When I came out, my family's world changed forever — but they've come to embrace it one step at a time.
I came out to most of my extended family through reality TV. And while I knew going on Australian Survivor meant making this public, I wasn't quite expecting my opening words on the show to be me casually telling [fellow contestant] AK I was "totes homo".
It was great, though. Supportive texts came in and it felt like the end of a long process of acceptance. It was out there, out of my control — and I was really happy about it.
But it wasn't always this easy or simple.
I sat on the edge of my sister Sarah's bed; I was 17, she was 20. We were hanging out as we always did — only this time our hang out time had a little more purpose than discussing why Ladette to Lady was a great show. Spontaneously, I told her. She was amazingly supportive but also worried — worried about what that meant for me and my life, and how it could lead to others judging me. We decided then to put it on hold until after high school.
High school finished. And there I sat at the table with my parents and sister, forcing the fact that I was gay out of my mouth. To be honest, it went better than expected. I didn't get kicked out or yelled at. But it was really confronting for both my parents. Partly because they're Italian and constantly think about grandchildren, although I assured them I still wanted kids. But also because — especially in the case of my dad — they didn't understand it at all. Acceptance took a while, and in this time I learnt a few things.
Be patient. Be gentle.
You can tell someone, "Hey, being gay really isn't a big deal at all", but you can't force them to instantly change their mindset and be okay with it. I learnt this quickly as the "I don't want to talk about it" response was consistent when I tried to bring up my sexuality.
I'm not going to lie. I wanted to yell at my dad. To tell him to take this more seriously. To try harder. But it was better I didn't. He was coming around, albeit very slowly. And seeing as though my sexuality came as such a shock to him, he was going to take a good while to recover. Understanding this led to me only bringing it up on rare occasions and, when met with resistance, I backed off.
Although he was defensive and quite closed on the issue, I could tell he was at least trying. And as long as there is some level of effort towards acceptance I think it's not a bad idea to give people the space to come to terms with things themselves.
Don't feel guilty.
It's easy to feel bad about yourself or guilty when people close to you are struggling with your sexuality, but you shouldn't.
You have no control over your sexuality. I truly believe that if your sexuality causes other people grief, then that's their problem, not yours. You aren't responsible for anyone else's lack of acceptance.
If you make it a non-issue, others will also see it as a non-issue.
When telling other's about my sexuality I tried hard to say it extremely casually — as if I was telling them I ate plain toast for breakfast. I found that the more I said it wasn't a big deal, the less of a deal people made of it. For me, it made coming out easier, and I believe seeing other friends and family members treating my sexuality as such a non-issue helped make my dad see it that way, too.
Despite this, everyone's personal situation is different. You have to make your own judgement call on what you think is right for your circumstance. But I'm hoping that in time sexuality becomes a non-issue, and the story I share today becomes completely redundant.
To fast-forward, Dad came around. Survivor has definitely helped that. Dad not only accepted me for who I am, but was proud of me for it.