How homophobia affected me

My own struggle with intolerance and discrimination taught me that things really do get better, writes Isabelle Cox.

The Westboro Baptist Church are perhaps the world's best known homophobes.

The debates occurring in Australian politics about gay marriage, mental health, and the rights of LGBTQI people have reached the zenith of their destructive discourse. While such discussions have the potential to raise awareness about the struggles of the gay community, they also give platform to voices that claim gay marriage will destroy “family values”, make “gay children” and even, in the words of Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, legitimise bestiality.

How such ignorance still permeates the 21st century is beyond me.

I am comfortable admitting that I have undergone tremendous struggles being bisexual, as has my homosexual twin brother. I was bullied in school for being in a same-sex relationship and was socially ostracised, as my ex-girlfriend didn’t want to come-out for fear of further discrimination. I performed worse than expected in the HSC because I suffered depression and suicidal thoughts from this bullying. My brother, uncomfortable with his own sexuality, was the main instigator of rumours. But my brother is now comfortable, out, and doesn’t let his sexuality define him. He’s also my best friend – a kind, loving, and compassionate person who doesn’t give a shit about what people think of his sexuality. He is happy with his partner and I hope someday they will be allowed to marry and live together, ‘til death do they part.

Men have told me that they have the ability to “turn” me, not realising that I am sexually attracted to both sexes. I have had mental health issues exacerbated by men and women calling my preference “disgusting”. I’ve been told I will grow out of this “stage”. My own father said: “Everyone experiments when they’re young.” I wanted to scream: this isn’t a stage. This isn’t something that will stop when I turn 30. I have been told by my own extended family that it was maladjustment during childhood that made me gay and that I won’t go to heaven (not that I care much).

But it is insulting that despite being a caring, loving, intelligent, and passionate person, I am somehow going to hell because of my sexual preferences. How is this fair? It’s not. People don’t understand the discrimination that can happen on a weekly basis. Luckily, university is a much more open environment.

The Westboro Baptist Church are perhaps the world’s best known homophobes.

I have friends who are transitioning, transgender, bisexual, and queer. I understand their pain when they say they fear the judgment of others, even from within the gay community. For instance, in the lesbian community it might be a surprise to know that some women are judged on being femme or butch. Just because I have long hair and like fashion, wear makeup most days, have a small but noticeable tattoo, and a blog that is dedicated to art, that doesn’t mean I am “femme”. I am not a fan of the Oxford Street stereotypes, but why should I judge those who engage in that subculture? And why is it even a subculture in the first place? Why is Mardi Gras criticised for being too over the top? Who really gives a shit?

If you judge someone for being gay, you’re a homophobe – and let me tell you, that isn’t something to be proud of. I can’t bully you for being Australian, or straight, or conservative Why should other people who don’t know me care who I am or what I do? Why should friends discuss my sexual habits behind my back? Why should my suicide attempt be an open topic for discussion?

No one should force another to be “outed”, because it’s a personal choice that is very difficult to undergo. I am ashamed to say I have spread rumours about people being gay, and I am incredibly sorry to these people. I apologise wholeheartedly: no one should have to undergo that.

Discrimination, mental health issues, and the scourge of conservative politics have affected my life, and they’ve affected the people I love and cherish with all my heart. Don’t let the discriminatory, divisive, and sensationalist rhetoric persuade you to become discriminatory yourself. Love is universal, and kids deserve a loving family. In the words of Ellen DeGeneres, a pioneer in gay awareness: “Things will get better, people’s minds will change, and you should be alive to see it.”