Midsumma and the Mardi Gras Film Festival are iconic cultural events that celebrate the diversity of Australia’s LGBTQI+ community. These summertime festivals are an amalgamation of art, culture, theatre, cabaret and much more, where people come together with pride about who they are and what they represent.
Yet, for some people, the journey to pride is a long one. The road can be fraught with personal insecurities and mixed messages from others. Here, we meet five people who proudly share their stories about growing up and identifying as a member of the LGBTQI+ community.
Growing up in the ’80s, Justin knew from an early age that he was attracted to guys. “I knew I wasn’t like the other boys. Any time I would do anything that wasn’t considered masculine, it would be met with ‘That’s not how a little boy is supposed to act’.”
Justin eventually came out as a bisexual. Today, he feels very comfortable about being himself and talking to people about being gay. A regular attendee at Midsumma, he loves the vibe of everyone coming together to celebrate his lifestyle.
“Everyone is celebrating, partying and being joyful. It feels so wonderful to be part of that energy – everyone is there to celebrate your lifestyle and life choice."
“Being gay can often mean you are on the outside looking in, but for that day and that time period, people from all over the world and all walks of life are there to celebrate who you are.”
Dawn proudly shares her story of transitioning in the hope that she can help others who are starting on a similar journey, and who may feel the same sense of isolation as she did at school.
“I didn’t have any queer friends and I was the only queer one in my high school. I was confused; I didn’t know what the feeling was.”
Today, Dawn reflects on what pride means to her. “It’s the little things, like wearing what I want to wear. It’s presenting myself how I want to rather than how I was taught to. It’s self-love and spreading the love – being able to show the amount of respect to yourself that you show others.”
For Lucy, being around like-minded people is what Midsumma and Mardi Gras are all about. She says, “Everyone’s welcome, you can just be yourself and there’s no judgement. Young people who may be struggling with their identity can turn up and see people similar to themselves. Older generations can come along and see how far we’ve come.”
“And for those who don’t have the support of their friends and family, it’s a place they can celebrate and be themselves.”
Lucy’s journey to pride was an easy one, with strong support along the way. Today, for Lucy, pride means being unapologetically yourself. “Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of you. Be proud of who you are – don’t be sorry for who you are.”
AGL Shine member, Nerita, took a long time to come out to her family and friends.
While she knew from a young age that she liked both men and women, she could sense that it was a taboo topic – so she didn’t talk about it for a very long time.
“I wasn’t comfortable coming out. But now I can say, yes, I am bisexual and yes, I was in a relationship with a woman and I was proud to be in that relationship at that time.”
Today, Nerita is living a happy, unapologetic life. She says pride has “given me the power to speak up against those people who don’t see same-sex love as a positive thing. I am proud of who I am and who I love.”
Midsumma is an opportunity for Nerita to show who she is to her community and to hopefully empower others to come out. She sees the event as much more than just a party – “there is some very valuable information there to help broaden horizons.”
Alix is a passionate AGL Shine committee member, who has been slowly coming out to friends, family and colleagues as bisexual over the past year.
Optimistic about the future for the LGBTQI+ community, Alix says, “The positive change I want to see is for us all to challenge ourselves and others to open our hearts and minds. We need to be kind and compassionate, whilst confidently challenging people who aren’t accepting, without alienating them. I want us to build a culture at AGL that is inclusive of all, regardless of orientation, gender, age, race, culture or disability. We all deserve equality.”
Our pride story
AGL’s Internal Shine network is a 544-strong contingency of members and allies, proudly supported by people across the broader business to build an inclusive and supportive workplace. Reflecting our commitment to diversity, AGL was awarded Gold Employer status at the Australian LGBTI inclusion Awards in 2017 and 2018.
We will be flying the AGL flag at this year’s Midsumma Festival and Mardi Gras Film Festival. A nod to our commitment to LGBTQI+ inclusion, we see this sponsorship as just one way we can help bring about positive change – and we can’t wait to meet people like Justin, Dawn, Lucy, Nerita and Alix at the festival and hear their stories, too.