Tasmania, Australia (1963)
This photo of me was shot during my first year at high school, and was set up by a semi-professional photographer and friend of my father. I was posed in a cow paddock with Rani, our family dog. The picture was published on the front cover of a national magazine called "Health."
By this age I had questions about myself and knew that certain situations sparked my curiosity. But in 1963, there were no places to go to find answers.
I didn’t know the word to describe myself and no one at my school used the "F" word. And the word "Gay" just wasn't in the vocabulary.
I had a very happy upbringing at home, and was a straight A student at school. The other boys ridiculed my inability to catch a cricket ball or my failure to kick a football straight, but I was never bullied or belittled. And the guys came to me for help with their homework.
I was editor of the school magazine for two years and was on the student council. I was always a leader: popular, confident, optimistic and outgoing.
No one ever guessed that I was gay, least of all myself.
I also read avidly. My favourite character was William Brown, a permanently 11-year old boy portrayed by Richmal Crompton in the 39 novels he wrote, starting with "Just William." He and his closest friend, Ginger, along with the other Outlaws, got up to all sorts of wild adventures, none of which I dared to copy!
I never missed watching "Leave It To Beaver" featuring the inquisitive and often naïve Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver, portrayed by Jerry Mathers. Only years later did I realise why I thought Beaver was the most handsome boy on TV.
I grew up in a conservative family and belonged to a strict Protestant church.
My dad was a high-profile pastor known all over Australia, and everyone, especially my father, had the highest expectations for my behaviour.
Any deviation was frowned upon and could be punished.
So I was eager to please my parents and happy to conform to their standards.
But as a young adult, when I stepped outside those boundaries, I was wracked by guilt and smothered by shame. I carried that shame for decades, and it's one of the reasons for staying in the closet for so long.
Then at the age of 55, I saw the movie "Brokeback Mountain."
And the result was a tsunami of grief and despair.
I decided the pain of staying in the closet exceeded the shame in coming out.
So I soon came out to my family, moved 1000 miles, started a new job, and bought a house. I also met a wonderful man who is now my husband of 12 years, and we couldn’t be any happier. More info on my life today can be found here.
And when I look at this picture now, I wish I could tell my 12-year-old self:
"Don’t worry. The answers will come. Life does get better!"
Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
Click to follow this blog with Bloglovin'