I didn’t realize I was gay until I hit my early twenties. I went to Catholic and Anglican schools in small towns. I paid attention during sex-ed. While it wasn’t all damnation and spontaneous conception, the possibility of being LGBTQI+ simply never came up. It was as if the majority of adults had decided to suppress a parallel reality through sheer force of will, and largely, they succeeded.
Left: Jodi Foster being asked about boys in an interview in 1979.
Right: Five-year-old me. Spot the difference.
Luckily, I also led one of those charmed childhoods where I was allowed to read pretty much whatever I could get my hands on. ‘Fall on Your Knees’ by Ann-Marie MacDonald was the first book that really resonated with my growing sense of self. In fact, it was very much like being punched in the gut, doubling over with the wind knocked out of me, and when finally able to breathe again, murmuring: “I’m gay,” softly, so softly. Then louder, with wonder. “I’m gay?”
A lot has changed over the past decade. Queer storylines hit TV. The internet evolved, spawning Tumblr and Archive of Our Own (AO3), empowering another LGBTQI+ generation and filling in the gaps in their education. I met queer people in happy, long-term relationships, some with children, some with cats (some with both). Many of them were married overseas in one of the 23 countries that now recognize their right to partnership and acceptance. In fact, 760 million people now live in countries that legally recognize gay marriage. Unfortunately, we don’t live in one. Yet.
Coming out to my family was a decision I delayed for years, terrified of potential Catholic outrage and small town repercussions. Luckily, my fear was misplaced on both counts. The landscape of sexuality acceptance has changed immeasurably since I was in high school. Sure, a lot of us seem to die tragically on TV, and we still cop a fair bit of discrimination, but we’re here. Queer relationships are more common and more visible than ever, something thirteen-year-old me really could have used.
I’m lucky to live in Australia for so many reasons. I eat three meals a day, have access to clean water and can study and work in whatever field I choose. I can walk down the street in a t-shirt emblazoned with ‘the future is queer’, even in a small town on the NSW south coast. This postal vote is important, even though it’s likely to stir up a lot of hateful sentiment. Let’s protect the next generation of thirteen-year-olds, and the one after that, on and on. Hopefully, in a decade or two we’ll be looking back at 2017 as the year we finally stood up for each other, for every small town gay just trying to find their way.
So please check your electoral enrolment details and make sure your address is up to date, and make it a priority to vote.
Thanks from your resident hermit gay-mo. X