By Daniel Bird

 

What does Pride month mean to you and how has it changed for you over the years?

When I was growing up, Pride was a very niche celebration that I was aware happened in Sydney but was largely ignored where I grew up. Unfortunately I didn’t have many LGBTQI friends or community while I was growing up and I really didn’t know much about it other than it was supposedly wrong.

Throughout my lifetime I’ve seen Pride go from a small festival in a city far away to very mainstream and part of the makeup of most progressive cities. This is especially true since I moved to the US; I was overwhelmed at how safe and welcome I felt during my first June in LA. It was so disorientating to feel the level of support and celebration around something that held so much shame for so long.

For me now, Pride is about the freedom to not conform to society's very narrow definition of ‘normal’. It’s about letting everyone be who they want to be without needing to fit in. It’s about a rich life of experiences and a reminder that we don’t need to live the life our parents lived if it doesn’t match who we have come to be.

How has coming out shaped your life and/or your identity?

When I first came out, I had a close friend who called being gay ‘the cool club’. I quite liked that. I had a lot of creative and musical friends who I found so interesting and frankly it kind of was a cool club. I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many interesting people in the LGBTQI community that I otherwise would not have met and I’m grateful for that experience.

Earlier in my career I worked in a large Energy Company which is an old industry with a very straight macho culture. During that time, I had some wonderful mentors both in and out of the LGBTQI community that provided lots of support and gave me a sense of confidence to be myself and succeed despite the environment at work. I’m grateful to those people but recognize that not everyone is that fortunate. A lesbian friend of mine shared that it’s extremely difficult for her to come out to colleagues every time she starts a new job. She relives that trauma of assumed rejection which I’ve been grateful to have let go for quite some time.

I think being gay has allowed me to get a perspective and empathy that I would otherwise not have. I feel richer for having it as part of my identity and life experience.

Is there anything you wish you could say to those who strive to be effective LGBTQ+ allies?

Alliship is about education, listening and understanding on how to make a difference - very much like the Black Lives Matter movement that is happening right now. When folks who weren’t gay came alongside the community, we started to see real change in the political arena and the laws were amended that supported our right to a fair and equal life in most Western World democracies (with Australia being one of the last unfortunately).

After my own recent learning, I would also encourage all allies to stay humble and seek first to listen and understand. I thought because of my personal experience that I had an insight into some of the hardship in the BLM movement, but I have been shocked and humbled by what I have learned recently. It’s a constant reminder that we are all living our own lives and having our own experiences and we can all learn from each other.

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