Saturday 22nd November – Today, my aim is to confirm whether Hamish ‘plays on my team’ or not. I expect I’ll do some touristy stuff too, but it’s been so long since my Queer Bells rang at anything that I’m curious to find out if they still work.
The timid little Scot isn’t much to look at, and I know the stammer should put me off, but he seems sweet and kind and I find myself looking out for him whenever I’m at the hostel. It’s the first time in years that I’ve even had the inclination to look at another guy, and if Hamish is a Gay then he seems like he might be one of the nice ones. Bev and Rachel both insist he can’t possibly be a ‘shirt-lifter’, but I told them, “Not all us gays are stylish, handsome and well-manicured, you know.”
They had looked me up and down and then nodded in agreement.
From: [email protected]
To: “My Great British Contacts” Group
Subject: This little piggy’s gone to market!
Date: 22 Nov – 14:05
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Hey, ya dirty bludgers!
We’ve just stopped for what the Aussies call a ‘sanger’, having spent the last few hours wandering Melbourne’s ‘world-famous’ Queen Victoria Market looking for goodies. “Everything you have ever wanted since 1848!” the guide-books had screamed. “Over 1,000 stalls!” So we were hopeful of getting either a) fab bargains or b) cool stuff you’d never get in England. But so far it’s just been a big pile of c), the same old shit you’d find anywhere else. Even the bargain-sniffing girls are struggling. All they’ve bought so far is a plug-adapter for their straighteners, and a good job too as their hair is beginning to look shockingly normal.
Love Kev x
SENT VIA MY MOBILE DEVICE
Today, like all good little piggies, I went to market. Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market, to be precise. I even managed to get the girls out of bed to join me, and all I had to do was whisper the word ‘shopping’. I’ll have to remember that for the future. Hamish came too, and I’m thrilled to say he asked to come along without any prompting from me. His stuttering Scottish accent and positive outlook had made even the shitty market a little more bearable.
“Och. It’s all a wee b-b-bit rub-b-bish really, isn’t it.” (I can’t do the accent.)
I’ve decided Hamish is cute but in an unconventional way, which Rachel tells me makes him ‘cugly’. There’s just something about him. We stopped for lunch, and when he rammed that baguette in his mouth I didn’t know where to look. It’s been a while since a sloppy 6-incher made me blush. He told us a little more about himself, and it turns out his mum is a vicar and his dad is a pastor.
Bev had frowned. “What? Like spaghetti?”
I’d nearly choked on my chicken teriyaki. “PastOR!”
Turns out Hamish is a little bit churchy, but I won’t hold it against him. Meaning, I’d still totally hold IT against him. I don’t know what it is about a religious Gay that puts so many homos off, something about them loving another Man I expect, one they couldn’t possibly hope to compete with. It doesn’t bother me though, and if Hamish really wants to believe that a bearded bloke in a dress rides around in a cloud controlling the world then who am I to argue.
He (Hamish, not God) spent most of our lunch arguing with Rachel about Him (God, not Hamish), which was actually a lot more fun than it sounds. When you’ve got blind faith from the Scot (“the B-B-Bible is proof of His existence,”) going up against hot-tempered logic from the Essex Girl (“but that would mean that The Hobbit is proof of bleedin’ Gandalf!”) it’s hard not to laugh. He just smiled at her frustration which infuriated her more. Excellent.
He had found out what side of the church I sit on by mid-afternoon. I’d been trying not to make a big deal of it, and was being proper subtle like, but when Bev giggled and blurted, “he means he’s a KNOB JOCKEY you doofus!” there was no going back. Unfortunately, Hamish went visibly pale and the atmosphere got very tense, very quickly. Even Bev looked a bit sheepish, and she’s usually a bit oblivious. It seemed that this particular Revelation had freaked him out and the rest of the afternoon was spent in an uncomfortable silence. I worried that he might be one of those delusional hetero guys who’d think I’d been friendly with him in order to ‘trick’ him into doing something queer. After all, we’re notoriously sneaky like that, firing off invisible homosexual rays as we do. Maybe he’d get all Biblical Preacher on me, and declare me to be a filth-peddler, guilty of leading a sinful life full of debauchery and sodomy. I WISH my life was that exciting.
But once we got back to the hostel he hesitantly asked me if he could have a private word (he may not have asked hesitantly, it may have been his stutter), and we ended up having a deep and meaningful over the pool table. It turns out my dodgy Gaydar still works after all.
“I think I m-m-might b-b-be… like you,” he’d confessed.
“What, chubby and English?” I’d joked.
Of course, I knew what he really meant. I think many of us find it impossible to use the word ‘gay’ at the beginning. I still struggle now, sometimes. It’s such a serious word, with such a scary history, and you need to be strong to tie yourself to it. I’d rather use ‘bender’ or ‘knob gobbler’ or ‘big fat queer’ to describe myself. Funny or shocking or self-mocking, but never serious or scary. Sometimes straight people have asked me why the newly ‘out’ can turn flamboyant or super camp overnight, and in my opinion it’s because they hope that by making it obvious they don’t have to keep telling people. Just a theory, of course. I’m butcher than a lesbian’s tool-belt, so I have no idea.
Over the course of our pool game Hamish opened up a bit more about his life. How he grew up in a small Scottish village with strict religious parents, about the struggles between his beliefs and his ‘unnatural’ desires, and how he was spending his gap year travelling the world to try and figure out exactly what it was he wanted. And what He wanted, too. His story had tumbled out in frustrated bursts as he raced desperately against his stutter to unburden his long-held secret, and it was equally heartbreaking and frustrating to listen to. Basically, Hamish is a couple of years behind me on the Path To Imminent Gaydom, still lost in the struggle between what he wants to feel and what he actually feels. The pre-coming out stage for any gay guy, I guess. That horrible time when you are still coming out to yourself. I remember confessing the same emotional turmoil he was feeling not so long ago, only in my case I’d been confessing them to my dog.
“I don’t WANT these thoughts.”
“If it’s just a phase, when will it end?
“I want to be normal!”
“Quit licking your balls!”
I remember desperately trying to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly be a Gay. I didn’t want to be, for a start, surely that had to count for something. The phrase ‘sexual preference’ had given me the impression that it was a choice, like ‘chicken or fish’, and it took me the whole of school to figure out that this was just wishful thinking. I tried so hard to be straight. Girlfriends. Dating. Even lying in my own diary for years. Not just in case anyone else read it, but in some desperate attempt to rewrite my life-story. I didn’t fancy that boy at school, I was envious of his body. And it was only his big physique I’d been checking out in the showers. How could I possibly be a poof when I wanted kids? When I was clueless about interior design? When I had no fashion sense? Surely I’d fail the exam? At least Hamish is clever enough to understand that these things are entirely unrelated, and he has now arrived at the biggest cross-roads of his life. Will he burst out of the closet with pride and enjoy being young, single and gay, fully accepting himself for who he is and who he was born to be? Or will he duck back into it and lock the door behind him, hiding there until he’s middle-aged, possibly with a family of his own, and in the midst of a massive mental breakdown? One way or another, it will come out eventually. Of course you have no control in who you fancy, who you love.
He could always take the third option. The one I tried to take. I call it the ‘Bi Now, Gay Later’ method, where you declare yourself to be bisexual and slip out of the closet when everyone’s backs are turned. It’s the coming-out version of dipping your toe in the water.
“Why not tell your family something they may be happier to hear?” I suggested. “Tell them that you are so full of love that it isn’t just limited to the female half of the population? It’s kinda what I did.”
Well, sort of. My bisexual phase lasted about an hour. I’d been clubbing with my then-best mate, and had downed three jaegerbombs for courage before blurting out, “I fancy everyone in here, not just the ones I’m supposed to.” Unfortunately he’d misunderstood, and thought I meant I fancied all the munters as well as the babes. He’d laughed and called me a “dirty wrong’un” before offering to find me “a fat chick to bang”. The conversation that followed was painful and awkward, and had ended with him storming off in disgust and promising to tell everyone I was a pervert. I’d gone into complete meltdown, informing Facebook “FYI I’m GAY!” before turning off my mobile and speeding off in mum’s car, still pissed. I’d woken up the next morning in a Welcome Break car-park in the Scottish highlands, with no memory of the drive, the windscreen iced over on the inside, and close to freezing to actual death. Ah, fun times.
Of course I didn’t tell Hamish any of this. It had worked out ok for me in the end. Once I’d warmed up enough to get my limbs working, it had taken me another four hours to summon up the courage to turn my phone back on. Nearly all the comments had been positive, even from those that just thought I’d had my mobile nicked. Only a couple of people chose to block me or cut contact, my best mate being one of them, and you know what? Fuck ’em.
As the common room grew busier, we abandoned our game and moved into the fire escape to continue our conversation in private, accidentally interrupting a blue-haired biffa smoking something hand-rolled and almost as fat and fragrant as she was. She dropped it in her haste to leave, and I snatched it up when Hamish started sobbing. It looked like a new experience just waiting to happen and I stuck it in my pocket for inspection later. Unfortunately, this meant that from that moment on I was distracted. He was talking about his stern, God-bothering parents, about how they’d disown him if they ever found out, and he was really opening up his soul to me… but all that was going through my mind was I think I have a fucking joint in my pocket!
“You can stop worrying, you know. You’ll be fine. God loves us Gays,” I said instead. “Otherwise he’d never have made us all so cute, right?”
Hamish managed a small smile. “If only it w-w-was that easy…”
Poor bloke. It’s not easy. Your mum and dad are supposed to love you unconditionally, but it doesn’t always work out like that. Some folks actually think disowning their child makes for better parenting, and that’s just fucked up. I know how lucky I was with my own parents. They’re both so easy going and I’d still been terrified. But once it was done, of course I’d had no reason to be scared. Mum was surprised it wasn’t already common knowledge, and Dad? Well, we’re getting there. I didn’t do myself any favours by telling him it was his fault because he’d shagged all the women and left none for me. It wasn’t fair or accurate, and I know it hurt him, but it had felt good to blame someone else at the time. But Hamish’s parents are a completely different kettle of fish. Who can predict how the religious will react? They’re often the least accepting of all.
By this point, Hamish was curled on a step, head on his knees and rocking so hard he could’ve been doing an abdominal workout. I couldn’t help but cry a little with him as I remembered I had done exactly the same thing, only in my case I’d been panicking about how to break the news to my girlfriend. At least he didn’t have that bombshell to drop. She’d flipped out even worse than I’d feared, smashing up her room and going proper psycho, although with hindsight I probably shouldn’t have told her I’d been fantasizing about her brother the whole time we were together.
Finally, with all his tears shed, Hamish fell silent. He looked exhausted. We sat there for a bit, bodies squeezed together on the steps, legs touching, my arm around his shoulder, and he lifted up his t-shirt to dry his eyes and flashed a bit of stomach. God knows what was going through his mind, but all that was going through mine was, Fuck me, I’m horny. It’s the first time I’ve thought that in years.
“I’m honoured you confided in me,” I told him instead. “I hope it helps.”
Hamish bit his lip, stared at his feet and wiped some snot from his chin. It made him even more adorable. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“I’ll help you out with anything, you know,” I pressed. “Anytime. Just ask.”
I put my hand on his knee and gave it a squeeze, silently wondering how I’d gone from nervous Born-Again Virgin to Predatory Gay in just one conversation. He didn’t seem to hear me though, instead he just closed his eyes and muttered, “If God leads me to it, God will lead me through it.” He looked up at me with clear blue eyes and my tummy did a little flip, then after a moment’s hesitation he gave me a quick kiss on the cheek before blushing furiously and standing up to go back inside. “Thanks, Kev,” he called over his shoulder as he left. “I’m really pleased to have met you.”
I was then forced to sit there a few minutes longer to allow the sudden swelling in my trousers to go down. When I finally re-entered the common room I was confronted by an over-excited, gossip-seeking Bev.
“Omigod. Did Hamish just kiss you on the fire-escape?” she squealed.
“No,” I told her. “On the cheek.”
Well, it made me laugh.
From: [email protected]
To: “My Great British Contacts” Group
Subject: COME ON ENGLAND!
Date: Sun 23 Nov – 03:55
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!
Did you see the rugby? I just watched it down the pub (I know, how butch am I!) and I never realised how homo-erotic it all is. All that thigh grabbing and backwards tossing, I was expecting it to have a free ten-minute preview.
If you didn’t catch it, there was a BIG match between England and Australia today, and me and the girls went to watch it at the local English bar, ‘The Elephant & Wheelbarrow’. It came complete with stuffed foxes, tweed waistcoat-wearing staff and a big red telephone box next to the toilets, because that’s what pubs looks like in Britain, obviously. Rachel got into a slanging match with the biggest, burliest Aussie she could find for some ‘in-house entertainment’ and Bev screamed at the telly for a solid hour. Not that I could see her or it for all the masses of sweaty drinkers, of which I wasn’t one as it was impossible to reach the bar. The game had come to a glorious conclusion when someone fit in a tight England shirt kicked a stonker of a shot and we won (hoorah), and once the roar of the British supporters, sprayed beer and manic jumping had died down, the Aussies cheerfully shook our hands, congratulated us and went quietly on their way. I have a horrible feeling that if the result had been reversed my fellow Brits would not have behaved with the same dignity or restraint.
Right. Time to get this red lipstick cross off my forehead.
Love Kev x
Replies to you guys:
Jemma – No surfers. A Scot, maybe.
Michael – Sigh… You dog.
Becky – Who was voted off?
What a terrifying evening. I watched my first ever rugby game, squeezed in a pub full of hundreds of hyped-up heteros, wedged beneath a glistening armpit and trying to avoid all the flying perspiration and beer. Disgusting. It’s made me realise that I feel just as uncomfortable in a room full of Straights as I do in a room full of Gays, so I’m not really sure where that leaves me. The girls have now gone off to ‘console’ a couple of Aussies, which means I’ve had to come home alone again. One of these days I’ll stay out unaccompanied and surprise everyone. Including me.
I’m too buzzed to sleep so I’ve been flicking through Facebook, and it seems like a load of people back home have just finished watching the same rugby game which is the strangest feeling. Kinda makes me feel closer to them and further away at the same time. In other Social Media-related news, it is snowing in Essex and Michael snogged some randomer that wasn’t me. I’m not bothered, but a cheeky snog would actually be quite nice right about now. Even one from him.
Oh! I’d totally forgotten! I’ve just found that dodgy ciggie in my pocket from earlier! Who the hell needs someone’s tongue in their mouth for kicks when they’ve got a… I believe it’s called a ‘doobey’?
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