WALKLEY Award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker Monique Schafter first had an inkling she might not be straight during university, when a close male friend’s open bisexuality prompted her to consider her own. She’d had mostly male friends growing up, but always been bored by her few romantic relationships with men.
Schafter confided in her friend that she thought she might be bisexual.
[showads ad=MREC]“So he and I actually started dating, as bisexuals,” she said.
“Dating, but going to the indie queer night every Thursday in Melbourne… we’d go there for the indie bands, but in this queer community. We kind of went with the safety of each other.
“Over time we both came out as very, very gay, but we’d go to this club together and I’d probably be perving on the chicks and he’d be perving on the guys, and I can remember playing games of spin the bottle at this club where I kissed a girl for the first time and totally scared the shit out of myself because I liked it so much, like, ‘whoa, fuck, that’s what the feeling is supposed to be like’.”
Not long after that Schafter fell hard for a woman she worked with — a woman with a girlfriend — and while the crush was unrequited, it prompted a conversation with her boyfriend in which the two came out to each other as gay.
“He’s like, ‘don’t worry, I think I’m gay as well’,” she recalled.
“So there were no hard feelings there — it was actually a really nice experience.”
It was a little while after that before Schafter came out to her parents. She felt as though she needed a girlfriend before she could have the conversation.
“I think because I expected that my mum would say things like, you know, ‘you just haven’t dated enough guys yet to know’, or ‘it’s a phase’,” she explained.
“I needed proof, to go, ‘actually Mum, here, girlfriend, she and I are together, lesbians, get it?’
“It was kind of funny because the first thing mum said was, ‘you haven’t dated enough guys yet to know what you like’.”
The last person in Schafter’s family to find out was her grandmother — she avoided saying anything out of concern her grandmother’s occasional homophobia would make it an issue.
One Christmas, her grandmother had gone to have a sleep after lunch at Schafter’s aunt’s house while she and her father left to go for a walk.
“Mum and my auntie had been talking about me being gay and my girlfriend and having a big D and M about it all, and apparently Nan had been awake the whole time and listening in on the conversation,” she said.
“A month or so later… she called my auntie and said, ‘so, is Monique gay?’ and I think my auntie sort of fumbled and said, ‘ah, I think you should ask Mon that’.
“But then Nan called my mum and said, ‘so, is Mon gay?’ and Mum’s like, ‘yeah, of course she is — took you long enough’.”
Schafter — the only grandchild — found out, and was scared about how her grandmother would react, that maybe she wouldn’t love her as much. She avoided seeing her grandmother for a while, until a family gathering put them in the same room together for the first time since the news had come out.
“I walked up to her, and she just kind of grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘why didn’t you tell me, I still love you’,” she said.
“I felt like a real goose.”
**This article was first published in the August 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.
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