A long time ago I thought up the name I’d give my autobiography, if there were ever call for me to write one – “Memoirs of a gay geek”. Later, I rethought and wondered if it should be called “Memoirs of an introverted gay geek”, but that title seemed way too long. (Until of course my first book was published with quite a wordy title…)
I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am lately. Everyone tends to use labels of some sort – the human brain is an incredibly proficient tool when it comes to sorting and filing information, and I think it’s particularly good at this when you’ve got a good left-brain/right-brain balance in terms of mixing creativity and analytical processes.
The downside though is that labels are very easy to misuse, and I don’t mean deliberately. I read once when I was quite young, “Once you start dividing the world into us and them, you become one of them“. At the time (I think I was only 12 or so) it didn’t quite make sense to me, but later I recalled it and realised precisely what it means, and how useful a saying it is to keep in mind when you’re compartmentalising things and people.
In short, labels are helpful, but they’re hardly critical. There’s plenty of labels that can be applied to me, and I’ll wear each label as a badge rather than as a definitive statement on my personality. Take enough of those badges, merge them together (“will it blend?”) and maybe you start to build something that synergistically describes my personality. So a few labels you can apply to me: Geek, Gay, Introvert, Bear, Writer, Son, Brother, Uncle, Atheist, Australian, Country boy, Reader, Consultant, etc. Not a single label completely defines me. When you combine all the labels you do get a better picture of my personality – but no single label by itself can truly tell you anything about me.
I’ve always been a rather bookish person. When I was quite young, I had a severe speech impediment, and so before I started primary school, I had to get speech therapy in order to be able to communicate, and my parents (my father in particular) were remarkably patient in going through speech therapy flash cards with me every night for months. As a consequence, since every card had both the written word and a picture on it, I effectively learned to read as I learned to talk, and while I don’t pretend to be a reader of great skill, it did see me start school with a much better reading ability than any of my peers. I’ve carried that love of reading throughout my life (with the one exception that as I went through the frequent edit/re-edits/re-draft of my book in 2008 in particular, it left me feeling a bit cold towards books for a while).
I really had no heart for sport from a very early age. My brother on the other hand was an absolute natural at anything he tried, and as a consequence I spent many a Saturday and/or Sunday sitting on a sideline reading a book, or otherwise occupying myself, or otherwise feeling dreadfully bored, while he kicked a ball around, or smashed one across a boundary, etc. Though having inherited a little of the shit-stirer from my father, I spent years needling both my brother and father into an argument about the same cricket match. The first time my father ever umpired a cricket match my brother was playing in, he gave him out, LBW. It was a sore point for over a decade 🙂 Maybe it still is – they’re both as stubborn as I am.
On the other hand, when I was reasonably young we got our first computer in the house. It was a Vic-20. It had around 3KB of RAM available, and it was remarkable to behold, even attached to a black and white TV as it was in its early years. It was a shared present for my brother and I. A few years later I traded him two cricket bats autographed by the then Australian cricket team for his half of the computer. (Why I had such bats is another story, to be told another time.) I most definitely got the better deal.
It was with the Vic-20 I had my first epiphany as to what I wanted to be when I grew up. Other kids were content with becoming a fireman, or a doctor, or a teacher, some even dared to suggest they wanted to be prime minister. Perhaps influenced by seeing Flash Gordon at an early age, I decided I wanted to be a Mad Scientist. Not just a regular scientist, but a Mad one. And of course, as a Mad Scientist, my end goal was to take over the world. Honest to goodness, I grew up wanting to be a mad scientist who would take over the world. There were going to be lasers and mutant monster servants and weather control and things that made nuclear bombs look tame. (Looking back, I could have settled for Sarah Palin and Pauline Hanson wailing like banshees…)
As such ambitions go, it was a pretty good one to have. I decided I’d needed to have a database to actually keep track of all my subjects based on their physical characteristics, so there I was on a Vic-20 writing tape-based access databases in BASIC. I didn’t complete the database – I didn’t take over the world, either, but I at least catalogued a bunch of friends and family at the time.
I also remember deciding from an early age that I was an atheist. Maybe it was partly because of the pugnaciously obnoxious and child-loathing presbyterian minister in our town at the time. (On reflection, better than that than a child loving catholic priest, of course.) This led me to being beaten up for the first time at school for daring to say that “god doesn’t exist”, which gave me my first introduction to the levels to which some extreme religious people practice their little intolerances. Just so you know, that was by a girl – a particularly vicious and unpleasant one at that.
I survived primary school relatively easily, all things considered, and did the expected jump into a much bigger pond at high school. In NSW at least, there’s two “parts” to high school – years 7-10 (junior), then years 11-12 (senior). “Junior high” passed in a bit of a blur, and suddenly by “Senior high” I found myself in an eclectic group of friends ranging from fundamentalist christians to seventh day adventists to atheists and agnostics. There were, so I was told by someone who liked to gossip a bit, rape and molestation victims as well as people who’d had a perfectly safe and happy child-hood. There were self-declared bisexuals who became homosexual. There were people with ambiguous sexuality who ended up surprising the hell out of me by ending up heterosexual. There were closet homosexuals, and then there was me.
You see, I’d struggled with my sexuality from 13 through to 16. Or rather, not my sexuality, but my perception of it. It even led to what I jokingly call a crisis of “unfaith” where I started praying. In short, I wasted 3 years of my life hating myself. Undoubtedly it’s left me with some mental scars, but it did also leave me quite strong when I realised enough was enough and snapped out of it.
So cutting back to senior high; I decided that I was going nuts being closeted at home, so I actually came out at high school. First to the group of friends I belonged to, then it became over time one of the worst kept secrets in the school. That though was good because it at least allowed me a certain amount of “being myself”.
Somwhere along the line after starting work and getting settled into a relationship and a career I forgot the lesson of “being myself”; it became too easy to aim mainly for being conformist. Don’t get me wrong. I was – and still am – happy, very grateful for the choices I’d been able to make. Yet conformity is boring and stagnating, and personally unfulfilling.
Ironically, it’s social networking as much as anything that’s helped me to learn to ditch that conformity again, since it’s started to merge into one social circle customers, friends met through traditional means, friends met online, and (to a lesser degree), family. It’s one big melting pot, and it’s got me over a lot of hangups.
I’d like to think most close friends knew I was quietly wicked, but at the end of the day, quietly wicked and externally conformist isn’t me. So bring on the tattoos, bring on the mohawk again – this time, full time; bring on being happy as myself and not being concerned if I don’t conform to someone else’s narrow view of reality.
Who am I? I’m me.