CHRISTINE Forster’s coming out story – while not breaking news for those who follow Australian politics – grabbed national headlines and was embroiled in controversy.

In 2012, Forster was a mother of four who hailed from Sydney’s North Shore.

She was living in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills with her partner Virginia, with whom she had begun a relationship a few years earlier while still married to her husband.

Forster came out to her family when she was in her early 40s and despite some tough times to get to that point, she was finally able to be her “true self”.

“It’s been a roller coaster… it’s not been easy,” she reflects.

“I’ve had an opportunity to have a new life in my 40s. That is the real me, yes it’s difficult, yes it’s challenging, but it’s very fulfilling.”

Everything was going along as well as could be expected until an article published in The Australian turned her life on its head and thrust Forster, Virginia and their families into the national spotlight.

There had been whispers around the political halls of Canberra that the then- Federal Liberal party leader Tony Abbott, who had been very public about his opposition to marriage equality, had a lesbian family member.

Abbott went on to become Prime Minister of Australia and before being ousted by Malcolm Turnbull last year, committed Australians to a plebiscite on the issue.

For the sake of her children and despite wanting to seek public office for herself, Forster was never ‘out’ beyond her family. But her national outing would go on to have a silver lining and give her the opportunity to fulfil a life-long dream.

“I came out to various members of my family one on one. I came out to my brother Tony first,” she explains.

“I was then publicly outed, which was not a terribly pleasant process. It was something that we were expecting to happen.

“And it did happen and the upside for me was that it allowed me to pursue a public life politically, which I had been intending to do.

“But I had stayed away from it (until then) on the basis that I was a private person.”

It’s been almost four years since Forster was elected as a councillor in the City of Sydney and she is adamant that she never discussed with her brother the impact her outing might have on his career.

“We had many conversations about what it all meant for me personally, for my children and for the people in my family,” she says. “There was never a discussion of ‘is this a strategic issue’ for anyone.

“The conversation was how to best manage things for the people I love. Nothing in terms of his career or anyone else’s career. In terms of being thrust into the spotlight… it kind of enabled me to take that step. Once it had come out, I was able to pursue public life.

“At the end of the day it was a good thing.”

Forster did not face any homophobia when she came out to her family, but the difficulties the family faced after she came

“There are many, many, many, many things I would do very differently, but sadly you don’t get your time over again,” she reflects

“I take the view there’s not a lot of point dwelling on that stuff I fucked up along the way because sadly I can’t change it now. I would’ve dealt with it differently if I knew now what I knew then but I don’t have benefit of turning back the clock.”

When asked if she has any advice for people thinking about coming out, Forster says she has none because it’s an individual journey.

“I don’t like to give advice to people on this. At the end of the day I think there’s so much in people living honestly and living as who they are,” she explains.

“If you have to come out or leave a relationship – as terrible as that is – we all have to live authentically.”

Forster has been a vocal supporter of marriage equality and a very vocal opponent of a plebiscite, but believes if it comes to a public vote, Australia will vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

And when that day comes she plans to walk down the aisle with Virginia, her partner of more than eight years.

“It will probably on the big and lavish side (the wedding),” she says.

“We’ve already booked Bob Downe to perform. But it’ll be a massive celebration of us and our wonderful relationship.”

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