The never-ending closet
Coming out for the first time can be daunting enough, but some people have multiple closets to step out of.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes as I feel the words bubble up from inside me. I've kept them hidden and buried for so long that I am afraid to speak those three little words. There's no one here to hear me say them. But still I'm scared about the Pandora's Box that saying them out loud will open.
"Come on Andrew, you've done this twice before. One more time can't hurt." I tell myself that everything will be okay if I am just honest with myself and let the words out. But still I struggle. I am afraid that I will be ostracised or discriminated against. I am scared about the effect that saying them will colour the love I have shared these past 16 years with a wonderful woman. But, mostly, I worry I will be told I am confused or, worse, be rejected.
Another deep breath and I remind myself that I am a brave man. I have overcome and conquered so many scary challenges in my life that this too will work out okay. I take a metaphoric leap off the ledge: I whisper the words "I am gay" into the night air.
A wave of relief floods over me as I stand there gazing up at a sky full of stars. It's late and I'm standing at Big Bend on Carnarvon Creek with the tall imposing cliffs of Carnarvon Gorge rising high above me like a ghostly witness. I wish I was alone at camp so I could scream those three little words I've kept buried inside for so long and hear them echoing around the gorge. But instead I go back to my tent and fall into a deep sleep.
Over the past few weeks I've been coming out to my family and friends. It's no easier than the first two times I went through this process: at 13 I came out as a lesbian and at 18 as a transgender man. My history raises many eyebrows as people struggle to understand why I didn't just stay a woman if I was attracted to men all this time.
What they don't understand is that gender and sexuality are complex. I was first attracted to men as a child when I still thought I was a boy. I liked their strength and scratchy faces. But then I realised I'd been born a girl and, without any conscious input on my part, I found myself attracted to women. I loved the way their bodies were like mine and their softness was comforting. This created such confusion when, a few years after my transition, I started to be attracted to men. So I buried it deep inside. It was a confusing secret I intended to carry to my grave to protect the woman I loved.
But I can't start this new life of authenticity and adventure if I am lying to myself. So, at 34, I'm coming out again: I am gay.