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David’s Story - Part Seven: “I’m really grateful for my sexuality.”

When he was ready to come out to his workmates, David chose quite a dramatic way of letting everyone know.

I had worked at a large counselling service for about 10 months when we had a conference involving all the staff. I was involved in organizing it, and as part of that I got Playback Theatre to come and present. I chose to be one of the people to share my story which they acted out spontaneously, in the moment. There were about five actors, and they heard the core of my story. I talked about the whole coming out process, of coming out to my children, telling my wife, separating, telling my broader family, all that had happened in that year. They got me to choose one actor to be me in the story, and the rest were other key people. Then using some very basic props and musical instruments, they spontaneously played it back, they acted it out.

So I came out to 170 work colleagues by doing it in that way. I’d forgotten how powerful Playback Theatre was. I almost stopped breathing as I watched because it was just so overwhelming as they played out the angst and the agitation, as I saw myself and my wife being represented by these two people and they played that out incredibly powerfully. I had a big reactional response afterwards. Later that night I came out in a complete rash, huge welts all over my body. I had to go and have a cold shower, then lie down for several hours until it had settled down. It was a huge reaction. That had happened before, at other times when I was under huge stress, but never as bad as that.

I realized there was a part of me that really wanted to come out and tell people, then another part of me kicked in, the old shame part, and it was almost like it was saying, “You can be gay, that’s OK, I can accept that, but you don’t have to get out there and parade it around and be proud of it. You keep it under a bushel, you don’t make a big thing about it. You just be gay, that’s how it is, but don’t make a big show of it.” And I just became aware of this part of me that just punished me for doing this, which was really down on me.

That started a chain of thinking. I’d also become aware of this person who had done some research, and she talked about this concept of inviting people to ‘come in’ as opposed to you ‘coming out’. And that helped me to reframe that because ‘coming out’ implies that I have this dirty, awful, bad secret that I’d kept inside from other people. It almost felt like I needed to come out and confess that there’s something in there that by its very nature, because it’s been hidden and unknown, something that’s very bad. Whereas her view of it was inviting others to come in, to invite them into a sacred place within yourself. You are trusting them and giving them an enormous privilege to come in and know something very special and very beautiful and very unique about you that otherwise they wouldn’t know.

That was a really important way of shifting that for me, that this is actually about me and it’s my call. This is my way of being in the world, this is who I am. Out of this place, and out of this sexuality is how I am in the world, and how I am in the workplace. And this is where my sensitivity, my care, my compassion, those qualities about myself that I actually like, this is where they come from. It was about reframing things and saying, “Yes this is actually who I am. I’m not a bad person. Who I am inside is really quite beautiful and I want to invite you to come in and to know this about me.” I now think about that differently, and it shifted the negative perception that ‘coming out’ has for me.

That’s a huge transition for me. I remember that moment in counsellor training with that piece of paper representing my homosexuality where I wanted to utterly destroy it, get rid of it, pulverize it. And now I see my homosexuality as a place of great beauty, a core place of sensitivity, of care, of compassion. It’s the place where I’ve tried to be the best dad I could be, the best counsellor I could be, the best minister I could be. And I’m grateful for it, I’m really grateful for my sexuality. Part of the grief was for so long it was lost and locked away and denied and hidden and shamed and violated and abused, and it shouldn’t be like that.