When you come out to your wife of 28 years and your four teenage children, the pain of leading an inauthentic life is quickly replaced with the pain of seeing people you love in turmoil for reasons not of their making.
For the briefest of moments on that Sunday in April 2012 I experienced the relief I had hoped for but what I wasn’t ready for was the feeling of utter helplessness that comes from knowing you can’t make it hurt less for those you love or indeed hasten the healing process, if indeed the wounds are to heal at all.
I’d had my whole life to think about how I’d feel if people knew I was gay, and what it must be like to go for a single day without the self-loathing that came from keeping my secret, and now my family and friends needed their time to work out how they felt. I was on call (and always will be) to listen, talk, and answer questions, to cry and hug- there’s been a lot of crying and hugging- but I couldn’t set the pace for this process, not this time. Perhaps for the first time in my life I had to be patient.
Moving from a busy home of 6 to living alone, something I hadn’t done in my 50 years, was, as if I needed one, a salutary reminder of the magnitude of my decision. I didn’t come out for a partner and I haven’t partnered since and while I am overjoyed for the frequent visits and stays of my wonderful accepting children and family, most of the time it’s me and my hound, Cino.
Lonely weekends were the consequence not so much of my circle of friends turning on me because I was gay: rather like so many middle-aged men I had left social arrangements to my wife. I didn’t fit any more in the straight upper middle class north shore Sydney than I did in the youth obsessed gay inner city suburbs.
I needed to find my place, a place where I was not a father or a friend from school, or the guy who just came out, although I am all of those things and proud to be so, but a place where I could just be me.
That place was the sea, and the people it took me too have been my lifeline.