Blowing shit up is never as much fun as it looks in the movies.
When it’s Mel Gibson and Danny Glover taking a gamble on whether to cut the red wire or the blue wire, it’s all a bit of a laugh, but when you’re the one holding the little snippy things, and it’s your whole life that might be about to explode, it becomes less trivial and the consequences can be devastating.
Two years ago, I found myself in this position and it was infinitely less amusing than the prospect of levelling a parking garage with a fuckload of plastic explosives. I had to pick a wire and hope that cutting it would stop the countdown to whatever destructive thing awaits the guy who stays in the closet for too long, whilst optimistically trying to ignore the very real possibility that the whole thing might just blow up in my stupid fucking face.
I like guys — a thing I’d known deep down since being a small child.
But I’d only admitted that to myself in the May of that year, a few weeks after my 37th birthday. I’m very occasionally attracted to women, my wife being the only enduring example, but by and large, I’m very much all about the D.
I tried to hide this fact, even from myself — mostly from myself, actually — but it was always there. From the boy I held hands with in Grade 1, to the secret teenage crushes I told myself weren’t real, right through to the attractive waiter I would gaze at a little longer than was strictly necessary when I was out for a meal with my wife. I always knew. Eventually, I think, I just got tired of fighting.
The problem now, however, was that I had a secret. I’d never kept anything from my wife in all of the 13 years we’d been married, and I couldn’t bear the thought that this would be the first breach of that trust between us. Turns out it’s a lot easier to lie to yourself than it is to those you love.
So there I was. Laying in bed one bright, chilly September morning, about to take hold of that red wire and give it a big old snip.
She knew there was something. She always knows.
“Well, you remember a few days ago when you said I should never apologize for being who I am?”
I’d recently been in the studio recording some vocal tracks and I was obsessing about some minor imperfection or other. I’d said I was sorry for being a pain in the arse about it, and that had been her response.
“Yes,” she said. “Why?”
I told her. I told her everything, as best I could at that time because I was still figuring stuff out myself. I don’t remember what I said exactly. That part is all a bit of a haze.
The silence can’t have been longer than five seconds, but it felt as interminable as a Donald Trump press conference, and at least half as likely to induce vomiting.
Eventually she spoke. There was no shouting, so that was a good start.
We talked about the ins-and-outs of it all for a while: how long had I known? Was there someone in particular?
We talked about my childhood, and my difficult teenage years in an inner city high school where being gay was just about the worst thing you could be.
I noticed she was crying and I started to apologize, certain that I’d inflicted a wound that was never going to heal.
“I’m not crying for myself,” she said, “I’m crying for you. I can’t bear to think of you going through all that horrible shit for so long with no one to help you.”
Now it was my turn to cry, and it was a fucking long way overdue. I cried for the loss I’d suffered by staying hidden for so many years. I cried with relief that it was finally out in the open, and with the elation that came with knowing, one way or another, that everything was going to be ok.
After the crying was over, she told me that she’d meant every word — with her, I would never have to apologize for being who I am. She told me I must now embrace the man I was always supposed to be and that she would be by my side every step of the way, either as my wife or my best friend, or ideally, both.
Both sounded perfect. I wanted nothing less than for our marriage to be over, and it was my worst fear that this would be the only realistic consequence of revealing my little secret to her.
I guess it’s difficult to fully explain what causes a gay man to want to stay married to a woman, but even at that stage, we’d been through such a lot together that there was no version of my life that made any sense without her in it. I think perhaps there are some bonds that may only be forged by holding each other together through the deepest of adversities, and her acceptance of this new reality — her celebration of it — served only to strengthen those bonds.
I told her I didn’t need to act on it. There was always gay porn, right? Turns out there’s a LOT of gay porn, more than anyone could watch in a lifetime, and believe me, I’ve tried. But she wasn’t having any of that, and I was overwhelmed by this level of sacrifice. She said that she didn’t see it as a sacrifice, because she had more of me now than she’d ever had before I came out.
The next two years would prove to be quite the journey. Weeks of euphoria, followed by several months during which the untreated depression I had suffered for many years arrived back at my door in a big fucking box marked unfinished business; the subsequent treatment of that depression, and the ongoing care required to keep it in check; my transition from uptight, straight-acting, closet case to proudly effeminate queer guy finally beginning to feel confident in his own skin; and the transformation of our marriage from the traditional one man, one woman relationship that was never lacking in love or friendship, into something more open and more honest than we could ever have imagined before all of this amazing, challenging, beautiful stuff took place.
That journey is far from over, but I’m on the right road now, and in the passenger seat is the kind of friend we only encounter once in any human lifetime. The kind of friend who takes the longest, most tedious drive and turns it into a funny, memorable, breathtaking road trip. The kind of friend who shows that, no matter how unconventional your vehicle, or what twists and turns lay ahead, the only thing that really matters is following those signs glowing with the simple two-word mantra that makes all other considerations secondary: love wins.