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“How Supporting Others Helped Me Embrace My Own Queer Identity”

Writing by Jordy Burns

I grew up in a small town that didn’t have any idea about alternative types of sexuality, gender identity or even self-expression that went outside the bounds of a normal cliche.

Despite this sheltered existence, I reflected on the underlying belief that love is about a soul-to-soul connection; we just love, and it doesn’t really matter who they are… I’m not sure if that was innate or something someone told me, but it was a core belief of mine—regardless of what society understood that to be.

Everyone around me appeared straight and ‘normal’… if you were good at sport, you did sport, if you were good at music, you did music. If you dated, then you dated the opposite sex. You might date a year older or younger, but anything more than that was not really accepted. Looking back, there was plenty of diversity, but no one talked about what made us different – only what made us better or worse in terms of achievement or behaviour.

The word ‘gay’ really only came up when I was older and I turned my attention to standing up for equality.  At school, any chance that I had to select my own topic, I chose to write about LGBT history or experiences.

I was certainly not aware of my own sexuality at the time… I thought I was meant to like boys, so it wasn’t really something I thought to question.

I was so fascinated by the society we existed in – and how, for so long, we had rejected a group of people who’s only difference was who they fell in love with. Gay people weren’t hurting anyone, their orientation wasn’t even affecting anyone, but they were being treated like criminals.

Existing in a society where the rights of LGBT people were ignored, I felt the need to help in my own way by sharing some of the stories. At school I made a point to acknowledge that it was ok to be different, to be gay, to love unashamedly. I remember quite fondly, creating a one-person performance piece in a senior drama class. While we created our pieces, we had many group discussions on our selected topics and I remember sharing my strong opinions on the need for equal treatment and recognition of LGBT people.

Just 15 years ago, being a part of this community was far less accepted (I don’t think it had even been extended past LGBT (QIA+) yet! ).

I began questioning my own sexuality when students (who I later learnt were in the closet) decided to tell other students that I was gay.

Bullying ensued and I took it on the chin because I wanted to stand up for anyone who was gay… why should I feel bad about being called gay if I believed that it was ok to be gay – you think I am, then so what!

For me, it was a weird time because I’d never taken a minute to question who I was attracted to. My school life was so busy that I didn’t get around to dating, I barely had time to even think about it.

So, when the insults started, I allowed myself to question it. Who did I feel a connection with? Who was I attracted to? How did that make me feel? I still wasn’t sure, but I was open to finding out.

I was assertive and confident. I enjoyed sports and speaking up for myself. Apparently, that meant I exhibited very masculine qualities.

So, my classmates decided that I’d be better off with a more masculine name than I already had…

Gordon became my nickname.

I decided to go with it… if you can’t beat them, right?

A special moment that stood out for me at graduation was when a friend from that drama class came up to me to thank me for being so supportive and opinionated about gay rights and acceptance. She had been struggling a lot with her sexuality that year and said my classroom debates really helped her through a dark time. She came out to me and I felt so honoured. All my struggles had made a difference to someone. Somehow, even though I didn’t need it, I felt validated.

Shortly after, I moved to New York City, where I was flooded by every kind of alternative you could imagine. I was in my absolute element!

Everyone had something to say, while wearing something fabulous. It was the cultural slap in the face I’d be yearning for!

Once again, I dived into a relentless schedule with little time for dating but I was learning so much about myself and the world around me. Forget the official title, I think I basically graduated with a degree in life. I was forced to discover so many facets of who I am and how I can relate that to characters and storytelling and of course music. It was so fascinating. There were plenty of (major) life experiences along the way – especially as a fresh 18-year-old, small town Aussie girl in New York City!

Most of my closest friends were queer of some kind, so it became a very safe space to explore my identity without the pressures of having to know or tell anyone anything specific. I confirmed to myself (in line with my childhood ideals) that love is about a soul-to-soul connection regardless of what gender that person is. It didn’t feel like some huge revelation, instead, things just started to make more sense.

I had the biggest ah-ha moment a few years later when I was living back in Australia…I’d forgotten to tell my family what I’d realised about myself. Not that it was necessary, but that it was something that I wanted to be open with them about. I was sitting in the window of my Inner West sharehouse, listening to Troye Sivan’s Heaven from ‘Blue Neighbourhood’. The lyrics resonated with me in a new way that night and I realised what the song was about and how much I wanted to express myself to my family.

It was less of an announcement and more of a confirmation. It was weird though, because once I decided that I was going to tell them, I felt overwhelmed by fear. What if this changes our relationship or how they see me? Coming from such a close, loving family, I felt pretty confident it wouldn’t change anything, but the fear still existed.

I had always just wanted to bring someone home and be like, “Hey, this is the person I love”. But that idea started wearing off, the longer it took me to bring someone home!

I waited for the day when we were all together after a family weekend away. I was sitting in the backseat on a 3-hour drive to the airport… I remember hearing the song in my head,

“So, I’m counting to 15, counting to 15, counting to 15”.

I think I must’ve counted to 1000 that day.

Just before jumping out of the car I reminded my family that I always believe that love is love no matter who… then shared that I think I might “Like girl people more than boy people”…. and left the car.

In hindsight, I probably should’ve stuck around for some further explanation but over time we chatted more and they were totally cool with it. I know I am much luckier than many, but in that moment I could really understand the fear and weight that coming out can carry.

I know that times are changing and we’re living in an age that I’ve always dreamed about (in some places at least…) where people can love who they choose without an official announcement. And, if someone loves one gender now, then “goes back” to loving another another day – let them. Who are we to create boxes around the fluidity and ever changing nature of the self?

Jordy Burns has just released her debut EP ‘Games’, which can be found on all streaming platforms – HERE

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