David's Story - Part Three: "If that's how you are we still love you."
Before getting married, David took the courageous step of disclosing his sexuality to his girlfriend and to his parents.
My girlfriend clearly was in love with me, and I cared about her too. We were good friends, she was a lovely person. And I had invited her parents who were in Sydney to come and meet my parents who were in the country. And so on the Friday afternoon I went to see the psychiatrist, and the next day we were travelling down to the country for this meeting.
Somehow I got through that whole day with her parents there but I felt that I needed to tell her and my parents that I was having these homosexual feelings. Before that I’d not told anyone apart from the minister and the psychiatrist. I remember after her parents left on the Saturday, it was that evening, I asked her to go for a drive in the car. I think she thought I might ask her to get engaged. We stopped near the local high school, I started to tell her and I just burst into tears. I just sobbed for about twenty minutes, uncontrollably, and eventually I tried to get the words out, “I think I’m homosexual.” I was a complete and utter wreck.
She sat there stunned – she was supportive and holding my hand – but at the same time she was totally shocked. She had no idea this was going on for me internally. I kept it totally split, terrified and ashamed to acknowledge this to her or to anybody, much less to myself. Eventually we came home, it was about 10.30 at night, and I felt I needed to tell my parents. Before I could begin to speak I just sobbed again, this uncontrollable sobbing, and Mum sat in the corner of the room, looking at my girlfriend, as if to say, “Can you help David to say what’s going on for him?”
Eventually I got the words out and Mum sat there for half an hour, didn’t say a word, she was in stunned silence. Dad just started to talk, asking question after question, which I wasn’t able to cope with. It was his way of managing the situation. I had just brought down the girlfriend’s parents to meet them, and now I was telling them I’m homosexual, it was just crazy. The lovely part was at the end of the night when Dad came up to me, put his arms around and hugged me and said, “If that’s how you are we still love you.” For me that was incredibly healing. In fact I still get emotional talking about it.
But I had this kind of dual response: one part of me thought it was just so affirming and valuing to hear that. But on another level I was angry with him because I had subscribed to this belief I’d been taught that the reason I was like this was because I had an over-involved mother and under-involved father. So I felt part of the reason I had to tell them was that I needed them to do their work to help me get over this, because they had contributed to it. I feel sad about that now, it was crazy.
I also said to my girlfriend, “This is your time, if you want to get out of the relationship, then this is the time to get out.” Clearly she was very much in love with me and she probably felt quite isolated and alone herself. So the relationship was really important to her as well and she wanted to maintain it. And I think together we both thought that in the church context this was something that I could be cured of, and that her love and commitment would support this process.
That all happened in early 1985, and that same week I entered theological college to start my training for ministry. That had been part of my religious journey because I had become very involved in the life of the church. I guess as much as anything that was about trying to find a sense of myself and a sense of purpose and worth. When I think back on it, it was about trying to resolve that internal conflict and battle that I carried inside.