Shane: Portrait of a gay mentor

by Graham Reed.

Between marriages, I met Shane. He was gay. He became my mentor.

My marriage to Mary had been a good one. Or, so I thought. One evening, while we were watching Tele, she calmly informed me that she wanted a separation. From that moment my world fell apart. I had no idea that such a thing was on her mind. Though, looking back later I guess the writing was on the wall. I just didn't read it too well.

She proceeded from that moment to make my life hell. To get reaction from me. Reaction that she could use as evidence to prove to her self that this was the right decision. Reaction that could prove I really was a mongrel. To her annoyance, I didn't give her the reaction she sought. I just shriveled up on the inside and hoped it would all go away. Eventually I began to get sick. My blood pressure went sky high. I went onto medication and the doctor sent me to a psychologist.

The psychologist patiently listened to me. She prodded, and she listened. At the end of the first session, I felt a little better. But she wasn't satisfied. "I feel there's something else on your mind. What is it?"

I paused and thought. A long fearful pause. I knew what it was. But could I say it?. It was something I had known all my life, in a way. But also it was something that I pretended not to know. "I think I'm bisexual.'

It was a turning point in my life. I joined a social group for gay men and that's where I met Shane. He was fit and good looking. He was intellectual. He wanted to talk. I was keen to listen and learn

He was a very intense person. Intense about the rights of the Irish and people in general. Very intense about gay rights. About the injustice to gays in our modern world. He wanted to do something about it all. As it turned out I became a part of his plan. Only a small part, mind you. But he would start with me. He would educate me about the gay world; he would convert me totally to my new found direction in life.

He took me to Oxford Street in Sydney. This was a real eye opener. The place was full of gay people and gay venues: bars, discos, book shops and places to meet and have sex with other gays. Shane knew it all. He was at home there. He was in his element as my tour guide and mentor. He told me about "beats": places where gay men meet to have sex. There was one in every town, he informed me. "You just have to ask around. " He pointed out some of them to me. He talked about the psychology of picking up "trade"(gay people for sex).

He told me of the abuse he'd received from his father. His problems at school and university. The bashings. His thoughts on suicide. The mixed reactions from his family as he told them one by one. The mother who, feared that he might go to hell. The struggle to be a person. He needed someone to listen; to hear him out. I guess I needed to hear it. I was fascinated.

Shane was not happy with life. He was angry and full of contradictions. At times I saw him as a tower of strength. He knew how to change the world for the benefit of everyone, but especially for gays. He felt it was right to "out" famous people who were deceitfully hiding their homosexuality; pretending to be "hetero". He rattled out a list of their names. He was angry with them. They should be outed to serve as role models for young gay people. To help show the world that gays were normal every day people, and also able to achieve great things.

He introduced me and a small group of friends to his mother once. But then he was extremely annoyed that I had "outed" him to one of my lady friends. It was at a party at my place and she had already guessed. I confirmed her guess. Shane adapted the rules to suite his own needs and whims.

"You're not the only one with kids, you know. Half the people who come to Oxford St have a wife and kids. Or maybe an ex-wife."

I began to cautiously experiment on my own. I discovered that Shane was right. A lot of gay men were married; many were divorced. When marriage broke down, they went back to the gay scene. Some of them had kids. They were proud fathers.

All this time I was still going out with women. I guess you could say I was two timing. But I really didn't care. I had been through so much, I felt it was time for me.

I got close to some of these women and bled my heart to them. They were surprisingly accepting of it all. Some confided their own dreams for lesbian experimentation. Some had actually tried it out. I introduced one girl to the gay social group, as lesbians were also welcome. I guess I became her mentor for a while; teaching her some of what Shane had taught me. She soon met a nice female companion and they settled down for a while.

Sexuality research indicates that at least 50% of men will admit to being attracted to men. 37% of men have had a same sex experience to ejaculation. The figures for women could also be interesting, going by what I've heard from my female friends.

I have come to feel that most people are at times attracted to same sex individuals, and that no one is exclusively heterosexual or exclusively gay. Perhaps we lean more one way than another; but this can change. It's not a fixed state. We are also bound to some extent by the culture of the day. It was common practice for classical Athenians to have not only a wife, but also mistresses and slave boys as sex partners. Spartan and Japanese warriors balled their squires on campaigns, and thereby bonded them to the warrior group. I have seen a show on TV about a tribe of New Guinea people who take boys away from their mothers at the age of eight to live with their fathers and the other men. A boy matures from drinking the milk from his mother's breast to the semen of his father's penis. Certainly homosexuality does not bear the same stigma in western cultures as it did years ago. People are more willing to experiment and act on their impulses.

Shane and I were never physically intimate. We were just friends. He lived with another guy called Barry and they talked of getting married one day. They were entirely different people and didn't even have a full physical relationship together. I couldn't see what the bond was between them except of course that they were both gay. Barry was not intellectual or even good looking. His physique was very ordinary. He had been a bank clerk but then retired due to ill health. Everyone suspected that it was AIDS, but Shane said it was cancer.

Shane was very fussy about the physique of his sex partners. He only wanted the best. He picked guys up at saunas and other venues. He never had sex with friends. He repeated this frequently, especially to me. I got the message.

Shane and I felt sorry for each other. I felt sorry for his unhappiness; his intensity. He pitied my lifestyle. The only thing he really envied about me was that I had kids. He wanted kids of his own. He had even considered contracting a woman to have some for him. Perhaps in South America.

I have a lot to thank Shane for. He was a good friend. He helped me to fulfil my sexuality: to stand up and rid myself of the guilt that had gnawed at me for years.

With the passing of time, I started to sort out my life. I became happy with who I was; bisexual and all. I settled down with a really nice woman. A real soul mate. Someone who loves me for who I am. Shane rang to congratulate me on my wedding day. That was two years ago. I know he was disappointed in me for getting married again. But that's his problem.

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