I had to pick an image that represented some form of surprise because, boy, am I surprised and happy right now.
So, I did it. I built up my confidence, I told my best friend in the world that there was something I needed to tell him that was important, that I couldn’t tell him via Facebook or texts on the phone.
We had rooms in the same hotel in Bristol where I was going for a night out of drinking with some old friends, and after finishing up the weeks conference calls which (and given the excitement and terror I was feeling about revealing Sarah to a male friend who had no inkling of any of the urges I have) seemed to last forever, I set my laptop up on the desk opposite the door so he’d see it when he came in, and loaded up what I thought was a reasonable picture, shown below, on the desktop.
I sent him a text saying to come to the room, giving him the number, and sat down, my heart beating so hard I could hear it in both ears. The minutes ticked by and at least twice I stood up to close the laptop, but caught myself with a burst of confidence and hope.
And then the door knocked. I took a deep breath, stood up to open it.
And my bloody phone rang. A work colleague needing to discuss something. Cue a touch of British comedy as I opened the door and stepped out, confusing my friend a little as we stood in the corridor and I manically mimed frustration to him as I calmly, which was utterly inappropriate given the circumstances, answered the call and questions.
After 30 or so seconds it was getting uncomfortable, so I pushed open the door and indicated to my friend to step in while I followed him and continued the phone conversation.
And my courage left me. I sidled quickly around my friend as he stepped into the room and carefully positioned myself between him and the picture of Sarah, trying hard to shut the laptop with one hand but failing as he stepped past me and sat on the bed.
I have never wanted a phone call to end as much as I did with that one, but the work colleague was a chatterer and so it took five minutes to wrap up the call, by which time the Sarah in my head was running around in her heels panicking while drab-me fought to control a genuine anxiety attack.
It obviously didn’t show, because my friend was sat comfortably on the bed, blissfully ignoring, or so I thought, the picture on the laptop.
I finished the call, put the phone away, felt the coldness in my hands from the effect of too much adrenaline. A standard hello, how’s it going mate exchange of greetings with my friend, and then I decided to go through with it.
To reveal a secret that I had kept for over forty years from my closest friends.
I think I said that I needed to tell him something, but I couldn’t phrase the words, so I gestured him over to the laptop and said, what do you think?
His response made me almost laugh out loud.
“Katy Perry, right?”
I shook my head.
“No. That’s me, mate.”
Stunned silence, followed by him peering at the picture. This was the moment. He’d either react with disgust and that would be it, or he’d react some other way.
It was some other way.
“No way.” he said quietly.
My confidence and enthusiasm rushed back in, even though I could feel the burn of embarrassment around my ears and my hands were shaking as I flicked the image off of the laptop and revealed the background image, shown below.
“I scrub up well, don’t I?” I said lightly.
And that was it. The secret was out, my friend was, to put it mildly, a little surprised but wonderfully supportive, and cue a long evening of drinking and then me going through my entire history, what Sarah means to me, and a quick tour through my pictures as the night ticked around towards early morning.
It all spilled out of me like fresh, clear water through a broken dam, and the combination of his understanding and pure acceptance with the release of my worries was almost overwhelming.
I’m heterosexual (he says convincingly) and I feel no shame or guilt in saying this – I love my friend. All the horror stories in my head of how he would react, how I would suddenly feel like nothing, how my thin foundations of normalcy around being Sarah that are strengthening all the time at the moment would be torn down in an instant, it was all just vaporous fears.
It was a wonderful night, and the Sarah part of me has tears in her eyes as I think about it.
To my friend, thank you. Words are not enough, mate. I love you.
There are a lot of thoughts I need to process in my mind, ideas of where Sarah can go now that there’s someone I know and trust who can advise me, listen to her thoughts and issues. Some point in the future they will meet in person, and I look forward to that moment. Something tells me Sarah will cry a little, and that’s not a bad thing.
For the rest of you wonderful creatures, stay beautiful sweeties. May all of your worries blow away on the wind like mine did.