Steve, in his own words: “Being gay means I was lucky enough to be born homosexual, to be born into this community that has existed in every cave, village and city for as long as we have existed as humans. Being gay gives me a connection to people I’ve never met, gives me a connection to a rich history, but most importantly it gives me a community that I care and fight for.
Being gay gives me the freedom to choose my own destiny, to be free from so many of the shackles that society dictates to the majority, I thrive in my difference and I believe this makes our entire society richer.
I think I’m too young to call anything I’ve done a success, I’d run the risk of looking a little smug. Living overseas, graduating with first class honors from a top university are all successes, but I have so many other people that I owe for these successes, I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of other people, so I don’t want to take all the credit for this.
Personally however I think my greatest success is my acceptance of who I am and the pride I now take in who I am. It’s a great challenge to overcome your insecurities, I’ve had many of them, and I continue to have them, but I’ve come to a point where I own my insecurities, and I’ve never been happier.
I like to say we’re always coming out, to a certain degree. We have to come out whether overtly or subconsciously to every person we interact with, our sexuality is such a huge influence on who we are as a person and what our place within society is. I’m sad to say there are certain times I have chosen not to come out in certain environments and keep cosy in a very glittery wardrobe. My ‘classic’ coming out was in two episodes, Mum first when I was 13 then Dad when I was 17. Mum’s first reaction was “never tell your father, I don’t know how he will react,” her reaction was one of fear, not of me and my sexuality but fear for how society will treat me. It’s so sad that parents of fags are genuinely afraid for their child because of how heterosexuals will treat them.
Dad’s first reaction was “I’m so proud of you, you’re an incredible young man and you will achieve great things” (I may be embellishing a bit, but it went something like that). My immediate response was to look at my Mum and say “ALL THIS TIME!!!” But I don’t hold a grudge, she knew no better, and unfortunately parents these days don’t know how to deal with their child coming out. The language around coming out is the same language as that of mourning, or the loss of a limb; “It’s okay, you’ll be the same person in my eyes,” “…well despite this, I still love you.” It’s like, really? Despite what? Despite the fact that your child has now joined the ranks of an incredible community, immediately making them more progressive, empathetic and happy, you’ll still love them? How condescending! There are schools of thought out there that homosexuality is the next step in human evolution, and with technological advancement the idea of heterosexuality for procreation will become null. So to the parents thinking it’s such a sad thing that your child has just evolved into an amazing little homo, shame on you, go bake them a rainbow cake immediately. Less of this “I suppose you’ll have to do” and more confetti at coming outs, please!
I’m an eternal optimist and have found my place in Melbourne’s LGBTIQ community during a period of relevant calm, though this will all change very soon with the inevitable introduction of marriage equality and the changing landscape in the response to the HIV epidemic. So my experience of the community lacks the nostalgia of ‘Club X’ and ‘Bar Y,’ which is so often the frame people view this question with. I have been so lucky to have discovered the community behind the bars (though ironically, it takes going to a bar to find these communities, I know, it’s like Inception). I had to find these opportunities myself, the volunteer work, learning from the old queens I respect so much, surrounding myself by likeminded people and running by my golden rule, “be infinitely kind,” and you will get infinite kindness in return.
I live in a Collingwood bubble, here in Melbourne that means I’m a “Northside gay” and I must have a beard. I’m very lucky that my local bar is one of the world’s longest-continuously running gay bars (The Laird, I highly recommend it) that is rich in history and in community to this day means that I have been well placed to develop a positive identity for myself and an experience of my community that is so positive. Every part of the LGBTIQ community has its stereotypes, for example The Laird is the quintessential hairy-chested, hypermasculine sometimes-leather bar. But nowhere else do I feel more comfortable vogueing it up on the dance floor and nowhere else do I feel so accepted for however I want to express myself. It sounds a bit silly, but in general about various scenes, it’s not about the beard, the six pack, the tan, the politics, it’s what you have inside that really counts, and people will see that and appreciate that. If they don’t, then you’re hanging around with the wrong people.
We have a diverse and rich queer scene here too, think boys, beards and heels, with a reputation for groundbreaking art and performance from Berlin to New York. This is Melbourne, we’re dirty, we lack pretense and glamour, we do ‘different’ and we’re all the more happy for it. Melbourne rocks.
(Advice to my younger self) Listen and learn. Everyone is smarter than you, everyone has something to contribute to you and you have the duty to take it on board and pass it on. I’ve learnt this now, but I wish I knew this when I was a pretentious teenager trying so hard to fit in. I’d say to myself, look at who you really are, stop pretending, stop trying, you’ll become yourself eventually so just stop wasting time trying to be someone else – once you do, you will never be happier.”