Lesbian Visibility Day: It’s time for respect

Since 2008, Lesbian Visibility Day has fallen on April 26 to celebrate the L in LGBTIQ+ and have lesbian voices be heard in our ever expanding community.

To mark Lesbian Visibility Day, rural Queensland resident Jane Zerbst shares her experience with OUTinPerth as a lesbian who refuses to be invisible in a place that tells her she should be. Here is her story.

Out of all of the Australian electorates, there is only one where the majority of voters are opposed to same sex marriage. It’s the division of Maranoa, and my home town of Chinchilla is right in the heart of it.

For me, I didn’t need to see the results of some fancy study to know that this was the case. I didn’t need to see a YouTube video of Dave – the Big Brother contestant who famously came out to the entire country on national TV – call out the member for Maranoa (and former schoolyard tormentor as mentioned on SBS’ The Feed) David Littleproud to know this. I’ve lived it myself.

I remember growing up, as LGBTI rights gained more visibility in the political arena, it was not unusual to hear extended family members and friends condemn the notion of equality and refer to homosexuality as a “sin” and something that wasn’t “right” or “normal”.

My sexuality had always been a lingering question for me, and on reflection I’m certain that I knew the answer from the moment I understood the question. I remember being asked when I was 13 if it was true that I wanted to get a sex change.

I remember wondering that night, after coming home from school in tears, “what if they’re right and I’m different and I do like girls more than boys?”, and realizing that if I did (like girls more than boys) there was no way I could ever let that cat out of the bag. At the time, I thought it was easier to live a lie than manage the adversity that went with being true to myself.

I remember doggedly fighting these feelings for a long time; passionately denying what I knew to be true when quizzed by well-intentioned friends, and vehemently regurgitating fabricated homophobic opinions to reinforce my cover, whilst keeping a tight lid on what I was grappling with in my mind.

I was 27 when I came out. At the beginning, I wanted to run, because I knew that by accepting my sexuality I was also signing up to a pretty hard road ahead; as far as I knew I would be the only “out” lesbian in Chinchilla.

I knew that moving to the big smoke would make that aspect of my life easier – I could meet like-minded people, shamelessly just be me, and maybe even have a relationship that was more than some sort of debauched, clandestine arrangement that served only to fulfil physical needs and farcical fantasies. 5 years later, I’m still here.

I still get called KD Lang by the local homeless guy, and I still don’t know if it’s a compliment on my musical abilities or my lesbian prowess. I doubt he knows either. Truth is I’d be happy with either outcome.

When it comes to equality and acceptance though, there is only one acceptable outcome. To quote the esteemed member for Maranoa, Mr Littleproud, “This whole debate should be predicated on respect. We always afford people respect.”

Well, Mr Littleproud, it’s time for respect.

Jane Zerbst 

This article was originally published in 2017 during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

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