When all the boys were chasing girls in primary school, it confused me. I just couldn’t see the attraction. And yet, I still tried to follow along, for no other reason but to fit in.
I dated girls, I faked stories about kissing girls and I pretended to flirt with them in front of friends. I even plastered suggestive women on my school books as a vain attempt to stop the bullying.
But in the end, I realised I liked the boys the same way they liked the girls. And, for a time, I felt like the only one who did.
Little did I know then that there was a long road ahead of me. A treacherous expedition of self-discovery. And in that expedition came three childhood memories that shaped my sexuality.
Here they are:
Secretly watching Queer As Folk
At 11 pm, on certain weeknights, SBS would play Queer As Folk (QAF). It was perfect timing because Mum usually went to bed early. My Mum and Dad were also divorced, which means I had the lounge room to myself. So I’d huddle up close to the TV, turn the volume down and watch.
At that time (this was early 2000s), a lot of people would have considered QAF as verging on pornography. But I didn’t start enjoying it that way at first. At the beginning of my QAF experience, I watched it with delighted eyes. For the first time, I didn’t feel alone.
But I knew Mum wouldn’t approve, and so my finger rested on the “channel up” button, ready to switch at the sound of a creaking door.
There were a few times Mum nearly caught me, but I was quick with the finger and even quicker with the excuse. And when my viewing habits changed, I also had to be quick with the other hand too.
So in the end, I was never caught secretly watching QAF. And yet, in a cruel twist of fate, Mum did catch me watching gay porn a few years later in my own bedroom.
In some ways, I think that’s easier than verbally telling your parents your gay. I know this because I had to come out to Dad a few years later, and I don’t know why I was so tense about it. No cares, no arguments, just a simple “as long as your happy with it.”
All parents should take note of that response.
My Mum, on the other hand, was devout Christian, so it was understandable that her catching me did ruffle feathers. It took me a few years to find common ground with her. But I know the thought of kicking me out never crossed her mind as she told me years later. She is, and has always been, a good mother.
It may sound like a hard coming out story, but personally I feel privileged with how it all went. Not all gays will be so lucky.
Some still do get kicked out, even in the year 2020.
Of course, while QAF was one of my first on-screen explorations of my sexuality, there are a few other worthy mentions:
The first is Ryan Phillipe’s arse in Cruel Intentions. That is something I’ll never forget!
The second is freeze framing during the naughty scenes of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’m still disheartened that I didn’t get to see much of Rocky’s crotch between the seams of his gold shiny underpants.
Lastly, I cannot forget Guy Pearce in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert. Not only was he eye candy to look at, but he also taught me to be unapologetic about who I am.
I’m gay and that’s that!
Experimenting with the boy down the street
Like most 90s kids growing up in the suburbs, I was friends with everyone in my street. We’d play Kick The Can and Hide and Seek on the weekends, and bike ride the local area after school.
And on the odd occasion, I fooled around with the boy down the street.
We’d go in the crawl space under my house and explore our sexual desires. It wasn’t about how much we liked each other, we were just too curious to know the feeling of being with another man. The differences in size and shape, our pleasures and dislikes, and, of course, the idea of being gay.
Our experimenting lasted two summers, and then we stopped because life goes on. But we got to live out our childhood dreams again when we later reunited at a gay youth group. It wasn’t as life-changing as our first time, but it was just as memorable.
What’s interesting is that nearly everyone experiments – whether it’s fooling around with the same sex or the opposite, and whether we’re possibly gay or not. In fact, I experimented with two guys in my younger years and two girls.
Funnily enough, the second guy turned out straight. So it seems sexuality is not as clear-cut as many think.
When my best friend and I came out to each other
It was an overcast afternoon and my friend and I were winding down in the playground following another mediocre day at school. We sat on opposite ends of a see-saw, casually rocking while our minds were elsewhere. And then we stopped in unison, causing me to utter for the first time (and certainly not the last): “I’m gay.”
“I’m bi,” was her response. There was no hesitation, only a slight, surprised expression. Not at what I said, but at what we just shared. Following this very short conversation, we went back to rocking on the seesaw. No judgment, no confusion, not even a sigh.
Later we’d realise that our reactions together helped us see sexuality as a somewhat meaningless thing. It’s as human as hating broccoli or loving cheese. Or as normal as going to the bathroom.
Everyone is subjected to sex. But they all have different tastes. Whether it’s big boobs or small, chubby or thin, penis or vagina.
And like every other thing in this world, you can’t change what you like.
Not even if you tried.
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