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Coming Out at 55

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By Anthony Hillier, member, Vintage Men / Prime Timers Melbourne

 

I live in Melbourne, Australia and have been a member of Vintage Men Victoria / Prime Timers Melbourne for three years.

 

I am a proud gay man and have been out to my friends for over 20 years. My partner Patrick and I have been together for 21years but I had not told my family that he was more than just my housemate. At the age of 55, 1 decided I needed to come out to them - first to my mum and then to the rest of the family.

 

It has always been in the back of my mind that I would like to have spoken out to my family, but knowing how and when to do this was difficult Added to that was the uncertainty of how each of them would react to the news. Sadly it took the death of my father and later my younger brother to make me realize that I wished I had told them and that I had missed that opportunity. This made me decide I had to talk to the rest of the family before it was too late.

 

Still uncertain as to how to approach this situation, I spoke to gay friends and asked their advice about talking to my Mum. They suggested that I asked her how she felt about mutual friends. That was good as she knew they were gay. Her response was good and she predicted where the conversation was going, and told me that everything was OK. She said that I would always be her son, and it would make no difference to our relationship. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rest of my family was also very accepting of my news. I had tried to predict their reactions and was prepared for the worst, but found it was all wasted years of angst as everyone was all so supportive.

 

With the support of my friends, I decided to invite my mum to take part in the Gay Pride March in St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria in February. It was a double celebration as the March was on my birthday! Mum was very supportive and happily agreed.

 

The Vintage Men group made her very welcome and were pleased for her to show her support for me in such a public way. I felt very proud of her support, and in a way she was representing my dad, brother and the rest of the family too. It was an interesting experience for Mum too, as she certainly had her eyes opened to the fact that gay people are a large part of our community, and come from all different ages and walks of life. Mum was surprised at the number of young people taking part in the march and commented that she hoped their parents were: supportive of them as they prepare for their adult life.

 

Mum actually became quite a celebrity in the march, with many participants and people in the crowd showing their support with comments like 'Good on you Mum!' We even featured on a YouTube clip of the March, and photos were taken by the local Council photographer and many of the crowd. We had a great day - the best birthday ever!

 

I am hoping that my experience will give others the confidence to speak to their family. It is never too late. For me, the sense of relief in having come out has been a lifechanging experience. Since writing this I have recently discovered a cousin in South Australia who is also gay, so I am not the only gay member in the family now.

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