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Before law reform: Married with children

Fri 12 May 2006 In: True Stories National Library

In this series marking twenty years of freedom for New Zealand gay men since the Homosexual Law Reform legislation was enacted in 1986, presents the recollections of men who remember what it meant to be unable to come out publicly in the face of hostile laws and public condemnation. In my early teens, during the 1960s, I knew I was gay and had a few titillations at the boarding school I attended. On leaving school at eighteen I returned to a staunchly heterosexual world, started a career in banking and did the right thing by following the normal path and at the age of 24 entered marriage. To have 'come out' then would have been impossible. Not only the law factor but there simply was not the scene, support, information, acceptance. I felt I was the only one and did not even know where to go to find like-minded men. I did have a very good marriage. My wife was a wonderful person who had all the right qualifications for being a wife and mother to our three children - twin boys, then another boy just eighteen months later. Sex was perfunctory it has to be admitted but that seemed to suit us both. I did not want to upset the lovely home, children, relatives and friends we had around us. I suppressed my gay urges for the comfortable life. Then I met a man who rang all the bells and whistles. Never the less I kept him at arms length frightened of upsetting my world. We met regularly albeit clandestinely and it was about two years later, just before he was due to emigrate to New Zealand, that we admitted our love to each other. To protect my world I encouraged him to go even though he was prepared to stay in the UK. I hoped the distance between us would soften our affections. It did not, it only served to make the heart grow fonder. Before I could take the plunge and ask for a separation and divorce my family world fell apart. My lovely wife contracted cancer. It turned out to be a very aggressive cancer and she died just ten weeks later. It was coincidental that I had already arranged a holiday to visit family in Australia (during which I had arranged a small side trip across the ditch to NZ) so immediately after the funeral I left with the whole family much in praise of the way I had looked after her and held the family together. The funeral was a celebration of her life attended by so many people who saw what a strong and dedicated family we were. Whilst visiting NZ we talked at length. The upshot of which was upon my return to the UK I announced I was moving to NZ to join up with my 'old friend' and start a business together. The family seemed to accept this. In three months I had liquidated my investments, wound up my business affairs, sold my house and packed all of my worldly goods into a container. I arrived on a visitor's visa. Mr Organised Banker who had never taken any kind of risk before had jumped blindfolded over a precipice. I had moved lock stock and barrel to the other side of the world without any kind of authorisation, just my love for my man. I soon settled and it was just such a relief to be the true me. Everyone I came into contact with in NZ knew I was gay. I did not have to be guarded in anything I said, I was free to attend gay events around Auckland without having to worry about being seen and found out. For the first time ever I was free. My life with my man is just fantastic. I could not ask for more except the right to stay with him in New Zealand and this meant doing battle with the Immigration Service. In fairness battle is the wrong word because it was really a long and frustrating paper chase. However just very recently I have received the right to stay here thanks to a direct approach to the highest level and my dreams for the future are fulfilled. My three sons visited at Christmas and we had the very tough task of telling them exactly why I had move so unexpectedly and quickly. A New Zealand friend said "I could sell tickets to that!" when we told him what was facing us. They were shocked and a little upset, and after loosing their Mum so tragically just so very recently who can blame them. However they were understanding and accepted my position. As much as we could possibly have hoped for under the circumstances. I believe they will be fully accepting and happy given time. It was their decision for me not to 'come out' in the UK, understanding the hurt and upset it would cause so many. However, the biggest bridge has been crossed and I will deal with the remainder of the family and friends as time and circumstances allow. It took 40 years for me to enter the gay world, I am so happy it's the New Zealand gay world.     Geoff - 12th May 2006

Credit: Geoff

First published: Friday, 12th May 2006 - 12:00pm

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