In January 1990 Myffy and I headed off to the ERA conference in Orlando, Florida. We both had minor speaking roles at the conference, but hopefully there would be time to enjoy some of the fun, this City is renowned for.
My move to Melbourne was still not confirmed, but this trip would give me the opportunity to talk with Myff about how we could make it work for both of us.
I was now free to pursue my new gay life, but I certainly had no expectations on that score from this trip. I had planned to get the conference over, spend a few days with Myff and then fly back to Hawaii for a week of holiday before coming home.
I remember the night we met, it was nearing the end of the conference and Myff and I had spent the evening at EPCOT, before having dinner together.
I was back in my room around 10.00 pm, when on a whim, I decided to grab a cab to a place called Parliament House. I had read about this place in a copy of the gay press I had picked up somewhere in Orlando.
I spent the first of my time at Parliament House getting to know the layout of the place, there was a dance club at the front, with a quieter bar at the rear close to a swimming pool. The complex was part of an older style motel built in a U shape around the pool and car park.
To someone who had never spent any time in a large gay bar it was quite intimidating. I settled down with a drink in the back bar, quite content to sit, watch and experience this relatively new phenomenon.
You were across the bar from me, talking and laughing with some friends. It was the clichéd meeting of eyes across a crowded room, I would look and then turn away, trying to make a show of indifference and when I looked back I would catch your eye again.
This farce went on for what seemed like an eternity, but it was probably only five or ten minutes before you came over and asked if I would like a drink.
We chatted for over an hour, exploring each other’s back grounds and the reasons why, we had both found ourselves in this bar, at this time.
You were a slim, blonde man from North Carolina, living and working in Orlando as the manager of a fast food outlet. You were seemingly quite at home in the environment where we found ourselves, whilst I; was once again, the timid and shy country boy from Australia in a strange environment in a strange city on the other side of the world from where I came from.
I could hardly believe this confident, cocky 26-year-old could be remotely interested in a recently separated gay man, approaching his forties who was not at all sure of where he fitted in this new world he was exploring.
We left the bar together to grab a coffee downtown and finished up back at my hotel for the night.
I was meant to be there for three more days of meetings before I left for Hawaii, but; after two days with you, I decided to stay and cancel my trip to Hawaii.
You were in the room when I rang the kids to say I would be staying In Orlando rather than heading off on Friday.
The kids of course, did not know of my homosexuality and they immediately jumped to the conclusion I had met the new, female love of my life.
Suddenly, you were given a new name, as I described “Donna” to my kids
“She is tall, blonde and 26 years old with a strange southern accent” everything was correct, except for the gender.
I had to silence you as you yelled “Don’t call me Donna” and then, get off the phone, before you could destroy the myth I was creating.
We laughed about it later, as I tried to explain my new-found status and the decision Sas and I had made in relation to the telling of the kids.
Our first real date, was dinner at the old airfield in Orlando. The restaurant was decked out as a Second World War bunker, complete with air raid sirens and the sound of real small planes coming and going on the tarmac just outside.
There was the day we spent at Clearwater Beach in Tampa, we watched the sun set on the bay of Mexico and then raced across the penninsula to see the Moon rise in the east at Cape Canaveral, there are very few mainland places in the world where you can do that.
It was romantic, it was exciting and I could hardly believe it was happeing to me.
The first night I spent at your place in Orlando, was the very first time I had ever stayed in a lover’s home, my new experiences were adding up quickly.
We had ten wonderful days together, we did at times discuss the possibility of you coming to Australia, I explained it was probably better towards the middle of the year, when I would hopefully be settled in Melbourne.
Leaving you was sad, this was the first time I had ever been faced with the dilemma of telling another man I loved him and I guess I did not really know how to behave.
You dropped me to the Airport and we saw other, straight couples having fond farewells; I so wished I could have held you close and kissed you.
You rather brusquely told me that perhaps, Florida was not ready for that spectacle.
Thank you, Kevin, meeting you opened my mind to a simple truism I had never considered.
It was possible for two men to love and miss each other as powerfully, as a man and a woman could love and miss each other
I was probably a bit old for this lesson, but better to discover it at 38 than at 70