Australian country music star Beccy Cole will perform at her first official LGBTI event since coming out as a lesbian on the ABC’s Australian Story in July. Headlining at this week’s International Lesbian Day Expo, being held at the Wickham Hotel, Cole said she was thankful to the LGBTI community for helping her to feel so accepted and welcome.

“It means the absolute world. I had no idea up until this point how much it would mean but it’s such an important thing for me to feel that sense of belonging to that group,” Cole told the Star Observer.

“I’ve always been so excited when I’ve had gay men and women come to my show because I got to feel part of the group. But to be performing in front of a predominantly gay group for me is so great and adds to that feeling of acceptance and of who you are. It’s a lovely feeling.“

Cole said she was perfectly happy being labelled as Australia’s ‘gay country music star’ but is also aware that being gay doesn’t define her music.

”Being a lesbian has very little to do with that fact that I’m a singer… lesbian music isn’t a genre,” she said.

“I’m very proud of who I am and I feel very welcome in the gay community – I always have, even when I was in the closet. None of this is new to me.

“You can’t turn your back on who you are and it was my decision to come out and tell everyone where I’m coming from. It is as much a part of me as my music or being a mother. It is absolutely me. It doesn’t make me an activist, I’m just someone going to sing somewhere.”

Having a lesbian following is not a new experience for Cole who has always been keenly aware of the make-up of her fans and audience.

“There always has been and I think that maybe their gaydar had gone off or maybe I’ve been seen as a strong chick singing about strong issues, jumping on the drums and guitar and banging a song out,” she said.

“There’s always been an element there and I think it became a little bit known within that circle as time went on.

“After coming out I hoped I wouldn’t lose any part of my audience and I don’t feel that has happened. I look out into the audience now and I see everyone getting along really nicely.”

While being aware of her lesbian following, being aware of her own sexuality hasn’t come easily to Cole.

“In hindsight I can look back to crushes on teachers at high school, like a lot of people can, and it will make sense. Ever since my early 20s my focus was on my career and music, and I honestly thought in my head that I didn’t have time for boys but looking back now it’s obvious that I really just didn’t want them.”

Cole has been overwhelmed by the amount of support she has received since Australian Story, but while almost all of the feedback was positive, she has had some unfavourable reactions.

“I’ve had a slight bit of feedback from what I’d call ‘radical Christians’, not that I have anything against religion. There was a group that put out a press release assuming so many things about my sexuality after watching 28 minutes of me on the TV,” she said.

“I also had a card sent to me from a woman who claimed to have been saved after finding Jesus saying ‘It’s not too late’ and ‘Jesus loves me’ and that he could be the love of my life if I would just give him a go.

“I returned the most gorgeous card of two women kissing saying ‘It’s not too late,’” Cole cheekily added.

Cole credits her son for giving her the inspiration and courage to publicly come out, saying that his love and acceptance of everyone amazes her.

“He has a wonderful acceptance for people from all walks of life and minorities. I love his heart,” she said.

“Off his own back he did an anti-bullying video that has taken off on YouTube, despite my name not being attached to it at all. It’s had over 50 000 views.

“I love that he takes a stand. He told me that when he took a stand at school, it must have been how I felt when I came out. I’m just so proud of him.”

The International Lesbian Day Expo is on Saturday, October 6 at the Wickham Hotel from midday-6pm.

INFO: www.qahc.org.au/lesbian

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