Each month we’ll champion two amazing drag queens, DJs, or community heroes in the gay scene. This week: Benjamin Norris, JOY presenter and LGBTI media personality.

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What do you love about Australia’s LGBTI community?

I love the exploration and evolution of who we are as a community. I think we are getting better at embracing our strengths and not apologising for it. We seem to be inhabiting our mantra of overall equality and supporting the wider community, which makes me not only feel proud of what we have achieved over the last twelve months, but excited for the future.

What motivates you to speak out about LGBTI rights?

I grew up in the nineties, where I often felt alone. I felt ashamed about my sexuality and there was a real lack of queer role models to look up to. I thought there were certain stereotypes we slotted into and that lack of representation was hard. But now, I am motivated to share stories.

Stories about the different letters of the LGBTI+ alphabet but also the billion stories that fall under each of those letters. We are more than just camp effeminate men, we are more than butch women who shop at Bunnings. There are so many stories to be unearthed and shared which I hope makes young people feel recognised.

What area do we need to focus on at the moment?

I think it’s easy to get caught up in buzzwords but it’s more important to show action. I quite often hear people saying that there needs to be more visibility for transgender Australians, but then it gets followed up with people not using correct pronouns.

Yes, it’s a small change in the way we use our language but it’s also about creating social acceptance.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I am not a functioning human ‘til I’ve had my piece of Vegemite toast and cup of coffee, but once I am up I spend an unusual amount of time researching queer people who have made an impact on the world.

A lot of what I do for work is currently in the podcast and blogging space and I am really enjoying the back end of researching different worlds and finding new stories. My fiancé and I are obsessed with making good food and entertaining so we do a fair bit of that. Our family and friends are a huge part of our lives.

Who do you see as an LGBTI hero in the community?

I am obsessed with Rosie and Lucy Thomas from the organisation Project Rockit, Australia’s youth-driven movement against bullying. Both girls are same-sex attracted and have brought diversity to their workplace. It’s powerful to see strong successful women have mantras like inclusion, empathy, and tolerance.

Favourite LGBTI venue?

“To The Peel!” I always say (like the ‘70s camp Batman-style exclamation). I like the patronage, it’s a complete blend of misfits and scene queens. I have two necessities during a night out… somewhere to talk rubbish and somewhere to attempt dancing.

Favourite LGBTI anthem?

Look, I couldn’t possibly agree with my brain on one anthem as I am too fickle for that, but I do enjoy “All Night Long” by Alexandra Burke. I am often that annoying guy asking the DJ to play that song.

Best Pride moment?

I think Big Brother gave me a platform which I have been able to utilise, getting different people’s stories out to smaller communities. Every week I get strangers writing to me about the work we do on JOY 94.9. It’s powerful for anyone to be recognised for the work that you do but I have young people connecting to our guests’ stories.

Jo Hirst was on Word for Word a few weeks back and her warmth and compassion had such an impact on our audience. Queer people in regional areas were contacting me to say the episode was life-changing.

Advice for young LGBTI people?

It’s so important to find your place in this world. Go and look at art, even if you know nothing about it. Listen to music that makes you happy, and read books that take you to other worlds. Be open minded and respectful of other people. My mother always said: “never change who you are for other people, you can be tamed a little, but always be true to yourself.”

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