Married at First Sight

MAFS' Jonathan Trenberth's inner torment: The struggle of coming out at 25

''I was getting beaten up, I was getting harassed by people and I wasn't sure what it was, because I was playing sport and I didn't think I was gay at all.''

By Marilynn McLachlan
Groom Jonathan Trenberth is proudly gay on Married at First Sight NZ, but up until six years ago it was a secret he kept tightly to himself.
"I used to have all these tools and techniques just to get through a day hiding my sexuality," the 31-year-old recalls, but he admits that doing so sent him into a downward spiral.
Auckland-based Jono explains that the self-deception came at a cost. "At some point it means your month has been really bad, and then your week has been really bad, and then your day and then every minute is really bad – and it messes you up."
Born in Tauranga and raised in Christchurch, Jono's early years were happy, but when he reached intermediate school he began getting bullied, with things becoming much worse at his all-boys' high school.
Things started off well for Jono and Ray, but they've had more than their fair share of rocky moments.
"When you're a boy growing up, the worst thing you can say – the biggest insult – is to attack some-one's sexuality. You call him gay, you call him homo," the marketing and communications manager believes from his experience.
"I was getting beaten up, I was getting harassed by people and I wasn't sure what it was, because I was playing sport and I didn't think I was gay at all."
Describing himself as a masculine teen, he also loved cooking and would braid his two sisters' hair before school each morning.
"We live in this world where it's totally frowned upon for a man to do unmanly things," he shares. "But I think everyone should embrace the more feminine energy in the world."
Staunchly denying his teen bullies' gay taunts meant Jono was also "lying" to himself. But at age 21 he googled, "What if I am gay?" and when the truth hit him, he lost it.
Young Jono and his dad.
"I had three days where I went and stayed with my mum and sister. I didn't tell them what it was, but I couldn't pull myself out of the foetal position," he remembers. "I had bruises all over my body for no reason other than stress."
By this time, Jono had travelled to Italy, Australia and Hong Kong working as an adventure education teacher and returned to New Zealand to study sociology before starting his marketing career in Wellington.
But even with his self-realisation that he was gay, Jono kept tight-lipped and hid from the truth. He lost weight, his hair started falling out and he was getting two hours of sleep a night. And, when he was about to turn 25, the traumatised man gave himself a terrifying ultimatum.
"I was going to jump off a cliff or tell someone that I'm gay," he says.
While initially hesitant about coming out to his dad, Jono says he was very supportive and they now share a close bond.
Knowing he was going to Auckland for five days, Jono chose his cousin Natasha to come out to. But while they chatted, drank and had fun together, he didn't have the courage to say anything until she was taking him to the airport.
"I told her on that drive. And she almost killed us because she slammed on the brakes," laughs Jono. "I put it to her, 'What would you do if I was gay?' And her response was, 'We throw a party, we celebrate.'"
It was just what he needed to hear. Back in Wellington he told his boss, who gave him two weeks' paid leave to go home to Christchurch and tell the people he needed to. And, while everyone supported him, they were shocked because he'd done such a good job of hiding his sexuality.
"They were floored, every single one of them," he smiles.
But there was one person he was most nervous about telling – his father Alan. And when he did, his staunch dad couldn't have surprised Jono more. After sitting quietly for a moment, the Southern man choked up and admitted he always loved his son deeply, but felt there was something amiss between them and wanted to be closer.
Tears fall freely as Jono recalls what his father told him that day. "He said, 'I can't connect with you in the way that I want to, but I've always admired you from a distance and I just love you so much. This is going to be really challenging for you and I'm going to be there for you. You don't have to worry.'"
Six years on, the father and son talk every week and Jono can reflect on his difficult years with gratitude for his family.
"Hindsight is so interesting. There were so many moments I could have gone a different way and become someone else, but because my mum, dad and family appreciate who I am, it's been just enough to take the other fork in the road."

Raymond and Jonathan: A match of potential

This year's 'yin and yang' MAFS couple Raymond Wedlake and Jonathan have the potential to turn instant sparks into a hot flame if they can juggle their differences!
Life of the party Ray, 31, loves nothing more than putting on his designer dancing shoes for a night out, while Harry Potter enthusiast Jono is more likely to opt for a game of Quidditch or moonlight meditation.
With the two already sleeping apart, Ray admits their differing views on settling down could be a deal-breaker.
"To me, settling doesn't mean not being able to go out drinking anymore and doing yoga instead," the curtain installer declares. "I need a partner who is relaxed but also able to have a good time!"
Where to get help
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 TAUTOKO, text "help" to Lifeline on 4357 or call them on 0800 543 354. For other mental health issues, call 0800 111 757, or text 4202 to talk to a trained counsellor free, call Youthline on 0800 376 633, or Outline on 0800 OUTLINE (688 5463).

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