I WAS brought up in country Maitland — two and an half hours north of Sydney. Maitland is a working city — a rural town — authentic in its isolation. I was the eldest of two to Kerrie and Anthony Price and we lived a normal country life. My mother worked at a local primary school and my father worked in construction. My early years were not indifferent to many others, and happily, my life was largely unremarkable.

My mother decided very early that I was to follow in her steps and become a teacher. It was the done thing in a town like Maitland, but I wanted more. I had big dreams of a political life.

I acknowledged I was different at 17. Clearly disinterested with girls, I instead discovered a love of books and stories. And because of this there was bullying. A “poofter”, they called me — a pretty unimpressive insult in retrospect. But it hurt, and perhaps still does. I remember after a particularly cruel incident I came to realise that I was probably the deviant they suspected. It seemed to make sense and I started to accept it.

It wasn’t long after that I built up the courage to tell my mother that I was gay. This didn’t come easily to me, but my mother had shown kindness in the past to gay people, taking in a friend of mine who was left homeless after coming out to his parents. He had lived with us for six months.

My mother’s reaction would probably rate a B-minus. Her initial response was to deny the fact I had told her I was gay. Categorically. She then began blaming herself. But she was only protecting me and all the while I’m convinced she loved me more for sharing this with her.

On April 10, 2011 my mother died. I was 21. I still can’t quite express the emptiness of the weeks that followed. I can recall her last conversation with me, still adamant I wasn’t gay.

A few months later I made the decision to move to Sydney and try my luck in the big city. A new start. I would be gay, myself and try my best at a successful career. My big dreams were on track.

My first job was in corporate education and I quickly began to realise that being gay was still an issue in the professional world. Even in Sydney. Somehow I had thought Maitland was the problem. Or my mother.

I began wondering what support network there was for young people wanting to enter professional life.

It wasn’t until late September 2014 that I stumbled upon Out for Australia — a mentoring program for young LGBTI-identifying people.

I cannot thank this organisation enough for the support it has leant me and the many inspiring individuals that are now a part of my life. It is not easy being gay in the professional world. Nor is it easy growing up gay in country NSW. But it is heartening to see the progress being made.

My mother was a strong woman and all she wanted was for me to be a teacher in Maitland. But I always wanted more. I feel this same sentiment is shared among many of my LGBTI friends and the community more broadly. Not only do I want equal rights, I want a seat at the table. I want the freedom to dream of holding the highest office in our country and have a real chance at getting there.

Mitchell Price is a National Executive member of Out For Australia. Follow Mitchell Price on Twitter: @mitchellprice_

To find out more about Out For Australia, and to become part of its mentorship program, visit outforaustralia.org

____________

**This story was first published in the June edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

© Star Observer 2017 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.