In one of Magda Szubanski’s countless interviews last week (following her emotional coming-out on television) she offered a pertinent reminder of the expectation (in the minds of queers and non-queers alike) that “in this day and age” people should declare their hand and come out of the closet.
Although to most Star Observer readers Szubanski’s revelations were not terribly jaw-dropping — she freely admits she has been openly “gay-gay-gay-gay-gay” for years and a regular at queer events like Midsumma Carnival — sometimes it’s easy to forget that although Australia has come a long way, coming out (for most people) is still not undertaken lightly.
I recall some office banter a few years ago in which Szubanski’s sexuality was raised, and specifically, why she had chosen not to go public with it. There were varying opinions, from sympathetic understanding to complete displeasure that she was ‘hiding who she really was’.
But in her interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National Breakfast last week, Szubanski reminded us of something quite important. At the end of the day, each person’s struggles (or not) with their sexuality are their own.
“I don’t think there should be pressure on people, you don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives,” she said.
“I’m in a fortunate position because I’m a character actor, but … if you were playing a straight romantic lead, it would be a very difficult call to make.
“There are all kinds of implications … people don’t stay in the closet for no good reason, you just don’t. You stay in the closet because you perceive there are real risks and wanting to do the job you love or wanting to look after the people you love or have your privacy.”
As research has shown time and time again, safe spaces need to be created for people to feel they can be themselves, rather than expecting individuals to come out to help change attitudes.
I’m glad Magda felt secure enough to come out.
It is to be hoped she has put another imprint on the trail blazed by all those before her, making it that little bit easier for those behind.