In the lead up to co-hosting SBS’ coverage of the Sydney Mardi Gras, Sunday Life asked for me to write a piece about coming out in the age of social media. Please enjoy! Love, Faustina.
Sometimes the smallest action can set off a powerful chain of events. If I hadn’t chosen to dine alone one summer’s night two years ago, I may not have come to the realisation that I am a lesbian, nor have had the confidence to come out at a time when equality is still an issue in Australia. I’m sure my dinner for one was the reason why Brenda, then a stranger – with friends Michelle and Helen – initiated a conversation.
I had returned to London, the city where I was born, for work. The UK is renowned for creative television and I wanted to explore my options. My initial encounter with Bren, Mich and Helen was brief, but the instant connection I felt led us to make plans for later that week.
While Mich and Helen bailed, Bren showed up, a bright, direly Irish red heart with blue, jewel-like eyes and a chatty vivacious demeanour. And with the comfort of my anonymity, I felt secure to completely open up.
Bren had just come out of a relationship with a woman. I was shocked. Up until that point I assumed she was straight. Then she told me about Mich and Helen, a couple who had been together for almost a decade. The shock and surprise gave away to a sense of belonging. As she swiped through photos on their Instagram, particularly photos of Mich who, like me, is mixed-race, I thought “These are my people! This is me!”
It took a few more hours to drum up the courage to admit it out loud. As Brenda suggested we go and check out some men for me, I found myself saying, “I haven’t really told anyone his before but… I’m gay.”
No men entered our orbit that night other than the waiters who plied us with espresso martinis while a deep and meaningful conversation ensued til 3am. I had made a true ally and a friendship with a woman I felt I had known forever.
I went home and cried waves of emotions into my pillow, an outpouring of 30 years of repressed feelings. Elated, but also frustrated that it had taken so long. My mind was connecting all the dots; the feelings towards women when I was a kid and how I shut it down because I didn’t think it was right. All the gay slurs I’d heard – and even used myself – during my ignorant high school years.
I was making sense of all my social anxiety. The random – yet clearly intentional – gay girl dreams in my mid-20s; the steams of thoughts I’d never dare entertain. Then a bigger wave hit me – the overwhelming relating of having to tell my family and friends. What would they think of me? What did I think of me? I was realising the truth, hurt and emotion that comes with being a “minority of one”.
This idea is summed up succinctly in Magda Szubanski’s memoir, Reckoning “The crucial difference between Lesbian Gay Transgender Bisexual Intersex and Questioning people and other minorities is this: in every minority group the family ashes the minority status. In fact, it is often something that unites them. But gay people are a minority within the family.”
I wanted that summer with Bren, Mich and Helen to last for an eternity. They became my tribe. Life finally made sense. In their company, I felt whole. And never in my life had I felt so alive.
In LA, while armed with this new-found sense of self, I was apprehensive – no, terrified of dating. I delayed the obvious next step and borrowed a lesbian-living-how-to-guide from the library. When I told Bren she was bewildered. “What are you doing with an A-Z of lesbianism? Put the bloody book down and get out there!”
I told my family and a handful of friends. In the week leading up to my birthday I considered using the occasion to come out. I knew that being vocal in some way, would allow someone, out there, to feel the same sense of support. To extend the strength that Bren, Mich and Helen had given to me. And, in this small-worldly digital age, I also wanted to ensure the message came from me.
So in a gorgeous neighbourhood cafe in Beachwood Canyon, Los Angeles, I got together with a small group of friends to celebrate with a rainbow cake. After the birthday party, I posted my coming-out blog on my site, then an image from the night on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. By then, it was late afternoon back in Australia.
The response was breathtaking, with Snapchats and direct messages on Instagram from young girls and boys caught in a time I had just left. The tribe had expanded. They told me they felt included, more comfortable with who they are, some even wanting to celebrate with their own rainbow cake!
I’ve met incredible, intelligent women over the past year. Women who counsel gay youth on suicide prevention lines (in a time where LGBTQI people are much more likely to suffer depression and take their own lives than heterosexuals), journalists, academics and writers with impressive and inspiring bodies of work, to teachers and lawyers.
I’ve learnt about the evolution and need for events like the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival, now in it’s 38th year. I’m grateful to be out at a time when equality has become the centre of political and cultural debate. Not all of it is pretty, but every inch toward an equal society helps. My small decision to accept an offer of conversation from strangers helped me in ways I could never have imagined. How incredible would it be if we all acted, in some small way, to help eradicate the notion of a “minority of one” and instead foster acceptance for all.
My small decision to accept an offer of conversation from strangers helped me in ways I could never have imagined. How incredible would it be if we all acted, in some small way, to help eradicate the notion of a “minority of one” and instead foster acceptance for all.