Our first speaker tonight is RYAN HASTIE who contacted Anthony in September 2004 at the age of 19 after reading the original version of “A Life of Unlearning”. He is here to tell us a little about his journey. Please welcome Ryan…
I came out to my parents at the age of 16 and was told that it was ‘just a phase’ and that I would grow out of it. My parents are Anglican and I was very close to them so when they organised for me to go to a Christian counsellor so that I could be ‘cured’, I went along with it. The counsellor had apparently helped other teenagers and I thought that as long as there was a chance I could please my parents then I would do everything in my power to change for them.A few sessions later, after having tried everything the counsellor suggested I came to the realisation that this was not something that could be cured or fixed. It is a part of who I am. I felt trapped and felt that the only way out was to pretend to be straight. I’m still not sure what my plan was at the time, I’m not sure I even had one. I was scared and I panicked. After having passed a make-shift lie detector test, the counsellor advised my parents that I was now fine. He said ‘either your son is the greatest actor in the world, or he is cured’. I would like to have been able to take that as a compliment, but it served only as proof of my deceit. For the next two years I pretended to be straight. There were times when my family suspected I was not ‘cured’, including my sisters. One sister said to me that she hopes I am straight now, because if I wasn’t I would not be allowed anywhere near her future children. My parents had also said to me that I would not be allowed to live at the house if I was gay.Needless to say I was scared, I did not have the confidence or the financial means to move out of home. I began saving money from my part time job with the intention of running away to Melbourne. I love my family, and the thought of leaving tore me up inside but I felt it was necessary. With the money saved from my part-time job, I purchased a plane ticket to Melbourne and had saved enough for two months of rent and basic living costs feeling that I would need to find full time work in that time. Through a friend at my work I had met a nice family visting in Sydney who were from Melbourne and they kindly agreed to let me stay with them for as long as I need.

I came home from work one night to find my parents sitting at the dining room table, with my plane ticket and travel plans in-hand. They had searched my room and found the carefully hidden documents.

I was 18 at the time, and I came out to my parents again. I told them that as they had said I wouldn’t be welcome at home if I was gay that I had organised to leave and that I couldn’t change who I was. Over the course of a 6 hour conversation, my parents asked me to stay at home so we can try to work things out. I eventually agreed, on the condition that I could go for a holiday to Melbourne for a month as I had already purchased the ticket and organised to stay with the nice family I had met. The family in Melbourne were kind and accepting, and couldn’t understand how my parents could let something like my sexuality affect their relationship with me. I wanted to stay, having enjoyed the acceptance and support the family had provided me. After a few phone conversations, I told my mum the conditions for me to return home to live there. My parents agreed to try their hardest to meet my requests.

A few months later, a colleague at work suggested a book called. “A life of unlearning”. While reading it one night, my mum came into my room and asked about what I was reading. When I explained the content of the book, my mum began an argument stating that I was closed-minded for reading material that validates my point of view and not reading articles she provides me with. I was depressed and felt alone. Here I was thinking that my parents were making great progress towards accepting me and all of a sudden it became very apparent that they were tolerating me, not accepting me. I continued reading “A life of unlearning” and was amazed that there was someone else out there with similar experiences as myself. The book gave me the courage to approach my parents about my sexuality and help them to understand. I communicated openly with my parents, explained to them that this is not something I have chosen. All things that I should have done when I first came out at the age of 16. I even quoted parts from the book to help my parents understand.

It was a slow process, as most changes for the good are, but I am happy to say that today I am in a relationship with my boyfriend of two years. He has been over my house for dinner with my parents and we even occasionally watch DVDs together. It is now not uncommon for my mum or dad to mention his name in conversation. My sister explained that she would only have stopped me from being near her children if I ‘changed’ when I ‘became gay’. My sister said that as she could see that I was no different to who I was before, there was no problem. I now see my niece every week and love being an Uncle. I now feel accepted for who I am in my family. Having been in a relationship with my boyfriend helped my parents to see that not every gay man lives the stereotype. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Anthony for his book, “A life of unlearning” and its impact on my life. Thank you kindly.

Ryan Hastie (22)