THERE’S a lot of discussion around Australia at the moment around how Indigenous cultures fit into the LGBTI world.
Traditionally they were never seen to fit, which is why a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of the LGBTI community experience homophobia and transphobia from within their own communities, despite the fact that back in the day no gay person of any race was really seen to fit.
When I think of this topic, I think of all of my friends and family who have supported me through coming out. Most of all, my mum.
She has been my guiding light when it comes to being myself and openly speaking up about these kinds of topics.
My coming out experience was quite low-key. I initially told my family and close friends but over time I gained the confidence to tell more people and the more I spoke, the easier it got. I learnt that I really did have support.
But my mum’s support was felt the most.
I remember the day I told her like it was yesterday: I sent her a text because I was too afraid to call her, but she rang me straight away and we cried together comforting each other with support over the phone.
She piped up and said, “oh yeah I knew, this isn’t a surprise to me”.
But from that day, knowing she there answering her phone when I was struggling regardless of what time it was, meant more to me than she knows. Big love mum.
Interestingly enough, when I consider my friends and biggest supporters throughout the process, the most supportive of those have been my Indigenous mob, while a lot of my non-Indigenous mates have backed away with little to say.
The support from my Indigenous friends and family helped me realise in so many ways that people like me do have a place within our culture.
There are so many Indigenous members of the LGBTI community in Australia who are in a position to become emerging leaders in our communities and throughout the country in all industries as strong role models. All of those people have support.
The Indigenous LGBTI community is fast becoming a small family or community within itself.
For me, as a 22-year-old gay Aboriginal man, I feel deeply proud of each and every gay, bi, trans, intersex, and queer Indigenous man, woman, boy, and girl.
Firstly, for freely being the people they are.
Secondly, for paving the way for our youth who come from strong cultural upbringings and are feeling the pressure of traditional culture blocking that.
Even through my time coming out and experiencing life without fear of rejection because of my sexuality, I’ve seen change in my mob.
No, I’m not the first gay Aboriginal fella, but I’m also not the last.
With each and every one of us that come out and be proud, I see more and more of our community support us and I see new strength in our mob.
We have to stick together, protect one another, and embrace the ability to feel freedom and trust in our own being.
And lastly, for the respect they are showing to themselves and the future community.
This means normalising it enough throughout society to make it easier for those struggling with identity.
It means creating a smoother ‘coming out’ and support around that transition.
I get asked a lot about what has kept me determined to make a difference in this area, and for me it’s about saving lives.
The statistics for Indigenous suicide rates across Australia scares me. I’ve been too frightened to even look at what percentage of those were members of the LGBTI community.
So without seeing those numbers, what motivates me is being a role model for those struggling with identity, a positive example of knocking down barriers.
I tell everyone this saying I came up with a while ago, and live by” stay true, stay proud, stay YOU.
I encourage everyone I come in contact with to interpret that in whatever way that comes to them.
For me, it’s reminding myself to always be true to who I am, proud of the cultures and communities I belong to, and to stay strong with both of those things in mind, always being myself.
Stay deadly and fly that rainbow flag, you mob!
To connect with Jake Gablonski you can find him on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/jakejgablonski/