Extract from “A Life of Unlearning – a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church, and faith”
CHAPTER 18 – Evolution
Deciding to march in the 1995 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade was my opportunity to extinguish any last fears I had regarding people’s reaction to me being gay, knowing the parade would be seen by a live crowd of over 750,000 and a viewing audience in the millions on national television. After failing two auditions (just couldn’t get that five, six, seven, and eight! thing right) I saw an announcement on the noticeboard at the gym: ‘Guys wanted to form a group called “Locker Room Boys”’. I knew at this late stage they would be more willing to take someone who lacked co-ordination.
For three hours every night for ten days our group of sixty guys rehearsed the dance routine to the Village People’s ‘YMCA’. Everyone worked hard to look fantastic; bodies were gym-toned, tanned and waxed. The two guys on either side of me were also marching for the first time. Mark, a striking, successful travel consultant on the left, and Anthony, a slim redhead and academic on my right, soon became friends. The combination of working with the unemployed and teaching sales, then rehearsals, and working out at the gym afterwards took me to near exhaustion point.
The excitement was palpable as we gathered with the thousands of participants making up the two hundred floats and groups in the parade. It was a cold night, rain threatened and once again Rev Fred Nile had encouraged Christians to pray for God to rain on our parade. It had been raining on and off all day but as it got closer to the parade’s starting time, the rain stopped. Either God wasn’t listening to them or He was on our side. The group in front moved off and the Locker Room Boys moved into position. The exhilaration as we marched into the crowds in Oxford Street was incredible. We repeated the dance routine nearly sixty times during the two-kilometre length of the parade and the crowd went wild when we’d throw off our towels to reveal our white Calvin Klein’s.
Becky, my daughter, now nineteen, was somewhere in the crowd watching her first Mardi Gras Parade but I knew it would be almost impossible to see her among the crowds twelve deep along each side of the road. When not having to concentrate on the dance steps, my eyes scanned the crowd looking for her familiar face. Then at the halfway point as we turned at Taylor Square into Flinders Street for the last stretch, I saw her in the crowd. Her face beamed; she was totally distracted by the overwhelming variety of things vying for her attention. Suddenly she saw me and threw caution to the wind. She jumped the barricade, pushed past the marshals and ran out to me.
‘There’s my Dad, there’s my Dad!’ I could hear her scream above the Village People booming from the speakers on the truck in front of us. We ran into each other’s arms like a scene from some old time movie and hugged over and over again in front of all those people.
The emotion was overwhelming and with tears streaming down our faces, she said, ‘Dad, I’m proud of you. I’m sooooo proud of you. I love you.’ I was proud of her that she was proud of me and thought that at last my little girl’s broken heart was healed. No one in the crowd would have known why we cried and danced or been aware of the pain we’d both gone through and the price we’d paid to arrive at that point where pride had replaced shame. My pain had become her pain but she’d continued to love me through confusion, humiliation and embarrassment.
Suddenly I realised that we were holding up the whole parade and the marshals were yelling ‘move on’, so I ran up the street to catch up with the group and jumped back into the routine.
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