I’m Avery, she/her, a NASCAR fan and I live in Brisbane.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have had to overcome in your life?
Coming out to my family. By far the worst, and best and scariest thing I’ve done. Since Pride Month is over I guess it’s something I can talk about. I knew I was queer when puberty hit at twelve or so. I didn’t exactly know what that mean back then. Queer used to mean ‘weird’ or just straight up gay. I’m glad it’s used as more of an umbrella term for the LGBTQIA+ community now. Back then I thought it was the worst thing I could be. Worse than a murderer, worse than someone who cheated on their partner, worse than someone who cheated on their math test.
I hid it for so many years. I continued to dress feminine even though it made me feel, just, plain wrong. I never had a boyfriend, which was fine for ages because my dad is very protective. But then I was seventeen, eighteen and my mum started asking me, ‘when are you going to get a boyfriend?’. You know, all those hounding questions relatives ask about your love life that are just so rude. ‘You could land such a great guy’, ‘why don’t you just try dating?’, ‘you’ll find someone to make you happy’. Just so undermining and passive aggressive.
I got a bit off topic, but it all does lead up to me coming out, I promise. I guess I just got tired of all the questions and all the harassing and when I moved out and into an amazing new place, I felt safer to be myself. It took another year or so before I really knew I had to tell my family.
How did you initially react to this challenge?
I laid awake at night, sweating, anxious, crying. My parents are old and old-fashioned. I heard horror stories about coming out, I heard good stories too but you rarely hold onto the good ones in your head very long. I practiced in my head, with friends, with my therapist. I promised them all I was going to do it. But I said to myself, no, I can’t do it, they will die thinking I’m going to marry some nice guy and live in the suburbs with my dog and two and a half kids.
But then the dreaded Christmas of 2015 came along. Every member of the family extended and everything was there. I wasn’t going to tell everyone right there of course. I was maybe going to whisper it to my mum in the kitchen when everyone was drunk, ‘Mum, I’m gay’. But then my grandparents started talking about Mardi Gras. And oh my god when I tell you it went downhill from there. It went downhill on fire.
My aunts and uncles started joining in on the bigotry. It was so bad. Just classic white family talking about something in a ‘safe space’ that they had no idea about. All of the cousins were quiet, including me. I was about to let it all slide under the rug but one thing was said by my dad that I will never forgot— ‘imagine being a fag’.
Did your reaction change toward the challenge?
I wasn’t scared anymore. It was so cool, like a scene from a movie, I stood up in front of everyone and close to crying, (I might add) and said, ‘I’m a fag’. And it was the funniest thing I have and will ever do or see in my life, hands down.
I haven’t felt such joy in that moment. Again, so cheesy, very movie-like, but I got up and left the room and, wow, the silence. I escaped from the room, got a beer, went outside and stayed outside until it got dark. I genuinely thought I would be living in the garden for the rest of my life, I thought ‘that bush looks comfortable’, and then I had a good laugh because . . . bush.
My favourite cousin came out later. Outside, not of the closet. He clinked my beer glass and said, ‘girls are hot, so I get it.’ Best reaction, honestly. I remember smiling so hard my face hurt. I knew it was all going to go to shit sooner or later but I was so powerful in that moment.
My mum came around after a few months. Jury is still out on my dad.
What did you ultimately learn? Good or bad?
I learnt how to come out, I guess. I learnt that blood is not thicker than water. You can choose your family and I found people who actually give a shit about me and not care about who I make out with. Being queer is a part of who I am but it isn’t all I am. I am so much more than just a label or my parent’s kid.
I also learnt that the Mardi Gras and Pride Month are incredibly important and I thank it everyday for starting that bigoted conversation so I could come out.
Do you often tell people about this challenge? Why or why not?
I Facetimed my friends soon after it happened and we call that Christmas, Black Christmas. It still haunts the holiday. But I guess it also makes it my coming out anniversary and Jesus’ birthday, which is cute. I tell my girlfriends and they think its awesome. It’s a very funny story to tell people in interviews too!
Would you go through it again for the same outcome?
The whole experience could have gone worse, honestly. I could have been kicked out of the family instead of given the silent treatment. I could have been beaten by my father. But he gave me a lecture which I completely zoned out of. My mum could have cried in front of me, but she didn’t. Just came to me afterwards and said she would try to learn and understand.
I guess I would do it all again. But if I could change one thing, I would have had someone recording it.