Sunday, September 10, was Melbourne Inspiration Day. One of its four key speakers was Anthony Hinds, celebrated father of six, Christian, and a gay man. The tag line to his profile on the Inspiration Day website describes his story as “Hiding to Living in Truth”.
A month before, he was interviewed on ABC radio about coming out after over 30 years of marriage. The program was titled “Conflict, Courage and Coming Out”. His warm reception by the presenter, Libbi Gorr, was evident in her continual reference to his decision as an “act of courage”.
He likewise described how his journey through marriage, parenthood and, finally, leaving his wife to begin a homosexual relationship took immense courage; but that ultimately, he felt compelled to live “his truth”. His biography on the Inspiration Day website explains:
“He began to realise how important it was to him for his 'outsides' to match his 'insides'. In his 50s, he made the hardest decision of his life, to make a seismic shift and completely reshape his life.
“He is now re-establishing relationships with his family and friends, establishing a life with his new partner, and working out the purpose for the rest of his life.”
I recently spoke with his ex-wife, Julie Hinds, about her side of the story. What followed was a two-hour interview over the phone, which helped to fill in the gaps in Anthony’s story. I found the conversation harrowing. But Julie did not shy away from the raw emotions the topic evoked.
A day after the event, we were in contact again. She wrote to me saying “I found it really hard – it’s emotionally overwhelming and I felt exposed.” She referred to a friend in a similar situation to hers, who described it as “like having your knickers hung out on a public line, and you are powerless to take them off.” “It’s exactly like that,” claimed Julie. “I am not in control of the message.”
Although it was evident at times that she was deeply hurting and finding it difficult to speak, she impressed me with her ability to remain composed. The conversation did not degenerate into a fit of vitriolic name-calling or homophobic railing.
Instead, Julie set out fairly and firmly what is, essentially, a dark and vast shadow-side to Anthony’s actions; actions that have otherwise been portrayed by the media as nothing but inspiring and heroic. Yet Julie recalled, “He had said ‘I love you, till death do us part.’ A week later, he left.”
I asked her towards the end of our conversation, what she thought of Anthony’s “courage”. She paused. Then it seemed to me she hit the nail on the head:
“I think he has courage now because it’s the right time to have courage.”
In other words, the current social climate guaranteed Anthony a welcoming reception in support of his choice to abandon a heterosexual relationship for a homosexual one. Anthony decided to leave his marriage, and cause disruption and division amongst his family at a strategic moment.
The growing momentum of the LGBTIQP movement has led to political correctness surrounding homosexuality to a radical degree. This is different to welcoming hitherto marginalized groups of people, and removing the stigmas around them. It extends much further than this into “gesture politics”.
Julie’s experience of the media’s handling of Anthony’s story reveals this. Her version of events has been of interest to no media outlet. The closest she got to receiving airtime was when she was invited to the SBS television studios to be involved in a forum on the program Insight.
The program intended to host a forum for “Straight Spouses”. This was canned in the end, and the week it was scheduled to run, the show ran a discussion about people transitioning from one sexual orientation to another instead. Julie’s experience in this case is not exceptional.
She related to me how a friend, also left by her husband for a man, commented on the Melbourne Inspiration Day Facebook page, challenging the idea that it is commendable to “live your truth” at others’ expense. Her comment had posed the burning question, “What of the truth for all those years [of marriage]?” It was speedily removed.
Fortunately her friend had prudently taken a screen-shot of her comment. She was able to repost it in the same feed later with an additional challenge to the democratic nature of the event. She proved how many who do not conform to “gesture politics” are not only ignored, but silenced.
During our conversation, Julie explained to me the anecdotal evidence which showed that divorcees who have been left by their spouses for a partner of the same sex are three times more likely to attempt suicide than under any other circumstances of divorce.
I found this sobering. Where is the sympathy for these people?
She also recalled painfully how one of her children had once said, “The best thing about my life is my parents are together.” I reflected on this while I sat listening to Anthony’s radio interview. At one point, he summarized the situation thus: “Her story will be what it will be, and I just focus on mine and on what I want mine to be – going forward.”
But it is difficult to see where consideration for the security and happiness of his children fits into this attitude. As Julie points out, “I saw our marriage as the foundation of our family. It was not just about us.”
Julie is frustrated that the level of interest in her side of the story has been like a drop in the ocean compared to that shown for Anthony. At the same time, she has fears that if her story is told, she would be accused of being homophobic.
“I am accepting of the LGBTIQP community, but I have been damaged by Anthony marrying me so he could live the heteronormative life, and then leaving me for a man.”
She continued, saying that Anthony wanted to be straight – something he admitted to himself in his interview. Yet now, in hindsight, Julie wonders about his motivation for marrying her. “I felt like he used me as a service provider, because he wanted children – that’s what I object to.” The fact that Anthony is a gay man with six children was a major talking point on the Melbourne Inspiration Day website. But, says Julie, “Where did he get these six children from?”
At one stage, she recalls, three of those children were in nappies, “cloth nappies,” she laughs. “We couldn’t afford disposable ones at that time.” For fourteen years she cleaned them in a communal laundry. The laundry was located down a flight of steps. It was a challenging situation.
“Anthony insisted we live in a Christian community. He said it was ‘God’s will.’” She recalled disgruntled neighbours there. “It was the noise, we were living in a two room apartment and they’d complain about the children being noisy – but I could not make six children sound like two children!”
Perhaps it was that image, more than anything else, that made me feel the complete injustice of the media’s handling of the story. It has driven Julie into convenient obscurity whilst hailing Anthony’s ability to “summon up enough courage” to live his “true life”. Yet living “his truth” entails rejecting decades of loyalty from his wife and her sacrifices. Living “his truth” means deeply wounding his family.
It is cruelly ironic that the tagline of Anthony’s interview by ABC Radio reads, “When having the courage to be yourself comes at a high price.” The price is, arguably, the highest: truth. Anthony demonstrated this by saying, “She has created her truth around what’s happened, I’ve created my truth around what’s happened.”
A fashionable mantra that can be heard or seen written in any public place declares, “Love is love.” Yet this attitude, manifested in Anthony’s choice to pursue his homosexuality later in life, has created its own victims. One of them is Julie. Because the individualistic mantra of “living my truth” disregards the wellbeing of anybody beyond its immediate concern.
This is the sinister side to sentimentality. Because when love is love, and truth is relative, the result is chaos, turmoil, and heartache. Just ask Julie Hinds.
Veronika Winkels is a freelance writer who lives in Melbourne and is married with two young children. She recently completed a thesis on the philosophy of science.