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Why I donate to Out On Screen: Darrell Mahoney’s Story

I don’t mind sharing my story – it is an interesting journey.

I guess inside I always knew that I was different but never really knew what it was. I was born in a very small town in northern New Brunswick – very Catholic – the middle child of seven (five boys and two girls). We lived in a large family home that included my mothers’ parents and her sister – so all in all that was five adults and seven children with one bathroom – not a lot of privacy!  My grandfather died when I was in Grade 1 so that left 11 of us.

I was teased and bullied a lot not only in school but also in my family. My older brothers were in sports and were quite mean, as were my younger brothers, and all I wanted to do was play with my sisters’ things; guess I should have figured things out at an early age. My mother thought that these activities would make me into a “sissy” so she would push me into sports (which I failed at miserably except swimming). When I was in Grade 4 my life was to change dramatically – our family was moved to Moncton as my dad was transferred for work. 

While it was supposed to be exciting, it was scary. We went to a three-bedroom home with a finished basement… well you get the picture fast. The girls shared one room. My aunt and grandmother got the other and my parents got the third. The boys got the basement. Still one bathroom. The lineups in the mornings were atrocious! 

The following year, catastrophe hit. My young brother next to me was involved in a serious hockey accident on a neighbourhood rink that caused serious brain damage. As a result of two brain operations and much physical and speech therapies, etc., he returned home very different at the age of 11 and had to take occupancy of one of the bedrooms nearest the bathroom, and thus my aunt and grandmother had to move out. At the same time my grandmother had already started to enter the stages of dementia which would eventually claim her life a number of years later. So my mother would look after her and my brother daily which was a significant strain on her and the rest of the family. All that to say there was little time to deal with any of the bullying that was going on with me, or the issues that I was dealing with in my puberty: I was already recognizing I had an attraction to the same sex. I could not even start to talk about this then; the family was already dealing with very heavy issues.

So life was pretty bleak.

I spent a lot of my teen years suppressing these feelings and spending time with my aunt and grandmother at their apartment, learning how to cook and not talking about these feelings.  I graduated and went to college and tried to help out at home as much as I could. My parents had enough on their plate. As soon as I graduated college, I got a full time job with the government and went to work in Saint John. I completely buried myself in work and went home most every weekend.

In 1979 I met the person I would marry through a very good friend at work. I buried any same sex attraction that I had and I married as soon as I could. I worked every day of my life to make my marriage work. I loved my family and we went on to have three beautiful children together. But deep inside I was always haunted by these attractions. It would always come up. I had to disclose this to my wife and we struggled with this for years.

Then I met Derek.

I knew that I had to come out to my children. I knew that if I could tell them then there was nothing in the world outside that could hurt me. I thought it was going to be the hardest thing in the world to do, but it ended up to be more freeing than I ever thought. They all thought that I was gay from the start, though they didn’t all accept it right away. One would have preferred that I didn’t say anything. The other two were supportive that I leave the marriage and pursue my true self; the other needed time. But it was out there and they all came around and accepted me for who I was, as did my ex-wife. And we became real from that day on. And we are much closer because of it.  

So after I came out, Derek and I became partners and I moved to Ottawa and we were together for five wonderful years. We had a wonderful relationship and I think back that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t said “yes” to accept me for being myself.  It took a lot to come out to my family, my work, my friends, etc. but to me, once my children knew, nobody could hurt me anymore. Not everything was rosy. Sure, I lost friends; but I question whether they were friends if they couldn’t accept me for who I was, who I am.

After five beautiful years together, Derek died suddenly of a massive heart attack at the age of 38. It was such a shock. I said at his celebration of life that I can’t imagine not ever having the chance to have spent those years with him. As a memory of Derek, I promised that I would make sure that I would set aside an amount each year for a continuing education. For the longest time, this was in the form of a scholarship as Derek was a graduate of journalism so I set up a scholarship with his high school in St. Catharines. 

Then I moved to Vancouver for work and I met my present husband, Trevor, and we married in 2010 at the Sylvia Hotel. My son Ryan was my best man and my daughters Taryn and Kaitlyn gave me away. How proud I was to be able to marry a man and have my family (my brothers and sisters) there to celebrate my love!  

I now am the proud grandfather of four grandchildren – Lily 7, Hayley 6, Ben 4, and Olivia 1. They are my joy. My son and his daughter Hayley are deeply involved in PFLAG on PEI; my daughter Taryn is a cardiac nurse in the same Cardiac Institute where Derek died and she and her husband Terry along with Lily are always involved in community pride activities in Ottawa. My daughter Katie is a French Immersion Grade 6 teacher in Montreal and she and her husband Julien, along with Ben and Olivia, are involved in community pride activities in Montreal. All of them are very proud of their Grampy T and Grampy D and look forward to our FaceTime and our visits. 

So, you ask me why Out In Schools is so important to me:  I only wish that there was such a program for me back when I was in high school. When I moved to Vancouver, I started to go to the Out On Screen film festival and that is whereI heard about Out In Schools, and that is when I decided to transfer from the scholarship program for Derek to supporting the Out In Schools program. And that brings me to today.

This is why I have supported the Out In Schools program for the last number of years and will continue to do so. I believe in it. I may not have benefited from it, but in a way I had my own. I was blessed. 

Thanks for my chance to share. 

Darrell

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