How I Told My Conservative Christian Parents I Was Gay
Coming out is tough at the best of times.
It can be uncomfortable, confronting and highly emotional, even for those with the most supportive and understanding of families. At worst, it means being cut off and shunned from the people you love.
That my parents held leadership positions in the Uniting Church and other Christian organisations left me terrified of revealing my sexual orientation. I had grown up believing gays were an abomination, destined to burn in hell and the AIDS virus was a curse from God. Rev Margaret Court was a revered contemporary of my parents. As a family, we even hosted Rev Fred Nile to our house for dinner.
I had lived a secret life for three years, with my “friend” Marion before I had the courage to sit my mum down for the dreaded chat. I was 23 years old, working in the public service, while studying to become a journalist and had purchased my first home. I was a strong and confident young woman but lived in fear of what my family would think and how they would react.
There were many tears as I confronted mum with the truth -- Marion was more than a friend, she was my girlfriend.
I watched the tears of disappointment and despair run down her face and sat in silence as she expressed her hope that it was a phase.
I have always highly respected my parents and valued their opinions, so of course it was painful for me. But through the heartbreak came some heart-warming words, that even though my parents would never accept my sexuality, they would always love me. That declaration of unwavering love came as a comfort especially knowing our diametrical views on homosexuality, which remained even through the marriage equality referendum.
Throughout the secret years, Marion had been welcomed to all our family gatherings. Fortunately, after I came out, Marion was still welcomed at family events, although we could never show our affection or celebrate anniversaries like other couples within the family.
Twenty years and two relationships later, my mum has realised it’s not a phase. My partner, Stevie, has also been welcomed into the family and I feel more of an openness to display my affection for the woman I love.
I count myself incredibly lucky to be able to live an authentic life with the love of a supportive family. Sadly, thousands of LGBTQI Australians can’t say the same. For many, the gay community provides their only solace and refuge. Centres and services to help people embrace their sexuality are a necessity and gay bars and clubs create a safe haven.
In regional Australia where there are fewer services, gay venues and limited exposure to different walks of life, I wonder whether LGBTQI people face greater challenges. Having not grown up or come out in a country town, I can’t say whether “the only gay in the village” would face more discrimination, or if their differences are celebrated? I’m keen to find out.
Network 10 and Screen Australia have launched OUT HERE, an initiative that gives Australians the opportunity to produce a documentary focused on LGBTQI+ diversity in rural and regional communities.
Storytellers are invited to apply for one of three grants of up to $80,000 to help develop ideas about being LGBTQI+ in country towns, into a documentary. The successful documentaries will then be broadcast on 10’s digital streaming platform 10 Play.
You can apply here.