An Australian father-of-four has opened up about the life-changing day he came out as gay to his wife of 25 years and their four children.
Shaun Williams got married in the late 1990s at age 27. But for 25 years, he was so fearful of coming out as gay he hid his sexuality from his family.
Williams opened up about his long journey to accepting himself on SBS current affairs program Insight this week.
He told host Kumi Taguchi there were “lots of factors” that kept him from coming out until three years ago, at age 51.
“I was brought up in the 80s, when AIDS was prominent. I was scared to death of the Grim Reaper [AIDS commercials],” said Williams, who lives in Victoria.
“Back then, I thought I’m gonna hide this for the rest of my life. I was going to go to the grave with it.”
Williams said that from the outside, it appeared as if he had the “perfect family”.
“I had wonderful kids, I had a wife, I had a house, a job. I didn’t want to break that up,” he said.
But inside, his mental health was deteriorating.
He said, “I was struggling mentally, I was a shell of a person. I wasn’t someone that was being a good father at all.
“I was struggling with the risk, after 25 years of marriage, of losing all of that.
“At the time I was seeing a psychologist but I was never honest in the appointments… I didn’t know where to turn [for support].”
Shaun Williams said suppressing sexuality ‘like holding a beach ball underwater’
Shaun Williams likened suppressing his sexuality to trying to hold an inflatable beach ball underwater.
“At some stage, that beach ball was going to explode out of the water,” he recalled on Insight.
“I just didn’t know how much longer I could hold it and suppress it underwater.”
Eventually, Williams’ psychologist told him he knew there was something he was keeping back.
Williams then told the psychologist he was gay, and he described the confession as “a weight off his shoulders”.
Days later, he told his wife and children.
“It was December 2019, just before Christmas, and it was one of the worst days of my life,” he said.
He said it “couldn’t have been any more difficult” and his wife was “understandably angry”.
“I left the house and let my wife grieve,” he said.
“I was never welcomed back into the home.
“The first Christmas was really difficult. My mum and dad wrapped me up and took me in.”
However, three years on, Williams said while his journey was challenging he was a happier person and his children were “adjusting really well” to his new life.
“I’ve actually become a better person. I’ve become a better father, being who I really am,” he said.
Williams, who is now in a same-sex relationship, started a private Facebook group to support other fathers who’ve come out as gay to their families.
The Facebook group now has more than 600 members around the world, he says.
Insight is now streaming on SBS On Demand.
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