Different strokes for different folks

Dylan Carmichael is openly gay in Gladstone.
Dylan Carmichael is openly gay in Gladstone. Tom Huntley

PASTOR Ian Carmichael noticed an envelope propped on his keyboard.

It was a letter from his son, Dylan. And it contained an important message: he was gay.

Dylan, then 18, had been grappling with his sexuality for some time.

He was a "good Christian boy" and it was at odds with his religious upbringing.

"I realised at 14 and spent the next four years praying hard - 'Make me straight, God'," Dylan, now 27, said.

When asked how well all that praying worked Dylan laughed. "Not so well..."

He expected a backlash from his Baptist parents. Their reaction was surprising.

Dylan's mum Lena called to tell her boy he was loved regardless.

"They've done really well," he said.

"I forced them to re-evaluate what they'd taken previously on blind faith."

When Dylan's younger brother was 18 he also came out. Dylan joked he was a practice run for his folks.

At that stage Dylan was better placed to guide his sibling. He'd been "married" for a year already, after entering in to a registered relationship.

As a teen Dylan's only exposure to gay life was on television.

"Look, I love Will and Grace, but it's a sitcom. It's not real life," he said.

The only other show that depicted homosexuality was Queer as Folk.

It centred on the characters' sexual antics, and Dylan found it seedy.

The Carmichaels live on the north-western coast of Tasmania. The small town where Dylan grew up was quite homophobic.

He moved to Gladstone in late 2008 with his then partner, who was transferred to the Boyne Smelter.

And he's found the town to be fairly accepting. Dylan's colleagues at NRG Gladstone Operating Services know he's gay. It's never been an issue.

"There's still a perception that Gladstone is quite homophobic," he said.

"That hasn't gelled with my reality."

Tim* disagrees. He identifies as "pansexual" - meaning he's gender-blind.

And he's remained in the closet.

As long as he's in Gladstone in there he'll stay.

It was only after moving to Gladstone from a larger metropolitan area that Tim realised he was different. That was two-and-a-half years ago.

Tim hasn't told his family and only a few friends.

He was a little more open at his work, but soon began to cop flak.

When cruel remarks were whispered behind his back, Tim retreated.

"I stopped being 'open' about it…" he said.

The 20-something said he would never dream of living openly in Gladstone.

"Good grief, no," he said.

He said it would be easier in a larger city, and the plan is to move.

Dylan's also relocating at the end of the year.

His New Auckland home is on the market and he's Brisbane-bound.

It's been just over 12 months since Dylan's relationship broke down. He had been with his "husband" for seven and a half years.

Dylan's dad presided over the couple's commitment ceremony in 2006.

"For all intents and purposes it was a wedding. It had all the trappings."

Dating can be tough in Gladstone. Dylan spoke of location-driven smart phone apps like Grindr.

But he said there were few local users, the majority coming from Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Maryborough.

Tim has also turned to the internet but with disappointing results.

A search for male-seeking-male posts on a dating website elicited only one result in a 300km radius.

He's in no real rush. Tim is still a virgin.

"I didn't think I was ready really early on, but I know that sex isn't something you HAVE to do; it'll happen when it happens..."

And he has no idea whether his first encounter will be with a man or woman.

"If you make plans for it, you'll only limit yourself, really," he said.

"I'm sure dating will get much easier when I move back home..."

*Not his real name.


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