FEW people have as documented a coming out experience as Beccy Cole. The whole nation watched in 2012 when the award-winning country music star revealed she was a lesbian on an episode of ABC’s Australian Story.
Although the announcement was news to most, in reality the program represented the end of a long journey beginning more than 15 years earlier, when Cole came to the realisation for the first time herself. It was another few years before she came out to close friend and fellow country musician Kasey Chambers, and after that first step, Cole told her family.
“She was great. She has waved the rainbow flag from the second I told her. She didn’t have a problem with acceptance at all. She was happy that I was happy.”
Eventually all her friends and family knew, and Cole describes that experience as her “personal” coming out. It wasn’t a secret from any of her loved ones — her now-teenage son has grown up always considering Cole’s sexuality a simple fact of life.
“I thought that was enough, except about 10 years later I felt the urge to come out publicly and that’s when I took the opportunity to go on Australian Story,” she explained.
“I didn’t imagine how freeing it would be. I mean, obviously phase one was pretty freeing, but this to me was just… I did feel like I was hiding a bit of myself. I convinced myself for a while there that, ‘no, it’s my life and I can be private if I want,’ but your sexuality is really the core of who you are.
“I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I write very honest songs and very literal lyrics, and until you’re completely honest with everybody that’s involved with you, including the audience and the people that buy my music, I feel, not that I was being fraudulent, but I felt like I wasn’t being 100 per cent me.”
As much as she felt she owed it to herself to come out publicly, and as much as she wanted to set an example to her son, Cole also felt a responsibility to people struggling with their own decision about whether or not to come out, particularly those living in country Australia.
Since the Australian Story episode, the response has been overwhelming.
“It can be hard in a small town in the middle of bum crack nowhere, and if your favourite country singer says, ‘this is me and it’s okay,’ they might either recognise themselves, or they might say, okay, I get it, I understand it,” Cole said.
Her favourite response came from a 19-year-old gay guy living on a sheep farm, who watched the episode with his dad — the two of them watched Australian Story together every week.
“He never thought his dad would be accepting, but his dad has always been a Beccy Cole fan,” Cole explained.
“He said, ‘oh well, she’s our Beccy and it’s not going to stop me from listening.’ So this gave the kid courage, and he went down to the shearing shed and he said, ‘dad I’ve got something to tell you,’ and dad puts down the sheep, gives him a hug and says, ‘you’re my son and I love you anyway.’
“I really love to think that I may have helped some of those people.”
**This article was first published in the February 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.