Only Different is on ABC now
Only Different is on ABC now

‘He didn’t take it well’: Aussie mum comes out to husband

AMANDA was married for 25 years but despite her seemingly happy relationship on the outside, on the inside there was an internal conflict waging war.

The Aussie mum grew up in the 1950s and by the time the 1960s rolled around, she realised that while she liked boys, she liked girls a lot more.

Together with her documentary-maker son, Thomas, Amanda is sharing her compelling coming-out story after the ABC and Screen Australia co-funded a series of mini documentaries under the banner Love Bites to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras.

Amanda grew up in a small town with conservative parents and while she knew the idea of gay people existed, nobody really talked to about it.

Approaching adulthood, Amanda was craving normality and in the end she was happy to marry a man and the couple gave it a "red hot shot", producing four children.

She believed her husband knew what he was getting into from the beginning, despite his reaction indicating otherwise when she finally told him the truth.

She had already engaged in relationships with women before her marriage, but when she finally plucked the courage to come out of the closet, she was confronted with a cruel choice.

Despite the fact she was already separated from her husband, the coming out part wasn't pleasant and he "didn't cope very well at all with that", Amanda told news.com.au.

"There was a lot of punishing that needed to happen."

Amanda and the family were living in a small village on the south coast of New South Wales at the time and the family, led by Amanda's husband, had become members of the Pentecostal church.

"I probably entered the church because I was so confused about where I fitted with the world and here were these people saying, 'you will be fine here, we can sort your confusion out' and in fact they just added to it," she said.

But there was a problem: There were no secrets in a Pentecostal church and eventually, they crept out.

During her marriage Amanda was, as her son Thomas puts it, "super conservative".

"We were a very nuclear family, I remember the person my mother was, she was completely different. I think there was a lot of sadness in her life, and discomfort," he told news.com.au.

Amanda's story is highlighted in the six-minute documentary, Only Different,

in which Thomas interviews his mother about coming out later in life.

"It was hard for my dad because he was religious but also I think it really called into question a man's masculinity. If she was a lesbian the whole time it questioned the validity of his marriage," Thomas said.

Amanda and her son Thomas. Amanda has told her coming out story to her son in a special documentary.
Amanda and her son Thomas. Amanda has told her coming out story to her son in a special documentary.

The catalyst for the coming out came in the form of a woman named Polly when the two began a relationship that has lasted the test of time.

"My older daughter introduced her to me, she had a very eclectic homewares shop in the town we live in and it was literally love at first sight for me, absolutely, she turned around, said hello and knocked my socks off."

But, before the Happily Ever After, there were challenges to face and one night, Amanda's estranged husband gave her an ultimatum.

"I came out because of Polly, because I was so proud and happy. But my husband put me in a position where I had to tell my three younger children the situation - or he would," she told news.com.au.

"In one night I was put in a position where I had to tell the children and that was extremely difficult and very cruel for them.

"I think retrospectively I would have told him to f*** off, but then, I was wracked with guilt, I felt I was taking a sledgehammer to my perfect little family and harming my children."

Thomas, who was just 10 at the time, remembers his mum taking the children into a room, one by one.

"She was crying the whole time. She said she had given her heart to somebody, but I didn't know why she was crying so much."

But despite the heartache, Amanda's relationship with Polly was truly blossoming.

"It was tough for my brother for a long time, it divided our family for a while," he said.

The pair eventually moved in together and the couple raised the youngest of the children together.

Amanda has never had a conversation with her ex about that night. "And I feel at some point we will probably have to," she says.

She says her ex-husband is still "probably praying for me now".

"Who knows. I don't care whether he accepts me or not, that's not part of the deal," she says.

"He didn't cope well at all."

Yet despite the turmoil, Amanda and her family are a strong unit, and she has lived with Polly for the last 15 years, raised two children together, and both are "insultingly happy".

- The ABC and Screen Australia co-funded a series of mini documentaries under the banner, Love Bites, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras. To watch Thomas and Amanda's story, click here.

- Continue the conversation with Matt Young on Facebook or Twitter.