Pride Month 2019: Steph’s Story
During Pride Month 2019, batyr recognises the unique experiences of LGBTQIA+ people in Australia.
Being Herd coordinator (VIC) Steph Darling shares her story:
I think pride means something different for everyone. For me, my queerness is something that took a long time for me to find ‘pride’ in.
I remember from about 11, when I started to become aware of sexuality that the narrative of boy meets girl didn’t quite sit right with me. But I didn’t really know why.
Growing up, I had a tough relationship with my dad, and although I struggle to say it out loud sometimes, the absence of the relationship I had with him and my deep need to feel love and approval from him actually unconsciously pushed any queerness down and meant I sought that love and approval from the boys and men around me.
Somewhere in the midst of my anxiety and depression growing up, I failed to realise that by not accepting a large part of who I am, I was hurting myself. My internalised homophobia was part of why I felt such existential despair throughout some of my turbulent teenage years, although at the time, I didn’t realise this. It was as though I was hiding a secret from everyone, including myself.
Locking myself into a 5 -year hetero relationship from ages 14-19 kept me safe from the discrimination I saw others experience, and meant I didn’t have to fear being part of the hate crimes I heard about. Don’t get me wrong, I did love him, but once the romantic relationship was passed it’s used by date, I stayed in it because I was scared of having to explore what my sexuality meant to me.
Once I was out of school, I was exposed to more people like me but who were ‘out and proud’ and I always admired their bravery.
The first person who I ever felt totally validated by was my friend Lan. I have always appreciated her unapologetic nature in just being who she is. I met her through work and I still recall a day where I said something to her like ‘I mean, I don’t like girls’ and she actually laughed at me. In the most loving, unassuming and supportive way – as if to say ‘I know you do mate but you keep doing you till you’re ready’. This was the first time I had felt that the possibility of being queer was actually not a big deal, and after this I somewhat unconsciously but then very deliberately set out to find acceptance in this part of me. This involved starting to talk to the people in my life about it, talking to my psych about it and reading books like Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
Fast forward like 5 years from that moment with Lan and I feel so loved by and invested in the queer community. I don’t really like to label my sexuality, despite the fact that people seem to love to ask seemingly innocent yet highly insensitive questions like ‘so, wait are you gay?’ or ‘so, you’re bi then?’.
Personally, I find labelling something stops it from being fluid and ever-changing. Although, the word queer, I find quite liberating and I feel proud to identify with it. It’s the only word which, for me, describes how multifaceted sexuality, gender and attraction is.
So, I guess pride to me, is acknowledging that it shouldn’t have to be an admired act of bravery to be ‘out and proud’. But that it is! And that not all of us can, or want to be out. It’s okay to be discrete and you don’t have to be out to be proud.
LGBTIQA+ young people are faced with prejudice towards themselves and/or their community far too often and this harassment and abuse is a contributor to poorer mental health and reported higher levels of psychological distress.
We are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition, six times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and five times more likely to make an attempt on our life than our heterosexual peers.
The daily exposure to campaigning and negative campaign messages on the rights for same-sex couples is linked to negative consequences for our wellbeing.
With Pride Month coming to a close, please don’t stop being brave, showing up or being you. But also, it can be tiring to be brave and show up every day in the face of challenge.
So, we need to reach out to the people around us, our community and our loved ones. And if you’re not queer, and you’re not sure how to be a good ally, here is one simple tip; say something when you hear phobic slurs, ignorant questions and comments or misgendering (even when it’s unintended). It’s more fun to show up and be proud when others are there with us.
Pride month can be so empowering for some, but can be really tough for others, especially with all the media and social media pride content circling (both good and bad!), so if you or someone you know is struggling and would like some queer safe and friendly services to reach out to, check out these ones below.
- QLife – Call 1800 184 527 or use webchat 3pm-midnight everyday.
- Reach Out – Find a LGBTQIA+ services in your state/territory.
If you’re looking for a more specific service, get in touch with batyr and we can let you know about some of the services that exist in your region.
If you would like to learn how to share your story, register your interest to attend a ‘Being Herd’ workshop.