We Are Who We Are

As part of our Start the Conversation project, we collected the stories of a number of inspiring LGBT young people. Check them out below!

 

B,  16 – Maroondah Young Leaders graduate

Have you always known you liked girls?

At first I wasn’t sure – growing up I only thought men could be gay! Then in high school I got pretty scared because I thought liking girls wasn’t normal, so I dated a guy that I didn’t really like. After I broke up with him I made some new friends outside of school and learned that the feelings that I had toward girls were totally normal and nothing to be ashamed of. I came out two years later. 

What was it like coming out?

So far I have come out to my mum and sister as well as my extended family on my mum’s side. My cousins think it is pretty awesome to have a gay family member!

How did your family react?

The most positive thing someone has done after I came out would be when my mum took me to Midsumma (Melbourne’s LGBTIQ festival) and we looked at all the stalls and met some amazing people. It opened both of our eyes about the amount of support there is. My mum loved the day so much she plans on taking me every year along with my family!

Do you feel like you’ve changed since coming out?

Coming out hasn’t changed me. However, it means that now I can be more open with my family and not worry about the dreaded question – “do you have a boyfriend?!”

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am just a normal teenager. I love music and dancing, I sing everywhere and I take forever doing my makeup. I also like anime and cosplay!

Kauri, 19 – Arts student

Coming out at first wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, focusing on things I thought to be negative about myself. But as my confidence and knowledge grew with me, I became very fortunate in my coming out experience because of the amount of support I was given.

When I was around 11 to 12 I started recognising I was different to a lot of my friends. I don’t think I really knew what it meant, but I felt like there was something that separated me to the people around me. I was undergoing the routine experience of self-doubt through growing up, but basing it around this weird attraction to guys I was discovering in myself. I didn’t know any gay people, and only had the ‘stereotypical gay guy’ from movies to relate too. I knew I was gay, but didn’t feel like I was that person, which made it hard for me to be comfortable with myself and understand this unfamiliar part of myself.

At the high-school I attended, there was no visible support for LGBTIQ young people. The idea of coming out in that environment was confronting and uncomfortable. I wasn’t yet comfortable with myself because I was struggling to find out who I was. I had started doing theatre in year 9, and met people who didn’t care what others thought of them. This was the first building block to the confidence I have now. In year 10 I moved to a school that had a far more accepting environment. While there weren’t any other gay people I knew of, everyone was just who they were and no one cared.

I came out to my friends within two months of being there. When I told them I was gay their reaction was a glorified version of “Oh cool – hey let’s go to Maccaz”. It wasn’t a big deal to them even remotely, and that became a big deal to me. Some of my friends would have known already, but their accepting of my confirmation so easily and simply was great. Essentially it was just “Hey, this is just another part of myself. The end.”

What surged my confidence in the entire situation was the second person I came out too, who ended up becoming my boyfriend. From there, coming out gradually became an easy errand that I got excited to do, so I could tell people about this awesome new person in my life. Having the support of a boyfriend was incredible as we were both experiencing coming out together (literally at times as we had an entire friendship group in common). I was happy and proud, and wanted people to know this part of myself I finally felt like I could share.

Becoming aware of my sexuality from the age of 11 was extremely difficult, having no visible support in my primary and secondary school, and no gay people to look up to for inspiration or support. I’m passionate about spreading the stories of Maroondah’s LGBTIQ young people so that those of all sexualities and gender identities can be proud and comfortable of that part of themselves. My dream for Maroondah’s LGBTIQ young people is for no need for a ‘coming out story’ like this. I want to get to a point where sexuality and gender identity are as insignificant as the colour of our hair or eyes. Everyone is a bit different, and that should affect how we’re treated or accepted by those in our community.

Luke, 20 – Ringwood Secondary College graduate

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m Luke, I’m 20 and I study paramedicine. I spend heaps of time studying and I hope to become a clinical instructor one day.

Have you always known you liked boys?

Since I was pretty young I knew I wasn’t attracted to girls. I was about 11 at the time and it was a bit confronting to think about. I didn’t know if the feelings I was having were normal, wrong or right. Looking around me the only discussion about homosexuality was pretty negative. I was surrounded by straight people in my family friendship group. At school being gay was never even discussed by teachers, even in sex ed the only information we were given was about males and females, and I didn’t feel like this fit with who I was.

What was it like coming out?

In year 9 I came out to my best friend. I was starting to feel pretty unhappy hiding who I was all the time, and I went through some depression which was really hard. When I told my friend I was gay she said “Luke, we already knew”. I felt a huge weight lift; the fear of being rejected was gone.

Around 8 months after coming out to my friends I came out to my mum and brother, with the support of my boyfriend at the time. I have a lot to thank him for – it was his belief in me that allowed me to be real with my family and friends, and have the confidence to take up opportunities inside and outside school to develop my leadership skills which have taken me a long way.

Have you changed since coming out?

Coming out changes your perspective. It changes your values and what you want in life. It makes you more comfortable to go out, do what you want, date who you want, and just be yourself.

What was it like being the only openly gay guy at school?

To be the first one to come out at school you kind of just have to take the ball and run with it. I stopped hiding, and became open and proud about who I am. Soon after I came out a year 12 student at the school came out as well – I was pretty proud that as a year 9 I had been able to take the lead and encourage others to stop hiding. Don’t get me wrong, it was very daunting. It’s scary putting yourself out there and having to listen to homophobic comments from the few that are always going to be ignorant about it, but the school as a whole was great. The wellbeing team were brilliant at helping me when there was bullying happening, and it was there that I started really wanting to help LGBTI young people more formally at school.

Tell us about the work you have done supporting other LGBTI young people?

When I was in year 12 I was nominated as the welfare prefect, and along with the wellbeing team started the Ringwood Secondary College Stand Out group. Stand out is a group of young people who are passionate about stamping out homophobia and transphobia at school. When we started the group all my friends joined, which was really cool. Since I have left school the group has continued and I have been going back to support it. I love it because I still get to make a difference, and use my experience to help others. I want the work of Stand Out to be able to spread to other schools in the area – I know first hand how hard it can be dealing with homophobia, and I want to show people that support is available. I want LGBTI young people to know that you still have help out there, no matter how hard it is, there are still people who can help you.

What is your dream for LGBTI young people in Maroondah?

My dream for Maroondah’s LGBTI young people is that they can come out and not have any fear. That they can say that they’re gay and their parents respond “excellent”.

What’s your advice for Maroondah community members to support our LGBTI young people?

Think about it. If you were in the situation of having to come out to family and friends, how would you want to be treated? Put yourself in their shoes.

Tiarn, 23 – Bible College student

I grew up in a Christian family and we went to church. I have been through stages of not going to church, but I am a Christian and my faith is a big part of who I am.

It was around late high school when the feeling of being attracted to girls became more prominent. I spoke to some trusted Christian friends, and suddenly this really intimate part of me was acknowledged by others not as an identity, or a real part of who I am, but as both a spoken and unspoken “struggle”. Homosexuality was seen as something you could overcome, rather than part of a person’s being. I still liked guys, but I had only ever been taught that same sex attraction was wrong, so I felt really guilty for feeling this way. Some of my extended family is really conservative, others would use really derogatory language, and others would ask me ‘so is there a boy in your life?’ – questions society had taught them to ask. I felt like everyone around me was super negative about a really important part of me. So, I chose to actively fight my attraction to girls because I had been taught that that was the right thing to do.

Six years later I was still attending church, considered myself a Christian, and valued my relationship with God, but I got to a point of seeing how the church was referring to my gay  friends (and the wider LGBTI community in general) and I thought “No, this is not ok. You want these people to know God but at the same time you’re treating them horribly” and is it actually wrong to be same sex-attracted? I went to speak to a mentor of mine, and she gave me advice I needed to hear. She said “You need answers, and you can’t just sit here and wait for them to come to you.” So I went looking. I went online, I googled everything I possibly could to do with being bisexual and Christian, I YouTubed, and I listened to people’s stories. I spoke to my old Youth and Young Adults pastor, and I sat with my questions for a really long time. I got to a point though, where I thought “yeah, I do like girls, and I’m ok with it”.

In the process of reconciling both my sexuality and faith, I came out to my best friend – she responded terribly. I slowly started coming out to some other people, with mixed responses. Some were great, some not so much. My mum was really supportive which was fantastic.

I wanted to meet other people who were going through a similar experience to me – but I didn’t know where to find them! A good friend of mine and I looked online and we started attending a lesbian/bi girls social group. I came home from that thinking “If I’m bi, is this what I have to be like?” I was searching for what it meant to be a part of the LGBTI community, but so far what I had found didn’t seem quite right.

I wanted to find somewhere to meet Christian friends who could hold their faith and sexuality together, without one outweighing the other. My old Youth and Young Adults Pastor told me about a group for LGBTI Christians that he had been working with for many years and I attended the group with him for a while. As I was working through this stuff it just so happened that another guy from my Church turned up at the same group! I made some more friends, and it was good to have people in my life who could understand some of my experience.

I was later asked to be involved in a brainstorming/discussion group for a course for Christians who were working through their faith and sexuality; I also attended the course when it ran and I made a whole heap of new friends. Friends who have been able to push through, and work to a point that they can stay true to both their faith and sexuality, not have to deny one for the sake of another.

I want young people to know that there are some churches that are totally accepting of LGBTI young people. For some young people though, the message that they are getting from their church is that LGBTI identity and faith don’t mix. Some try to ‘pray the gay away’, and some just won’t acknowledge it. This adds to the general fear of those around them saying ‘you’re not ok’. A fear that you’re not going to be accepted, that you can’t come out or everyone will hate you.

Sexuality and gender identity is a hot topic within the church. People have taken verses from the bible and read them as meaning that homosexuality is wrong, but if they would just read them in context they would see that’s not the case. I have come across Christians who are totally ok with homosexuality, as well as some who are not, and some are just scared to question what they have been told from a pulpit time and time again.

I see a ‘gap’ in the Church for young LGBTI Christians. I have been talking to people about this and would love to get something started to support them. Jesus calls people to love. For too long, Christians have been mistaking being ‘tolerant’ of the LGBTI community as loving them. Tolerance is conditional love, and Jesus calls us to love unconditionally.

My dream for LGBTI young people is a lack of fear, visibility, the knowledge that they’re not alone, and the belief that they’re not broken. I want them to be able to walk in to a church and feel loved, and for churches to understand that being of diverse gender or/and sexuality is not sinful, and tolerance is not love. 

Tamara, 19 – Melba College graduate

Being LGBTI can mean that you don’t feel like you fit with your straight friends, but I find that being Bisexual can mean that I feel like I don’t fit with my Gay & Lesbian friends either. I hate labels, and it can be really hard when people, whether they’re gay or straight, tell me to ‘just choose’. I can relate to anyone, but when it comes to sexuality I get shit from both sides – after a while it starts to get to you.

Growing up my family never really spoke about any other option than being straight. I thought I was a bit different but I couldn’t work out how. When I got a bit older I went to Minus18 with some friends, they had gone before and were really comfortable in their own skin. Going to minus18 I felt like I was at home. For the first time I felt like I could be comfortable in my own skin, I thought ‘wow, I’m not weird’. It was the best!

I find that people talk about being pro gay marriage or pro gay rights, but bisexuals are only mentioned in a negative way, like ‘it’s just a phase’.

I don’t like the whole thing of labels. I could fall in love with a guy, or I could fall in love with another girl. Relationships are about connectedness, feeling love, not the gender of a person.