told I was? What's it to you? Who do you care who I like? Is it a race to out someone before every body else? Are you testing your "gaydar"? People skills? Are you trying to tell me you know me better than I do? Maybe I can't come out for cultural reasons? Maybe I'm religious? Maybe I'd be kicked to the curb if my parents found out? You don't know that. Maybe I'm just a sensitive young tom-boy trying to navigate through this overstimulated and cruel world. YOU JUST DON'T KNOW.
My LGBTIQA+ friends have been accepted by the Australian community now. Let it go. Let people be who they want to be and when. Be kind and don't cause any more pain to a person than they may already be experiencing. You just don't know.