by JAMES AITKEN
I’ll never forget the day I listened in on a conversation I heard my elder brother having with my mum during which he uttered the words: “mum, I am gay”. I’ll never forget because I felt my world fall apart around me in an instant.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and the words pierced through my ears, ringing as my heart raced. I ran to my room, shut the door and fell to the ground weeping.
I was fifteen years old. I was fifteen years old and angry. Angry that my brother, eighteen, had revealed this. Angry because now things were going to change within my family. Angry that there was nothing I could do to change the situation. Angry because he didn’t even encompass characteristics of what I had understood a “typical” gay man to embody. But mostly I was angry because he had taken this away from me.
Yes, I was gay too.
I was fifteen and in year 9 at high school. He was in first year university. Worlds apart in our stages in life. From then on things changed. I became reserved and quiet, restrictive and cautious about what I revealed about myself. I locked my soul away and felt the burden of a very secret shame. I was ashamed of myself and the genetics of which I was carrying. I was ashamed of my parents and their ability to produce two homosexual children. The unnaturalness of this made me sick and I couldn’t bear to be around them.
I avoided contact with my parents and siblings at all costs, locking myself in my room after school, merely emerging to eat before retreating to my hideaway.
No one could know about this secret, and my anger towards the person who was meant to be what TV and film had shown me to be a best friend in life grew. How dare he do this. How dare he steal what was meant to be my identity.
The thing that angered me the most was that I knew who I was, I was ready to accept that. I had all the stereotypical attributes, I did all the theatre and drama productions at school, my best friends were all girls and I loved… Britney.
But I couldn’t be that person, not anymore. So I spent the remainder of high school shutting out those I loved and avoiding at all costs any talk of girls or relationships, the feeling of my red hot face whenever the subject did arise too much to bare.
Shortly after my 21st birthday; yes, six years after his coming out, I did too. My mum came to me and told me she knew something was going on. She forced it out of me and through a fit of tears and borderline hyperventilation I too uttered the same words she’d heard from my older brother all those years before.
We cried together, and I told her I could not tell my dad. “Those three words will not come out of my mouth,” I told her. So when I heard his steps toward my bedroom after she told him I felt the sick rise in my throat. My body trembling as he entered.