Culture

What I Learnt After Coming Out As Gay During The Marriage Equality Campaign

"I’m too young to tick Yes, but after months of taking shit as a result of this nonsensical vote, I finally feel like I have a say."

Last week I pressed send on the post that told all my Facebook friends I’m gay. My finger trembled above my phone for 30 minutes before pressing that button. When I finally did it, tears streamed down my cheeks.

This happened one month after I wrote a piece titled ‘Vote Yes for Marriage Equality! An Appeal From A Closeted Gay Teen’, published anonymously on this lovely website. I planned to never show anyone I knew — I was still closeted. I felt it had to stay like that for a little while longer. It wasn’t until I dealt with one too many conversations from No and Yes voters alike — all talking about my existence as an abstract issue — that I realised what I wanted to do.

I felt like the opinions of the people I know and love would not be changing unless I personalised what is going on in our country.

I really don’t know where I’d be right now if this absurd non-binding postal survey didn’t exist. Would I be out? Would I still be hidden? Would I be happy? Regardless, here we are. I’m too young to tick Yes, but after months of taking shit as a result of this nonsensical vote, I finally feel like I have a say.

I Didn’t Think It Would Be Like This

I’ve always tossed and turned about how I would come out. I’ve considered laying my heart on the line in front my family, nervously asking for their support. I’ve also always thought it’d be a bit of a laugh if I posted “I’m straight” on April Fools’. I didn’t think it would be like this.

This postal vote has forced me to not only have to ask for support from my family, but beg for support from the public. My future (and my future safety) is in other people’s hands.

I have been in too many circumstances where people have relayed homophobic beliefs or straight-out told me they’re potentially voting No. Before my post, I had to try my hardest to instil into these people that what they were saying was ridiculous; that they weren’t going to be the ones that would be abused for voting No; that they were targeting an already struggling minority. But that fear of being outed kept me holding my tongue. 

After months of taking shit as a result of this nonsensical vote, I finally feel like I have a say.

I hate to say it, but sometimes I can forgive people for their bigoted views in relation to my existence. Most straight people can’t know how excruciating it is to stay silent when your basic human rights are being picked apart through a vote. Most straight people can’t understand the level of uncertainty this survey brings to the future of people just like me. Most straight people can’t understand how suffocating it is to be trapped for your entire life, because your society hasn’t yet handed down a verdict on the worth of your life and love.

Education and empathy are so important in transcending a culture of silence and prejudice to one of acceptance and love, and that’s why I needed to share what I wrote.

After clicking send, a wave of emotion washed over me. I sat home alone, on my bed, crying as comments of support trickled through. I knew I was going to be okay when my twin sister came in to hug me after seeing the post. She told me that, despite everything, I was still ugly :,-). I knew I was going to be okay when two close mates knocked on my door in the late hours of the night to give me a hug and tell me nothing was going to change. I knew I was going to be okay when hundreds of people I cherish and respect openly expressed their support to me — and the Yes vote. 

My Grandpa (the legend) even came over yesterday to give me a ‘coming out’ apple pie from Coles.

By posting my story online, I was able to completely steer the wheel in terms of how I wanted my experience to be perceived. I was able to expose my fears, my wants and myself to everyone I knew, on my terms. The internet is crazy! 

This Isn’t All About Me

After coming out, I was also flooded with personal stories from people who empathised with my own. One girl — while out to her parents — felt unsafe sharing herself to others because of the place we live. She told me she was reassured by the warmth I received from the community through my post.

A few messages, however, really put my privilege into perspective. A supportive stranger told me about how her girlfriend was part of a religious family, and that her brother believed gays should be burnt to death. My elation turned into anger when I realised — despite myself now being open and accepted in my community — there were still teens trapped in oppressive environments.

Keep letting your LGBTIQ+ mateys that you’re with them every step of the way.

I want everyone who read my post and its comments to know that just because I was embraced, it doesn’t mean we have won. It takes one click on the No hashtag or the Coalition For Marriage Facebook page to see that there is a rampant group of people who still believe their humanity is more important than my own. One Facebook, Twitter or Instagram circle doesn’t represent the majority. Keep letting your LGBTIQ+ mateys that you’re with them every step of the way.

I have been completely astounded by the outpouring of love and respect from the people I appreciate most. I’ll be forever thankful for the people around me and their overwhelming support, but we must remember there are people who are in the opposite circumstances. 

It wasn’t until after my post, my friends and family have made me realise, being gay really is no big deal. (Mum’s still making me unpack the dishwasher!) If only my government thought the same. 

Feature image: Roberto Tadeo/Flickr CC

Ben Freeman is 17, came out as gay on Facebook and I guess he writes now. Contribute to his obsession with Instagram at @ilovepasta2000 and follow him on Twitter at @b3nfreeman because he only has 43 followers. (Hi mum!)