Matthew, in his own words: “I think all gay men grow up under a shadow. There’s always that fear of not fitting in; not living up to expectations; of being different. It doesn’t matter where we grow up, the fears are the same and they come to define us. This is our shared heritage and I think it alters our lens for viewing the world. We understand discrimination, because we live it. We can put ourselves in other people’s shoes, because we’ve had to wear them to go unnoticed. To me, being gay means having a broad-spectrum understanding of the human experience.
I think my greatest success has been coming to know my place in the world. I spent much of my childhood feeling different, but not being able to explain why. But as I grew up, I found my tribe. I think gay friendships can feel more like family than family because that desire for belonging often underscores our youth.
The challenge for us, as a community, is ensuring that we don’t become too complacent. There are still political battles that need to be fought in Australia for LGBTI people. I take heart when I hear my students’ unanimous support for marriage equality. For them, marriage equality is about love. For me, it’s about that kid in the class who needs to know she’s not alone.
I never really got the chance to come out, my parents just sat me down after valedictory speech night and asked me outright. Mum was prepared. She had spoken to some PFLAG volunteers and they had sent her a bulging manila envelope full of brochures. It lay in the centre of the table throughout the whole conversation, while I texted updates to my not-so-secret boyfriend on my Nokia 3210. Mothers truly do always know.
Brisbane used to have a reputation as a bit of a conservative backwater. If you grew up gay in Brisbane, you escaped to Sydney the moment you could. But I think the push factors have dried up these days and we’ve come into our own as a city. People don’t feel compelled to leave the way they did. But after losing generations of gay men to other Australian capitals, the scene in Brisbane is young and still defining its own identity.
I think the best advice I could give my younger self is to be patient and to stop worrying about fitting in. After all, no-one who succeeds at fitting in has ever really stood out.”