Growing Up Queer in the Country

— By 23 February 2012

We caught up with three very different people about what it was like for them growing up queer in rural areas.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hayley: I’m 15 and from Lara. I’ve been living here all my life.
Kane: I’m 16 and a half years old. I’m from Geelong, and I’ve been here all my life as well.
Markus: I’m 20, and I lived in Ballarat for 6 or 7 years.

So who do you live with?
Hayley: Mum, dad and three brothers.
Kane: I have a split family; step-mum, dad and sister. mum and step-dad.
Markus: My immediate family made up of my mum, step dad, step brother and full sister.

What was coming out like for you?
Hayley: About two years ago, I came out to friends and some family members. I’m not fully out to my family yet. Coming out was odd. It didn’t seem to phase many people, but the ones it did phase only seemed weirded out.
Kane: I came out last year to my immediate family, friends, youth workers, neighbours. Everyone was pretty surprised when I told them. I haven’t told my Dad yet though I’m not entirely sure how he’ll take it.
Markus: I came out as a lesbian firstly in early 2009 to my parents and my sister, and then to friends, and then extended family and neighbours. Most people were like “Yeah, so tell us something we don’t know,” which was comforting to know that they accepted me. I came out as transgender to close friends first in early 2010, and then my sister and parents in mid-2011. Mum was ok but in shock. She loves me but she isn’t sure about the transgender stuff, she’s a bit iffy still. It takes patience and understanding on both sides.  I’m not completely out to everyone as transgender; it’s a process.

What was the community’s reaction like?
Hayley: I was abused by a few girls because they were scared I’d “lesbian rape” them. WTF?
Kane: Everyone was pretty shocked. Some people made comments.
Markus: Most people don’t care. In saying that there are the odd groups of people who made derogatory comments about me being a lesbian and being transgender. I’ve been bashed, and had things thrown at me. All I do in those situations is take note of who it was and report them. Nothing will change if you don’t make some noise about the problem.

What was high school like for you?
Hayley: I came out at the start of year 7. Coming out made things a bit different – but it really wasn’t that hard.
Kane: I came out in high school. Looking back, it wasn’t the best idea for me. The wrong people found out, and everything became pretty hard.
Markus: I didn’t come out but it was assumed I was a lesbian. It was pretty confronting. I was having people assume my sexuality because of the way I spoke and dressed.

Do you feel that living in the country as a queer person is becoming safer?
Hayley: Yeah definitely. More and more people accept me for who I am.
Kane: I’m not sure, but support groups like GASP* (Geelong Adolescent Sexuality Project) help out heaps.
Markus: Yes. I know now that anyone who’s got a problem with me isn’t worth my time.

Do you think it is different for queer young people who live closer to the city?
Hayley: People find out faster. People in the country aren’t as adjusted to queers and as such, aren’t as comfortable and are a bit more judgmental.
Markus: I think in the city it’s publicised more and there’re younger people with potentially more open minds. In the country or rural areas people tend to be a bit more conservative.

What advice can you give to young queer people living in the country?
Hayley: Embrace it!
Markus:1) Be yourself. 2) Love yourself.
3) Confidence is key.
If you’re living outside of Melbourne, you can get in contact with WayOut Rural Youth and Diversity Project, pg 31.


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