John’s story

My Big Fat Greek Gay Life (member’s story)

To start at the beginning would be to start many centuries ago so I will start at a time only 7 years ago. Prior to that time I lived the almost “perfect” greek life – family, successful career, a pillar of the community (the greek community that is) but then one day that all changed.

This story is as real as it gets. The life of a “good” greek boy living in the very tight greek community of Melbourne.

Being Greek and Gay in Melbourne one may ask how is it so different from the rest of the gay community. Well in many ways it’s no different at all – the same prejudices and double standards exist. So why are we so “special?”. I guess in many ways it stems back to how the majority of greek migrants arrived in this country – with one suitcase and no prospects. And boy do our parents keep reminding us of that fact. The additional barriers of language, education and religion compounded those of lack of wealth. Factory workers with the only contact to the rest of the community limited to the greek community, revolving around the local greek church, and their families. That is the “extended’ family – uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, in-laws and the rest – usually all residing within the same house or very close by. That’s the background to the story.

So what does one expect when I arrive at my mother’s doorstep and told to sit down as she has something important to ask me. “Why did you really separate from your wife last year?” Dumbfounded and lost for words what was I to do. In the year prior this fateful day I had comes to terms with my sexuality but she really stumped me this time. I had had enough of the bullshit and crap and more importantly the lies. So I did the only thing that made any sense at the time. “Mum and dad I’m GAY”. Well did the walls of Jericho come down screaming (more accurately the Parthenon – the name given to our family home). Waling women at a funeral are nothing compared to what my eyes feasted on. Comments like – “how could you do this to us”, “we will not be able to show our faces in public”, “we need to take you to the priest and he will fix this” and so on and so on – you get the picture.

We are everything to our families and hence the slightest deviation from the norm is to them a slap in the face – so how could we ever contemplate being gay? It’s a disaster in any greek household waiting to happen. Of course I exaggerate slightly – but then I’m greek. Fortunately in our lives we have other resources to get us through these trying times – “Greek and Gay” is but one. We have our friends, also greek mostly, who understand all that we are going through and hopefully we have some understanding brothers and sisters within whom we can confide. I must say in my case my sister did help to get me through a lot of the issues I had to confront with my parents. She acted as the go-between many times. I say parents but in all reality most of the issues came from my mother (the matriarch) as my father simply switched off and pretended that “the issue” did not exist. So where to now? I love my parents to bits and that will never change. Nor will they change and I have come to terms with that fact. Yes even last week my mother said that my house needs a women’s touch (incase you didn’t get it that’s code for a wife) but fortunately my responses are just as quick – I am hiring one next week. (yes a few more tears came my way). I think they call it the guilt trip – it don’t work on me anymore.

Fortunately for me the extended family (all 50 of them) have now moved on and have no impact in my life. If only they knew (or do they?), I really don’t care anymore. Life is far to short to be concerned with the reactions of others and life is far too important to waste a minute on trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. I did that for over 30 years and it got me nowhere. Thankfully I’m told I don’t look gay and that helps dealing with the non-queer greek community as they take me as I am. I suppose it also helps that I have kids with me and many probably don’t even think twice that I may be gay. Incase you are wondering the kids do know I am gay but that’s another story for another time.

I am greek, I’m an aussie, I’m a son, brother and a father, and added to all that I am GAY.

John, 2006