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Ascetics

I worked up the courage. It took just a little while, but I got there in the end. I took up a piece of scrap paper, and humbly scribed ‘Hey mum       I’m bisexual’. Gave that little slip of paper to my mum in the morning as we drank our tea.

Her first reaction was simply to say ‘No,’ seated on her comfortable couch while watching 8:00AM Sunrise on Channel Seven.

It destroyed me gently, for but a moment—and then she followed up a couple of seconds later with, ‘That’s okay.’

Some words later, she spoke ‘It’s just a phase, you’ll grow out of it.’

*

These words haunt me to this day. She’s convinced that (my) orientation is merely a phase in the step of adolescence. For the longest time I believed her and denied my feelings because I figured things would change.

This was the year of 2009, when I lived on the Gold Coast. The reason I considered myself bisexual was because I had developed feelings for a guy I met online in an LGBTI-friendly videogame server.

This was Eric—we got to know each other, admitted we liked one another. We’d never met face to face, but we’d still stay up till the wee hour of two in the morning exchanging banter about all the wild things that teenagers do.

I’ll save the intricate details of why it is that Eric and I broke apart, but it happened. I regressed and stopped considering my sexuality for a long time. I’m one of those, ‘Put all your issues on your shoulders, deal with them later’ kind of guys. So, for many years, I just ignored it all.

*

Fast forward several years: we’re now in late 2013. I got to know someone who is now one of my closest friends, Steph. They’re pretty cool, we’re both nerds who love Star Wars so much that we’d probably fight to the death to defend it. I’d probably go as far as to say that we know each other better than we know ourselves.

With the interactions that Steph and I shared (we both frequented an online writing community) I remembered that I still felt towards the same sex to some degree. The funny thing is, the reason this was all spurred on was because I’d jokingly hit on their boyfriend because I thought he was cute. (Because you’re allowed to admire someone else of the same sex, hetero or not!) Then I realised, ‘Woah. He’s sort of my type.’

Then I met Ramsey, another writer in this same online community. We bonded over our similar writing interests (genre, style, philosophy), and discovered how many common interests we had with each other. We went from writing friends, to romantic interests literally overnight—and I was extremely comfortable about it.

It’s just a phase, my mother told me. I’d grow out of it.

Yet here I am, chronicling who, and why I am.

Be_Yourself_(13828125575)

Image credit: Rennett Stowe

Fast forward to 2015, my first year of university at Deakin. Like the dope I am, I signed up to the Deakin Pride Queer Society and met some wonderful people. I invited one such friend back to my home one extremely rainy day so we could eat pizza and bond over movies, or whatever it is that uni students talk about.

Eventually the rain eased up, and I walked this friend back to the tram stop. I got back home to a curious mother, watching The Project from the very same couch from six years prior.

‘Sooo, who is she?’

‘Just a friend from uni.’

‘From the Writers Club?’

‘No, no. One of the other ones.’

‘Which one?’

‘The Pride society.’

She looked confused, aired a short ‘Huh?’

‘Pride, like queer pride. You know: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans …’ I explained concisely.

The woman just screwed up her face a bit, and dismissed the idea as ‘confusing’, or something to that effect.

Confusing. A simple manner with which one person feels attraction to another sex, gender, or otherwise is confusing. It is this sort of lazy thinking which I’ve grown to despise. Sure, there are some things in the queer community that may need to be explained to newcomers, but this came down to a very simple ‘One person likes another person, that person happens to be of the same gender.’

*

It took me half a decade to realise who I am, at core. We’re all pretty different, and people around us might dismiss elements of what makes each, and every one of us a ‘being’. For me, I grew up with an ascetic identity: a lifestyle wherein I’ve deprived myself of who I was at core—with part thanks to a dismissive mother who struggles to comprehend quite simple ideas. To this day, I think she still considers me heterosexual—not one female friend I have, that she is aware of, is free from the ‘possible love interest’ inquiries.

I suppose the message I’m trying to convey is something to the effect of: be whoever it is that you believe you are. Don’t let other people convince you otherwise. But more importantly, don’t dismiss yourself and become an ascetic thinker.

It could take time to accept what you might, or might not be. Experiences mould us into the human beings that we are—let yourself blossom, and bloom at your own pace.

Words by A.J.W. Finlayson.

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