My mum came out as gay to my brother and I when I was eight. When she told us, my biggest question was, how does dating work?
My entire life, it has been my mum, my brother and me. We’re a pretty tight family and it’s always been like that. After my mum came out, not a whole lot changed. Everything was the same way it had always been, except we decided to never use the phrase ‘that’s so gay’ again. This wasn’t because the phrase was offensive to her, but because as my mum would say, ‘that’s just how some people are’.
People talk about coming out as being a life-long process – something they have to confront and think about every time they’re in new situations and around new people. I’ve come to realise it is a similar long-term process for the children of gay parents. As the child of a gay parent, I have to choose the right moment to tell people that my parent is gay, and then wonder if they are going to assume that I am gay as well.
When I started telling people that I had a gay mum, they had one of two different questions. The first was ‘how could she be gay’, because she had been married twice before, and the second was, ‘then how were you born?’ At first, it was fun to answer those questions by saying she didn’t know ‘til later in her life, but now when I get people my age asking, it’s more of a face palm moment, because people don’t seem to understand how sexuality works, which is frustrating.
To be honest, getting to witness so many different reactions can be a great conversation starter when I talk to people. Many of the people I talk to are accepting, but I have experienced a few insulting responses, where people either assume that I am gay as well or refer to gay people in a rather derogatory way. It’s not the idea of being gay that is offensive, but the stereotyping and assumptions that come from others.
In my early teen years, I spent a lot of time involved in a non-traditionally male sport (dance) and, when people knew what I did, they would assume I was gay. Even though I am not gay, I find the misunderstandings people have about what it means to be gay and how stereotypes still influence perceptions to be frustrating.
It can be cool having a parent who is different to most other parents. I have developed the understanding that family is about sticking together, love and kindness, rather than about having two parents of different genders who live together. I’ve also learnt a lot about diversity, and being accepting of differences has led to my being a support for many friends who don’t feel accepted by their own family.
Children are often accepting of difference, so it’s sometimes only when others (often people in a position of power) assert their beliefs that the difference can become an issue. For example, not long after my mother came out to us, she brought a friend around for us to meet. I remember asking my mum later if that friend was married, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it wasn’t legal for gay people to marry. It wasn’t until someone told me this, that I had any idea that other people might think the way someone lives is wrong.
I guess what I am saying is that aside from who they are attracted to, gay people are no different to anyone else. This is something I think is really important for people to understand. Living most of my life with a gay parent I believe I can say that with some conviction.
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USQ Bachelor of Creative Arts student.