SBS Insight: Shaun Williams comes out to wife of 25 years
After nearly 25 years of marriage hiding his sexuality, an Australian father of four has spoken out about coming out to his family and starting a new life.
Victorian man Shaun Williams, now 53, married in the late 1990s when he was 27, but struggled with the ‘guilt and shame’ of knowing he was secretly gay.
Mr Williams said he always knew he was gay but was too “afraid” to come out.
“I suppressed it, I decided it would be something I would die with,” he told the Daily Mail Australia.
“I grew up in the ’80s, when there was a lot of gay abuse, and the grim reaper with the AIDS ads made it, so I was too scared to get out.
Shaun Williams (above) came out for his wife and kids after nearly 25 years of marriage despite ‘always knowing’ he was gay
‘It was a real challenge. I hurt myself and many people along the way.”
For nearly 25 years, Mr. Williams struggled in silence but realized he was reaching a breaking point and had to face the truth.
“I struggled with depression and anxiety, I wasn’t honest with myself,” he said.
“My oldest daughter came out when she was 16, and two of my other children have since come out as queer. I realized I had to support them and be honest.”
Mr Williams said the realization forced him to make an almost impossible decision as his mental health continued to deteriorate.
“I had to choose between coming out, losing my family and my wonderful wife, or ending it all to get away from the pain I knew I would bring to everyone,” he said.
Mr Williams first came out in December 2019 with a psychologist with whom he had been speaking for over a year and said the confession was a huge relief.
Mr Williams said that ‘gay bashing’ in the 80s, including the infamous Grim Reaper commercials (above), led him to decide he would never be open about his sexuality
“He said to me one day, ‘There’s something you’re not telling me and that’s why you’re still struggling’ and I told him I was gay,” Mr Williams said.
“He was incredibly supportive. Once I got to him, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
“That’s when I knew I had to be honest with my family and friends.”
The next day Mr. Williams came to his wife and then to his children.
“It was a very challenging time,” he said. “I was really torn because I didn’t know how my family would react.”
“I told my wife the next day and my children the next day. I left the family home out of respect for them.
Mr Williams said he felt “isolated” when he first left his family’s home but built a support network with other gay fathers
“It was tough because I didn’t know where to go, I felt very alone and because it was just before Christmas it was extra challenging.”
After searching online for other people in his situation, Mr. Williams finally found a man who was also a father who had come out to his family 10 years earlier.
From there, Mr Williams met more fathers who had come out for their children and was able to build a small support network before the Covid lockdowns started.
“I met some other dads and we were in a really small walking group because of Covid, and I said to one of the dads, ‘I want to create a private Facebook group,'” he said.
“I had felt so alone and it took me about six months to really find my feet. I had felt isolated. So I said, “There must be other people going through this.”
Mr. Williams founded his group in October 2020 and now has more than 600 members worldwide who share their experiences and support each other.
Mr Williams (above) believes his ‘life is great’ and that his coming out has helped him become a better father
‘I was really surprised that there were so many of us. There is a world full of men who have been through the same thing as me.
“It’s the shame and guilt we go through.”
Since coming out ‘what feels like a lifetime ago’, Mr Williams has moved into a new apartment with his new partner of two years.
“It was great, he is also a father and between us we have five children,” he said.
“The kids have been great. It took some getting used to, especially with my kids as they are a bit younger, but they are great.
‘My life is great now. I’m in a great place and I’m a better father now. I still feel that guilt and shame every now and then, but I know I can work my way through it.’
Mr Williams found support during the Covid lockdown by walking with a small group of other gay fathers and said it is important never to struggle in silence
Mr Williams said it is so important to be brave and ask for help when you need it.
“Reach out,” he said. “Reach out and talk. Contact other groups, peer support groups.
‘Don’t do it alone. There are now so many opportunities for people to seek help.’
“I came out as gay to my wife of 25 and I couldn’t be happier,” he told SBS.
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