I was about 21-ish, I think. I’d left South Africa for the UK with a long list of questions I needed answers for, including, since I was pretty sure I was gay – how the hell was I going to go about getting confirmation? Since everyday life never seemed to bring me an opportunity to sleep with a woman, I decided that a personal ad in London’s Time Out magazine was the way to go. I kept that ad for ages, wish I still had it. I said something about red wine and good conversation and intelligence and humour. It was a good investment, that ad … kept me in friends, lovers, admirers and stalkers for years. But that, as they say, is another story; quite a few other stories in fact. It brought me my first four month relationship with a woman. She was a few years younger than me, 6′ tall and a biker, with a pierced nose and an interesting hairstyle. I never told her I was a virgin.
A little while into the relationship and with the zeal of the newly-converted, I decided it was Time To Tell My Mother. Considering I pride myself on my honestly, I have to wonder why, at that stage, I needed to phone mother, 6000 miles away, but not tell anyone in the actual geographical area around me, when I’d already been there a year or so. Anyway, at the time I was also quite an accomplished drinker, so I travelled rather far down a bottle of Stolichnaya (they’re not sponsoring this story) fresh from the freezer, and dialed South Africa. I was drunk. When I’m drunk I’m excessively cheerful and I merrily said to my poor mother, “I’ve got something to tell you!” She asked what and I sniggered and told her to guess. She got it in two. First she asked if I was pregnant and then, over the sound of my guffaws, whether I was a lesbian.
It was a sobering moment and I just said yes. We spoke for a a short while afterwards and she impressed me by asking whether I had my own closet and if it was pink.
Apparently she cried a bit and spoke to my stepsister, who reassured her that I was still me and so forth. Apparently she surprised herself by suddenly and for the first time ever, being sorry that I might not have children (at 38 I still don’t and am sure I won’t). She was cool though and remains fairly cool, although too much talk of sexuality irritates her badly and we’ve had some heated debates about just why gay people have to be so “in your face” about it.
After that, my boss sussed me out, told friends she thought I was gay and eventually the job became untenable and I resigned. I was young and outraged and marched and bought t-shirts and proceeded to wrestle myself into my new identity with mostly positive results and reactions. I think in many ways it made me; it certainly gave me confidence.
I was thrilled when TLQ emailed about this project, as I’ve been collecting coming out stories too.