I had a great childhood. I lived in a quite suburban street in Melbourne. I remember being a very effeminate young boy. I had this white taffeta dress with white patent leather clogs and I would walk up and down the driveway. My Mum would scream at me “Andrew come inside!!!” and I’d turn on my heal and say “Stop calling me Andrew, my name’s Jenny! So I knew I was very different. I had lots of girl friends growing up because I found them easier to hang out with. I was incredibly uncomfortable because I knew I was attracted to boys and had been from a very young age.
I had a girlfriend growing up. She was three years old when we met and I was 7. Before we were both 10 years of age we were having sex with each other. She’d been molested by her stepfather and had carnal knowledge and knew about sex. So I’m not sure why or how that came about but it did. (Child sexual abuse)
We had a family come and live with us at one stage as my parents were very hospitable and would help families out if they were in financial trouble. So we always had boarders living in our house. This particular family lived in our driveway in a caravan and they had two boys who were the same age as my Brother and I. To save on water we had to take showers together. I used to shower with the older boy and my Brother used to shower with the younger boy. Bada boom bada bang we ended up playing with each other. So that was when I discovered that I REALLY liked boys.
I remember going to High School and thinking ‘You have to conform! You have to change. You can’t keep being this effeminate person!’ I didn’t really understand why, I just knew that I had to. So I put on an act and I just changed. In the words of John Wayne, “I learnt to walk slow and talk low”. I learnt to just be really cool about everything. My peers would always come up to me and ask me if I was gay and I would very calmly say “No, I’m not gay”. I really wanted to be a straight man. I wanted to be like everyone else. I always had girls chasing me and I’d just be really coy. I knew I was attracted to men but I was terrified of it. So I used to just play the funny kid at school and make everybody laugh. Then we moved away to the country quite suddenly when I was 14. I didn’t get to say goodbye to any of my friends.
It was a small little country town of 250 people, south east of Melbourne. We moved into this tiny little shack with mushrooms growing out of the carpet and rats climbing the walls. It was a two bedroom cottage with a small fireplace for heating. One time I woke to find a big, hairy spider in my pyjama pocket! If you had to go to the toilet it was in an out house. It was terrifying; possums would jump out at you. We didn’t even have a washing machine when we first moved in. I became the most horrible, horrible son. I was so upset with Mum because I’d been dragged away from my friends. I was upset with myself because I knew I was gay and I didn’t want to live in the country. I knew it would make my life even more difficult. I would have to become even more masculine than ever because that was the only way I was ever going to get through this. I had to be less of what I really am and be more of an actor. It felt like I was living this awful lie.
So I used to act out all the time. We’d go look at a house to buy and I’d storm out screaming “I hate this house! It’s horrible!” My poor Mother was always in tears and I’d be screaming at her telling her how much I hated her and Dad. I kept plotting these ridiculous schemes about moving back to Melbourne and renting a house and going to work every day. Mum was like “You’re 14 years old; you’re going to stay in school!”. (Isolation)
Thankfully we had some family friends in the town that went to my school. I remember my first day of High School. I was in Year 9 and my Brother was in Year 7. He was also extremely effeminate and I just remember he used to wave to people in school just like a girl. Every time I’d cringe inside but at the same time realise that he needed to be his own person. I knew I couldn’t stifle him, so I let him be himself and I would just cringe inwardly.
One thing I really liked about living in the country was I learned to ride horses. You’d think that riding horses is a really masculine thing, but it’s not. It’s something they consider girls to be good at. The friends I had in the town, soon understood that I was gay and they didn’t want to associate with me. They were football players and they really fitted into the community. So it was really hard to come to terms with the fact that I was losing these friends I had known since birth.
At the same time there were other gay kids at the school who were extremely effeminate. One of which was a boy who, when I was introduced to him, I didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl. His voice was so confusing to me. So I did the same thing to him that my friends had done to me. I felt like I needed to distance myself from him because associating with this ultra feminine person would get me in trouble. I’d gone from being one of the most gregarious children to being the quietist. (Bullying)
I started to come out of my shell during Year 11 and 12, even winning awards for public speaking and creative writing. I had a great time in Year 12 but I was a lazy student and I ended up not passing Year 12. So I was like “What am I going to do?” My parents told me that I needed to either get a job or continue to study.. I got a job working with my Dad at the Dairy Factory. I was employed as a cleaner but all I really wanted to be was a hairdresser. So I ended up applying for a TAFE program in Melbourne doing a hairdressing apprenticeship.
I felt like I was flying. I was going to school and doing something creative with my life. I loved the people in my class. I think I was the only boy in the class. My sexuality stayed on the backburner the whole time. It was never a subject that was open to discussion. So I just went to school, did really well, passed all my subjects. At the end of my course I was offered a job at a salon in Narre Warren where I’d been doing work placement. There was a guy working there who said “Why don’t you come and stay with me, work here over the summer and then maybe the owner will put you on as an apprentice”. I don’t know why but I was terrified to live with this man. So I freaked out and dropped everything and ran back to the country and back to the factory where I stayed working for the next eight and a half years.
The Factory afforded me a lot of benefits and I was able to travel the world during that time. I got two months leave every year so I used that as my ticket out of there and travelled. I kept running away all the time. I kept thinking I don’t want to be here anymore. I’ve just got to keep running away to other countries and have fun while I’m there and then come back and live this really rigid, false life. I was really struggling with my life. To the outside world I had it all, but inside I was falling apart.
I always knew that my Brother was gay. He was always into Boy George and Marylyn, loved that whole scene. I was at breaking point and about to leave for an overseas holiday. I needed help. I called my childhood girl friend and she suggested I share my feelings in a letter to her and my Brother and send it to them before I left for America. So I wrote the letters, sent them and left the country. Upon my return home my Brother had sent me a letter saying the exact same thing. So I went to visit him in Bairnsdale and we sat down and had a talk.
The first time I went to the USA I went on a Contiki tour and we were in San Francisco and there was a girl from L.A with us. She thought it would be really fun one day to take a photo with anyone in a uniform that we came across. So we were sitting in a cafe and we saw a paramedic walking across the street. She ran out and was like “Oh my god I’ve got these Aussies and Kiwi’s with me and they want to take a photo with you.” He was like “Yeah that’s cool I’m just going to grab some lunch. The van is parked around the corner, why don’t you meet me there in 5 minutes and my co-worker and I will pose, it’ll be really fun”. So we did and the whole time I was thinking ‘Oh my god this guy is so hot’. It was driving me mental; I was in another country and I could do whatever I wanted but I was just so frightened of my family finding out about me. Anyway so we’re standing there taking photos and this paramedic grabs me and throws me back and lays a kiss on me. My friend had the camera at the time and she took the photos on motor drive. So I now have this series of pictures of this guy throwing me back, and you can see me going “Nooooo!” as he kissed me. I look back on that now and go “What a fool of a man you were”. It was like the universe’s way of whispering to me “Andrew you’ve got to come out!”. (Coming out)
Everywhere I went I ended up in a gay environment, or a gay district of a city. At the same time there was a big bear of a guy also on the tour. He worked for a mining company in Central Queensland. I didn’t know it at the time but I found out years later that he’s also gay. Funny that I didn’t twig as he’d always end up in gay area in every single city we went to. So this whole tour which went from L.A to New York via Canada, I kept having all this gay stuff being shoved in my face, including having many teams from the Gay Games staying at the hotel I was staying at in New York…
Once my Brother and I had come out to each other I used to go to visit him in his new flat in Melbourne and we would go out partying together to Three Faces and The Peel and stuff like that. I’d always say to my Brother “Don’t let anyone touch me I’m not ready for that”. So he’d always introduce me as straight just to keep everyone at bay. What I didn’t realise was that made me more attractive to them and we always had people propositioning us to have sex. We’d be like “No, he’s my Brother”! I have never understood that.
So a year later I went away again on a round the world trip. This time my I found myself stuck on a double decker bus in the middle of London’s Gay Pride Parade! Yet another voice from the cosmos screaming at me. Upon my return back home, my Brother answered the door at Mum and Dad’s place wearing eye make up. I reacted by saying “What the hell are you doing”? Mum and Dad will find out!” That was the night that my Brother came out to my parents. The next morning I drove him to the bus stop to return to Melbourne and it was silence and then he turned to me and said “Andrew I think you should know I came out to Mum and Dad last night”. I felt so alone I said “What have you done? I have to go home and face this now”, I felt like he’d left me on a limb. So I got home and sat at the table and it was just silence. Mum goes to me “I suppose you know then don’t you?” I was like “What?” and she said “Your Brother came out to us last night, he’s gay” and I was like “Oh ok”. So then she goes “So are you gay?” I could have said it right then, but I chose to continue with this ridiculous bloody facade. I thought to myself afterwards, you fucking idiot, you should have done it then. Right there and then was my way out, but I just chose to keep on living this lie. Being witness to my parent’s grief and confusion at the coming out of my younger Brother made me feel like I couldn’t hurt them any further. I felt trapped.
After almost eight years of working at the Factory and then travelling and being exposed to gay culture I felt the time had come. It was either stay working at the factory and living at home till I could afford a property, or choose happiness and move out to the city to start trying to live an honest life. So when I was 26 I moved to Melbourne and soon after my Mum got really sick and nearly died. So after one month living in Melbourne I moved back home. It seemed like the right thing to do, my Dad needed to stay working. I had squillions of dollars in the bank. So I thought the best thing is for me to come home. My Mum was in hospital in a coma and she ended up developing an Acquired Brain Injury (A.B.I.) She had to learn how to walk and talk again and her whole personality changed completely. She came home after two months in hospital and she’d gone from being a really rigid, clean freak to being a creative funny, woman. So I took a year off work because she really needed someone to look after her. At the end of the year things were looking up. I knew my Mum was going to be okay, I could move back to Melbourne and continue living my life. So Mum was starting to come good, she was off her anti depressants and we thought it was all going to be okay so I thought ‘Now’s the time’.
I got to this point where I was like “I can’t do this anymore.” One night in a park in Melbourne, my childhood girlfriend and I broke away from friends and family for a chat. We were walking through the park when she sat me down and said “Andrew you’ve got to live an authentic life! I don’t care if you’re gay or straight but just be something!!!” It all sort of came to a head. I started to meditate every night before dinner in the bath. I would join my parents at the dinner table and after every mouthful I’d be telling myself “Do it Andrew come out now” but instead I’d finish my meal, put my cutlery together and be thinking ‘Coward’.
After two weeks of meditating, one night I was eating my food, I got halfway through it, put my cutlery down and said “Mum and Dad I’ve got something I really need to get off my chest”. My Mum just burst into tears and I said “I haven’t spoken yet” and she just sat there crying and said “I know what you’re going to say”. In my mind I was going “Andrew just say it, say the words!” I’d never actually said it out loud before so I just went “I’m gay!”. My Mum just stood up and went screaming down to the bedroom and my father just reached across the table and held my hand and said “Son I always knew”. I was like “Why didn’t you say anything?” and he said “It’s for you to do in your time.”. So four years after my Brother came out I ended coming out as well.
Her reaction was really severe, but not as severe as it was when my Brother came out. When he came out she was running around the house screaming at him and saying all this horrible stuff but when I came out it was a much quieter reaction. She stayed in bed for two days and cried. She didn’t want to talk to me and in the end I just went to her and lay down next to her and said “Mum I’m really worried about you, this isn’t normal. You shouldn’t be crying for two days over this. I’m still Andrew, I’m still your son, nothing has changed, I’m not going to suddenly start running around wearing spandex, glitter and a feather boa!” She was just inconsolable and I just said “You’ve got to get out of this bed” so then we took her to the doctor and explained the whole thing. He then told us that he thinks she’s just slipped back into a really strong depression again, probably due to the shock and her A.B.I. and that we should remedicate her with some anti depressants.
So then we did that but she was still upset, so one day I just talked to her. I told her what a great Mother she is; it’s not her fault that I’m gay and I’m really proud to be the person that I am. I think she was just a little bit frightened because my Brother became a little bit more flamboyant when he came out. He moved to Melbourne and he would often go out and do drag or he’d wear outrageous costumes and he’d come home and be wearing mascara in this little country town. So I think she was worried that the same thing would happen to me. She ended up being ok in the end and the next ten years of her life she got to experience having two gay sons and she loved it.
My Brother has been in a relationship now for 11 years and so my parents got to see that it was normal and it was just love. We’ve both been able to bring our partners home and stay and share a bed with them, which is very rare. People that I’ve dated have found it very strange because my Dad will walk into the bedroom in the morning and go “Do you boys want a cup of tea?”, so it’s all really good. (Relationships)
Once I came out I moved back to Melbourne because living in a country town as a gay man was just too difficult. I started working in a Five Star Hotel in Banqueting. My boss was gay and by coincidence used to be a teacher who taught at the town that I went to High School and had had taught one of my friends. The duty manager at the time was also a gay man, and it was just a really nurturing environment for me. I decided when I started working at the Hotel that I would never lie about my sexuality again. For the first time I just allowed myself to be myself ¬¬¬– If I wanted to be camp then I could run around and do that and no one would care.
My Brother was the trailblazer of the family. So I remember always wanting to go out in his shadow and nagging him “Can we go out, can we go out?” and one night he just said “You can go out on your own, just go out by yourself, because you’ve got to go out there and just do it yourself Andrew”. I was like “I don’t want to go out by myself” to which he replied “The only way you’re going to make friends in Melbourne is by going out there on your own and making friends, you’ll learn to love it. Just go out one night and try it”. So I did. I started going to The Peel, it became a regular thing, and I felt safe there. It all sort of came really naturally to me, I’d drive there, have a couple of drinks and try and talk to a few people if I could and then go home. It was a while before I went home with somebody; it took me some time to get to that stage.
I remember I met this guy who was also from Gippsland. We had that in common and we talked about growing up in the bush. He’d been in Melbourne a much longer time than me and was a bit older than me. He tried to dazzle me by saying, I live in Toorak, I’ve got a swimming pool, and you should come back and have a swim at my place. I was thinking ‘If you think that the swimming pool is going to be the draw card then you’ve got another thing coming’. So I played a little bit hard to get but in the end I went home with him.
It was the first time that I’d had sex with another man. I was terrified; I was really unsure of myself. For my whole life I’d believed that to be hairless meant you would be revered, and I’m not hairless, I’m incredibly hairy - I felt really uncomfortable with myself. So we’re standing in this big house in Toorak and he took my top off and I straight away said “I’m sorry”. He was like “Why are you apologising? Take your hands away from there” and grabbed my hands and pulled them off of my chest. He was like “You should be proud of this, this is beautiful! Do you know how many men would die to have what you’ve got?” I was like “Really?” and he said “Yeah if you take your shirt off when you go out you’ll discover how lucky you are”. (Body image)
Anyway we went for a swim and then we had sex which was the worst experience ever. It was awful, really, really awful. It was very uncomfortable. I don’t think he knew that I’d never had sex with a man before. I just kind of thought ‘Oh god if this is what this is all about I don’t think I’m really into this”. I’d never shared a bed with another man before and I found that I loved the fact that I had another man in bed with me at night. We spent a bit of time together but I soon discovered that I felt like a teenager again. What most people would go through in their teen years, I was going through then. You know, finding out what you do and don’t like in a person, dumping people, meeting boys and finding out they’re an asshole and having to deal with that. I was very naive, from the country, so I had to learn lessons and I had to learn quickly. I hit the ground running when I got to Melbourne. Having to learn that there’s a difference between sex and love and the emotions that go with that. (First time)
So the first group of boys I fell in with were really well known creative types and they knew it. It was all about what you looked like, what you did, or how much money you made and I got a bit sick of the unreliability of that group. Again growing up in the bush, when people say they’re coming around, they’re coming around. So I found it difficult to learn that these people were behaving like idiots. Particularly the first person who I met from that group, he’d say “Come around for lunch”, and you’d go around and he wouldn’t be there.
I soon learnt to become Teflon coated and go “Well that was that, it didn’t work” and I’d move on”. The second guy I ended up hanging out with was great. He was 17 years older than me and he taught me how to be a gay man. He used to call me his ‘not-boyfriend’ because he really didn’t want to be in a relationship. He just wanted a group of fuck buddies and really close friends. I certainly fell in love with him, and he loved having me around and years later after it all fell apart he sat me down and said “You know what? I actually did love you but I just couldn’t afford myself to get too close to you the way you wanted”. We spent about a year together, and he was really good for me. He sort of saw me through my first really big love that I had. He looked after me.
The first man that I ever fell in love with.
We met at Freakazoid which used to be at the Chevron which was an amazing nightclub. I call it Melbourne’s answer to Studio 54. There were celebrities there doing lines of coke on the bar, it was crazy. You didn’t get there till two in the morning. It was around this time that I first started taking drugs, I’d been a really “good boy” up until then, and I saw this guy staring at me across the dance floor. He was just so sexy and he came up and started talking to me. I found out that we were the same star sign and all these other silly little trivial things. I’d been dancing for hours and I said to him “I’m sorry, I’m really tired, I’ve got to go to bed”. It was ten in the morning at this stage. So I said good bye but didn’t ask for his number. Anyway six months later I saw him on the dance floor at T-Dance; I was being a complete whore and snogging like five guys at once. He came over and pulled me off one of the guys and goes “Where’s my kiss?” so we started kissing and it was ridiculously Hollywood, it was all fireworks and someone needed to pick me up off the floor with a shovel. It was that good.
The whole relationship was like that, it was all fire and passion. He was an artist and I just fell head over heals in love with him. We had a really intense relationship. He told me within three weeks that he loved me. To which I just said “Thank you”. He got upset at that but I just explained that those words meant a lot to me and I wasn’t ready to say them, I didn’t want to throw them around willy nilly. So when I said it I really wanted to mean it. I loved spending time with him but at the same time my home life was in absolute chaos.
I’d had the best flatmate for three years and she’d moved out with her boyfriend, so I was left with my flat and I had to get this new guy in. I told him point blank that I didn’t want anybody who was a big drug user in my house. I said “I’m happy if you want to go out and take a pill or something if you’re going clubbing but under no circumstances can there be any drug dealing or anything like that”. So he moved in but I just felt uncomfortable with him from the moment he entered the house. He came in and started moving all of my things around without even asking me. He would come in and out of the house at really odd hours, and he just really unsettled me. So I was kind of dealing with that and trying to spend as much time at my boyfriend’s house as possible because I didn’t want to be home. I wasn’t really giving my boyfriend a lot of space.
To cut a long story short I decided to move and as I was moving my flatmate revealed that had been dealing crystal meth from the flat. I said “I knew there was something dodgy about you, I could feel it; it’s why I’m moving out”. So I said good luck with the flat and moved out. Even though I’d moved away and I had my own space, it really stirred up a lot of anxiety for me which put a lot of strain on my relationship with my boyfriend. So even though I moved out by the time I did, the damage was already done. I had driven myself crazy, I had driven him crazy and within weeks of me moving we broke up. I was devastated and it was just another thing on top of everything else. (Relationships)
I haven’t had a lot of relationships but that one tipped me right over the edge. It was only eight months but it was just the most intense relationship. We lived in this little bubble of love and it just went pop and fell apart one day. It completely ruined me. I couldn’t deal with my life. I was going to work everyday a complete mess, crying constantly and going out on the weekends and taking lots of drugs which really didn’t help. In the end I rang my “not boyfriend” and he just said come over. So I did and we climbed into bed and he said “Right you’re just going to get all of this grief out of you, you’re just going to let it all out. We’re going to pretend that I’m your boyfriend and you’re going to just say everything to me that you want to say to him. So we did that and it was this really cathartic moment where I just let everything out.
After that I really didn’t want to hang out with my ex which I found really hard. In the gay scene it seems to be very ‘Oh we all need to stay friends with our ex’s and ‘Oh yeah we’re best friends now’. I kept thinking ‘Why do I need to be friends with him, he broke my heart’. I tried to, and we’d go out together but I just couldn’t be his friend.
After him I was single for a few years, I just went out and played around, had fun and enjoyed myself. After a while I met this guy at Woof Club and we were flirting and we discovered that we’d both done the exact same tour around Africa at the same time but in reverse. I started at one end of Africa and he started at the other end and we would have crossed paths somewhere in the middle. We were together for a year and a half; he was hands down the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. He was a really fair and honest man, who loved me without question.
For me the last six months of our relationship was a real struggle, I started to feel like I was falling out of love with him. I had these moments when I’d wake up in the morning and think, ‘Why am I in this relationship? What am I doing with this man?’ Then there’d be days and I’d wake up and think ‘God I love you so much, I can’t imagine my life without you’. I was so happy when those days happened because I really wanted to be with this guy; he was such a good man. I wanted to love him more but I just couldn’t. I kept trying to find ways to make it work, I never sat down with him and said “This is where I’m at right now, can we talk about this?” which I probably should have done. It’s something that I’ve learnt since; when you’re starting to feel doubt you should talk about it. We were also at different stages of life.
One night he came back from The Market at like four in the morning and fell into bed and just burst out crying. I was like “What’s the matter” thinking maybe somebody had bashed him. He just kept crying and I kept asking him “Please tell me what’s wrong, what’s happened?” and then he said “You don’t love me anymore and I know it”, and I got this pain in my heart. I thought ‘Here’s the opportunity to have this discussion but it’s like four in the morning’. So I said to him “Sweetheart, I love you dearly but I don’t love you the way you deserve to be loved. I’ve been struggling with this and hoping I could resolve it by myself but I can’t see it changing.” Both of us were crying and we agreed to just end it there. I had to be up for work at five am and had to pull my shit together and run this busy Restaurant. I was really hard on myself about the end of this relationship because I really wanted it to work.
We used to catch up for dinner occasionally and it was difficult. I had to censor a lot of my life because I was trying to be sensitive to his needs. Then he got a new boyfriend and completely cut me out. Which I found really hard to deal with, I understand it a bit more now but at the time I struggled to get my head around it.
I then met another guy almost two years later who I started dating and we were together for about nine months but there were a number of issues. I found him very selfish and unsupportive. This was particularly hard as my mother died during this period. One night we had a fight and I said we need to talk about it. He kept me waiting a week before he finally made the time to talk to me. So I started the conversation and I had all these ideas in my head of how we could improve the relationship. I was probably about four seconds in when he just said “Let’s just end this”. So it became clear to me that he wasn’t invested in the relationship. He wanted to try and salvage some semblance of friendship. I tried but was just so grief stricken at my Mum’s passing I needed to move on.
I certainly have not been an angel with my sexual conduct. I’ve had a few “slip ups.” Even though there have been times when I have had unprotected sex with HIV Positive men who have not disclosed their status to me beforehand, I have also been very fortunate and had lots of positive fellas disclose their status to me well before we get to shagging. Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. I have put my head in the sand and have not asked direct questions just as many times as I have had fuck buddies not openly disclose to me. I have certainly had to learn this lesson the hard way with a few big frights to drive the message through. It’s taken a long time for me to respect myself enough to not be scared to talk candidly about my sexual health needs. I have the attitude that I can only be responsible for my own actions and it sure feels good to have reached this point in my life.
“Life goes on, love goes free.” A lyric from an Andrew Lloyd Webber play has become my motto. I surround myself with forward thinking, supportive friends. These friendships are so rewarding and loving. Since my Mum’s passing I have found her wicked sense of humour and courage strengthen inside of me.. My relationship with my Dad has also become incredible. Dad and I worked together in the Dairy Factory as a team for 8 years, which was great as I got to see the man behind the name “Dad.” But now, my Father is showing me so much more of the man I want to become… non judgemental and gives love without condition. I have shared the stories of my life because I believe we all have more in common with each other than the differences we perceive. I am forever optimistic, open hearted and looking forward to living many more treasured moments.