When Sonya moved back to Adelaide, my good friend Heidi rang me with the news.
“Sonya’s home from Sydney! And guess what?!”
When people ask you to “Guess what?” they want you to reply “What?”. At that point my perverse sense of humour always kicks in. I like to take them literally and reel off guesses, as wild as I can think of, until they can’t bear waiting anymore and burst out with the answer. But in this case, I got it right first time.
“She’s either pregnant or gay.”
Heidi replied “Well, she’s not pregnant! Not only that, she’s come home with a partner!” And suddenly it all fell into place.
I’d come to know Sonya through Heidi and she became a frequent member of our social activities. Sonya was nice company; intelligent and sociable, happy enough with a ready smile, but somehow just slightly removed.
She had a sense of adult seriousness about her – an observer rather than a participator. People around her fell in love, had silly dreams, but Sonya smiled at it, like a fond parent rather than a participant in the middle of it.
Don’t get me wrong; she was not a morose or sad character, but she was… controlled, contained, that sort of thing. I never questioned it; she’d been like that since I’d known her; for me it was just how she was.
As I said, with the benefit of insight it made sense. But at the time, it never crossed my mind she might be gay. I thought she was just a bit reserved. I didn’t know any gay people.
It was terrific when I finally caught up with Sonya and her new partner. I had never seen Sonya look so happy.
And it was thinking that afterwards that paradoxically made me sad.
It led me to wonder how long Sonya had known she was gay. It occurred to me that she probably knew before she went to Sydney, which means for at least some time in Adelaide she hid from people. I kept thinking that she must have been miserable (I would’ve been) and it made me so sad. I felt like I should’ve realised and let her know so she didn’t have to be.
So, though I was concerned about being intrusive, rude and/or inappropriate, I e-asked her, as you do. To my relief she wasn’t offended and took the question exactly as I intended. She replied:
You know, you’re the only person who’s asked me that. I assume that everyone else is either too scared, too embarrassed, or they (like some people I know) have known all along and I’ve been the only one who’s been living in the dark.
I only worked it out a few months before I left, so yes I did hide it for a little while. But that wasn’t too bad. The hardest thing was wanting to tell people but not wanting to for fear of how they might react. When you have always been straight, to suddenly tell someone you think you are gay is not exactly a dinner conversation.
Moving to Sydney was an opportunity to explore the world without being watched – I was completely anonymous. I could go to gay clubs and wander around and no one would know me and I didn’t have to worry about being seen by people who might make judgements, or think of me differently because of it. I could go out with anyone I wanted. I remember feeling incredibly free.
Freedom isn’t something you give up lightly, especially when you’ve gained it after not having it, so coming back to Adelaide meant Sonya had to tell people this time. That didn’t make it any easier of course. (BTW, I was rather touched to learn that when Sonya had discussed this with her, Heidi had confidently placed me and a guy called Chris at the top of the list of people who wouldn’t have any issue with it. How pleasantly humbling it is to discover that people have been saying nice things about you!)
I’m not naïve, but I also knew the calibre of person Sonya was, and the sort of people she would choose to be friends with. I wrote to her,
And have any of your friends disappointed you since you got back? As I said to Heidi when she told me – your sexuality was not a factor in me liking you before, why should it be now? (I’m nothing if not logical). I bet that applies to most (if not all) of us.
No, none of my friends have disappointed me since I told them. Everyone has been quite normal about the whole thing, which while I found coming home difficult, everyone else has appeared to be quite relaxed about it all.
I’m pleased to say I’m both glad about that and not surprised.
Note: To respect their privacy, I have used false names in the telling of this tale.
Russ Talbot is totally straight, but apart from that is quite normal. In a previous life he obtained degrees in computing, management and communication, and is currently studying Professional Writing at TAFE in this one. He is interested in just about everything – even things that don’t interest him.