A Mallee mother has called on parents to be more open-minded when it comes to assuming their children’s sexuality to help combat stigma.
Last week Red Cliffs resident Helen Nicholas publicly supported a recent motion passed by the Mildura branch of the Labor Party to call for changes to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Nicholas told the Star Observer her 28-year-old gay son Leigh has as much right to marry as his brother and sister, but said it is attitudes on sexuality that need to change.
“My initial thoughts were how do you stop kids even having to come out? Wouldn’t it be better if all kids transitioned comfortably from child to teenager and adult regardless of their sexuality?” Nicholas said.
“Rather than assume all your kids are straight, which is what we did, we had no clue how to help Leigh. He basically had to work it out himself.
“We loved all our kids equally and suddenly Leigh’s in a very different place as a teenager than the other two.”
Nicholas urged parents, not just schools, to be more open-minded that their children may not necessarily be straight.
“There are always going to be people who aren’t going to get it and there’s going to be bullying for whatever reason … but most fair-minded people … have never had to think outside the square because they are straight, their kids are straight.
“They’ve never had to really think from a gay person’s perspective. They’re the target I’m trying to capture.
“The families with six- and seven-year-old kids, who are getting close to their teenage years, just prepare them for the fact that in this world, there is the possibility you’re not straight and that’s okay.”
Nicholas said it took her and her husband Rodney many years to fully disclose their son’s sexuality to the people in their lives.
“This year I thought, this is absolutely nonsense and I thought it’s time for me to come out too, so I came out to everyone at work and that went really well.
“I’ve probably done everyone an injustice in the past. There was no issue.”
Nicholas said she believes changing the Marriage Act would be a good start to send a message that being gay is okay.
“Whether Leigh chooses to marry or not is entirely up to him and [his partner] Gary and their relationship. Not every heterosexual couple chooses to marry but the choice is theirs to do so,” she said.
“The difference is gay people in love don’t even get the choice.”
Pictured: Helen and Rodney Nicholas with their son Leigh in 2009 on an overseas trip.