'I'd Never Heard A Story Of Someone Coming Out That Ended Positively'

Growing up gay in Sydney's western suburbs -- an area of Australia which overwhelmingly voted 'no' to same-sex marriage -- wasn't easy. It was even less so in the 1980s and 1990s.

Dan Monaghan, 36, didn't have any LGBTQ friends growing up. Queer culture wasn't represented in the media. The phrase "that's so gay" was still used as a way to describe something bad, and the AIDS crisis meant gay men were stigmatised in more cruel ways than ever before.

"It was probably on the cusp of what could have been terrible and what was also not perfect," he told 10 daily.

"It was hard for the people who came out in high school because they were often vilified, called things like f**got or p**fter."

Dan with his family as a young child. Photo: Supplied.

Dan attended a Christian school in the Hill's district during the week, and went to church on the weekends. Both institutions had a clear message: gay wasn't good.

"I'd never heard a story of someone coming out that ended positively," Dan said.

"When you've gone to church and you're told what you are is not right, that's instilled in you."

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In the 2016 plebiscite on same-sex marriage, 12 of the 17 electorates which voted 'no' were from western Sydney. It blew the stats out across the state, meaning that despite some NSW electorates having more than 80 percent of people voting  'yes', as a percentage, NSW had more 'no' votes than any other.

In Dan's electorate of Greenway, more than 43,000 people voted against his right to marry (the final result was 46 percent yes, 54 percent no).

How Sydney voted in the same-sex marriage plebiscite. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

It meant that when Dan married his now-husband Andrew in late 2018 -- six years after they met, and a year after same-sex marriage became legal -- thousands of people from his childhood community weren't too happy about it.

Thankfully, that didn't include his family. Dan had come out to his sister when he was 21 and having "the time of my young gay life", and a year later to his parents. Although they're both incredibly supportive now, there were some "very intense conversations" in the early days.

"I think the education was something we all needed to go through," Dan said.

Dan and his husband Andrew on their wedding day. Photo: Supplied.

Dan and Andrew knew they wanted to get married, but for most of their relationship couldn't. Like many same-sex couples in Australia they'd considered going overseas, but ultimately felt it didn't have the same meaning.

"I didn't want to go somewhere and get married if I couldn't come home to where it was recognised," Dan said. "To not be recognised in your own country... that would have been an issue."

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The couple wed in an intimate ceremony in Jervis Bay -- the place of their third date -- and are exploring how to have kids in Australia, something that's not as easy as it sounds.

"If adoption was easy in this country, we would chase down that way quite quickly," Dan said.

It's the next step in the fight for equality, he said. Queer people have the same rights as heterosexual people to get married, but that doesn't mean Australia is 'there' yet.

"I think when you're a minority -- whatever that minority is -- there is always a way to go."

Dan Monaghan is Network 10's Head of Programming.

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