Real Life

My son and I go gay cruising together

I have a ball with my son on his wild getaways!
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Sheryll Todd, 63, from Brisbane, Qld tells her story to Take 5:

The 90s hits were pumping, and I was surrounded by half naked bodies of all shapes and sizes, dancing to the beat.

Raising my colourful cocktail to my son William, 40, we clinked glasses.

“Cheers, Mum,” he grinned.

We’d just set sail on a seven-day Caribbean gay cruise with over 4000 other travellers.

While almost every other passenger was a gay male, I was a straight female – but that wasn’t going to stop me having a fun holiday with my son!

In fact, this was my fourteenth time joining him on a gay cruise!

I’ve been on 14 gay cruises with William. (Image: supplied)

We hadn’t always been this close.

I’d married William’s dad, Bill, when I was just 17 and had William six years later, followed his sister, Petrina, two years after that.

Bill was a wonderful husband and father, but I’d struggled with the responsibility and loss of identity.

While working at a hotel when the kids were just five and three, I’d met another man and moved out to be with him.

I still saw William and Petrina every weekend, helping to pay for their school fees and holidays with the money I earned running my own beauty salon.

My relationship with both of them was solid.

Early on, I had a feeling William might be gay.

He was an emotional, appearance-conscious little fella.

I had William when I was 23. (Image: supplied)

One year, I took him and Petrina to the Gold Coast for a weekend.

Ahead of a trip to Dreamworld, William spent almost an hour in the bathroom.

“What on earth were you doing in there?” I asked when he eventually emerged.

“Washing my face,” he shrugged, smoothing back his freshly-styled hair.

When I’d take him to visit his grandma, June, he’d clomp around in her high heels and raid her jewellery box.

“I’m not sure if that’s what other little boys do?” I said to Mum.

She just shrugged.

“Whatever makes him happy,” she said.

And I agreed.

From a young age, I knew William was different. (Image: supplied)

One night, when William was 16, he phoned me in the early hours of the morning.

“I’ve left home,” he sniffed. “I can’t live with Dad anymore. I just…”

Immediately understanding, I cut in.

“Is this because you’re gay, William?” I asked.

He hesitated.

“Yes,” he choked.

I could tell how relieved he was that I knew.

William was relieved when we came out to me (Image: supplied)

He explained that his dad had overheard him on the phone to a boy, they’d argued, and William had walked out.

“Go home,” I said. “I’ll sort this out.”

I spoke to Bill the next day.

“You have to accept your son for who he is,” I explained.

After the shock wore off, Bill did absolutely that.

But William always knew he could come and live with me if he wanted, and when he was 20, he did.

We got jobs at the same insurance company and worked together for years, before starting our own brokerage firm.

That was when we got really close and started holidaying together.

We travelled to London for my 50th birthday and went on ski trips to Whistler, Canada several times.

William and I became good friends later in life. (Image: supplied)

Then, in 2015, William invited me on a gay cruise.

We’d fly to Florida where the ship would depart, spend a week sailing around visiting various Caribbean islands, and have days at sea, where there’d be parties on deck.

It sounded fun, but, as a straight, older woman, I was hesitant.

“I’m not sure that’s for me, William,” I said.

“It is, Mum!” he insisted. “Everyone will love you!”

Well, that turned out to be true! I made so many friends on that trip, I barely saw William.

There were gay men of all ages, from all backgrounds – and they were all so welcoming.

Some of my new mates were in their twenties – and one was 72!

I made so many friends on my first gay cruise. (Image: supplied)

During the days we went in the pool on deck, drank coffee and went to trivia.

By night, we sipped cocktails, partied on deck, went to see drag acts and comedy shows.

Dancing to Tina Turner and ABBA with William and all my new friends, I was having a ball!

Some of the dances had dress-up themes and others… well, people didn’t wear much at all!

Seeing William so comfortable in his element warmed my heart.

We started going twice a year – to the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

I love seeing William in his element. (Image: supplied)

William began dating a lovely man called James, and he joined us too.

On one memorable cruise, they premiered Grease the musical and Olivia Newton-John performed on the ship!

Another year, I was in a moonboot because I’d had foot surgery.

“Sure you still want to come?” William frowned.

“Of course!” I cried. No way was I missing out. And if there’s one place you’re accepted no matter what, it’s on these ships.

I never miss a cruise with my son. (Image: supplied)

Even though it’s pure self-indulgence on board, I can’t help mothering William sometimes.

“Stop mixing your drinks!” I tell him, seeing how many different brightly coloured cocktails he consumes.

But mostly, we both just do our own thing, and have a fabulous time.

We plan to keep up this tradition for as long as we can.

I love celebrating life with my son.

He’ll always be my boy. (Image: supplied)

William says:

My bond with my mother is ‘atypical’ – most children have that stronger relationship when they’re younger, and it’s natural to grow apart a little as you get older.

But for Sheryll and I, we’ve made up for lost time once I got older and I came out, and we’ve just grown from there.

Mum’s now my best friend!

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