By SAMUEL LEIGHTON-DORE
Have you ever received a text message so surprising that you had to read it out loud– and then call a friend in the middle of the night – and then write an article about it?
I have. Let me explain…
I naively agreed to be the sole photographer at a Greek friends’ wedding, with a reception of over 200 camera-hogging, photo-bombing guests in the sweltering western suburbs of Sydney. I didn’t realise at the time, but lugging a tripod around for thirteen hours would soon see me in hospital with damaged nerves in my forearm – but that’s a different, far less interesting story (it was essentially two weeks of terrible pins and needles).
Everyone knows that Greeks love to eat – huge, ridiculous amounts of food – and it was while eating, at some point between the second main course and third serving of dessert, that I fell in lust – with one of the waiters, Peter.
He caught my eye during the entree (roast lamb) and soon after, as he attempted to clear the table, I engaged him in nervous, painfully awkward small talk.
As the night wrapped up, I came down with an awful bout of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and pep-talked myself into scribbling my phone number onto a napkin and passing it to Peter with a sheepish grin, hoping to God that I hadn’t read too much into what was most likely nothing more than common, professionally polite banter.
Surprisingly enough, however, he not only accepted the napkin – but insisted on writing his phone number on my arm. I was obviously thrilled and, due mostly to the fact that I have no social skills, messaged him straight away.
I didn’t get a reply. I was sure I’d blown it, I usually do- metaphorically, of course. But come 1am that evening, as I settled into bed with a full glass of red wine and the Will & Grace DVD box-set, my phone started to beep. It was a message from Peter. But it was actually from ‘Peta.’
And it genuinely left me shocked.
At first I didn’t understand, so I re-read it, then read it out loud. Slowly. It truly stumped me that, as a socially aware and educated gay man, I had made such a mortifying misjudgement, especially after speaking with this person for close to twenty minutes.
Peta was not a guy.
More importantly though, was the fact that I was no less attracted to Peta after learning that he was in fact a SHE. My heart was racing with excitement and confusion. We ended up speaking for hours that night, messaging back and forth effortlessly.
I learned that Peta was a lesbian who identified sexually as a gay man, something I’d not previously heard of. While hugely curious, I tried not to ask any questions, instead allowing her to tell me certain details in her own time.
The next day we spoke again, and again the day after that. We really got along, and the attraction was mutual. For the first time in my life I played with the faint possibility of “un-coming out” to my family and friends. Could two people be so gay that they simply went full-circle and became straight? My mind was boggled, my ideas and beliefs challenged. It was exhilarating and, after a week, I began mentioning the idea to my closest friends. Most were shocked, confused but ultimately accepting of the idea, though not quite understanding it.
It wasn’t until the obvious topic of sex came up, that I got a little queasy. While I was attracted to Peta and enjoyed talking to Peta, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to have sex with Peta– a significant complication should we have dated.
Unfortunately Peta and I stopped speaking, on good terms, soon after that. There was no real reason for it other than perhaps realising the improbability of a relationship working in the long-run. One thing’s for sure though, I’ve never been more convinced of the fluidity of sexuality and attraction – and I love that these challenging ideas and brave people exist in my world.
Maybe one day our great grandchildren will laugh about the bizarre olden days when people were socially restricted by various labels of sexual orientation and being gay or transgender actually warranted a serious conversation and table-set family dinner. How positively silly.