A Pansexual's Experience in The LGBTQ+ Community & The Importance of Marriage Equality in Australia

Hey everyone! My name is Chelsea.

Today I’m going to share with you all my story of coming out & growing up, & how even now that I have a family of my own I’ve fallen victim to the archaic practice of homophobia. I’m also writing to tell you why marriage equality is so important for LGBTQI+ Australians.

Let’s begin, shall we?

My Experience As a Pansexual & My Thoughts on Marriage Equality in Australia

“But when did you know?”

Now this question is something that has always slightly amused me. When did you know you were straight? When was the first time you had a crush on a cartoon character of the opposite sex or a schoolyard friend?

For me the first time I had a crush on a girl was grade 4.

I started school a year early being born in March, so I would’ve been 7 or so. LGBTQI+ issues weren’t something discussed in my house growing up, they weren’t shunned per-se, but they were just not ever talked about. I didn’t think it was wrong I just didn’t know what the heck was going on to be completely honest.

It wasn’t until the boys in my class started calling me a lesbian as though I was diseased that I even knew that it wasn’t something considered “normal” to the average child. I figured out what being a lesbian meant, but I had crushes on boys too so I knew that that wasn’t what I was.

To be completely honest, I was a severely bullied kid & it scared me to think that the kids in my class had something else to hold against me, so I shut my mouth & essentially suppressed it entirely.

Being thrown out of the closet

Now, it is pretty standard for LGBTQI+ youths to come out to their friends before they come out to their families.

When I had settled on the title of Bisexual at 13, I told my best friend. I was absolutely terrified that she would hate me or think I was disgusting. Truthfully, she didn’t care. In fact she said “is that all you were worked up about?” gave me a hug & we finished walking to school. It felt like the entire weight of the earth had been lifted off my shoulders & that’s what I thought would be the end of it.

By the time recess hit, my entire year level knew. I suppose that my friend thought that because it was a complete non-issue to her, telling one or two people wouldn’t be an issue for me. Those one or two people told a few others who told a few others, & you get the point.

As soon as I realised what was going on I experienced my first ever panic attack, I was mortified & the “jokes” started rolling in immediately.

The first Girlfriend

About 6 months after I initially came out to my friend, & subsequently the whole year level, I met a girl. She was from my town but funnily enough I met her on MySpace. Remember that, it’s important.

At this time, I hadn’t come out to my parents so as far as they knew I was a straight, entirely boy crazy teenager. My friends & classmates knew my relationship status, even my girlfriend’s mother knew.

People seemed to have gotten over the fact that I was seemingly “abnormal” & moved on to their next victim. I guess because being my first real relationship & being so head over heels for this girl I decided to put photos of us up on my MySpace page with cute little captions like “my girlfriend <333 xoxox”. I was at peace with myself & everything in my life seemed to be falling into place.

Being thrown out of the closet, part 2

One day I was in my room, doing homework & listening to music. When I hear my dad tell me to come down stairs & into the office. The moment I walked in there & saw my mom & dad huddled around the computer with concerned expressions on their faces I knew. I can only describe what I felt in that moment, as if I'd swallowed a 100 kg weight & it was sitting in my stomach, & I'd drank 20 red bulls my heart was beating faster than it ever had.

“Why would you put that on there?” my Mother spat at my MySpace page in absolute disgust.

“BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I AM” I all but screamed at her through a thick veil of tears. I felt as though she’d grabbed my heart & squeezed it with every ounce of her strength in that moment.

Someone had called my parents & alerted them to the obscenity that my sexuality was. My Mother didn’t talk to me for days, & in fact grounded me. It was really one of the reasons my relationship with her plateaued. However, my Dad came to my room & told me that “no matter what you are or who you love, you’re my daughter & I love you”.

Ultimately, being 13 & my mother not approving of my sexuality much less my relationship, my first girlfriend & I just didn’t last. I was heartbroken.

Changing schools

I had changed schools due to a few issues at my prior high school & I wanted a fresh start.

I was out of the closet, I was embracing my own style, I had good friends & truth be told I was feeling more empowered than I ever had before. I had decided that if the conversation ever came up that I was never going to be ashamed of my sexuality or hide it, because well, why should I?

The school that I moved to was VERY Christian. They promoted the “love thy neighbour” mentality, or so I thought. So, at this point is basically where s**t well & truly hits the fan.

I was not long a student there when the topic of sexuality came up in conversation, it got back to the faculty at the school & ultimately the entire school knew. From that moment on I was just… angry, really. I had students trying to intimidate me because of it & I essentially told them if they didn’t leave me alone there would be hell to pay. I tried approaching teachers & my year level coordinator to have some sort of penalties applied to the students that were harassing me & I was met with excuses.

“Maybe you shouldn’t tell people”

“You can't really be sure though”

“We are a school of God, a lot of these kids have Christian values & cant accept your sexuality

I had my RE teacher tell me that he could “find help” for me with overcoming my “problem”, I was prevented from hanging out with people I went to school with after hours because their parents didn’t want me “influencing” their children.

I was almost not allowed to go to my school camp because they “[didn’t] trust [me] sleeping in the same rooms as other girls”. I was ostracised, penalised & shunned for my sexuality. None of my problems as a human being were even considered because my sexuality prevented me from being helped by them.

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Girlfriend number 2

She was a friend for quite a while & I met her through school.

She was by my side through all of the harassment & discrimination that I experienced & was nothing short of amazing, truly. As far as I knew, she was straight. As far as she knew, she was straight. Then out of nowhere, as relationships often do, it smacked us both in the face & all of a sudden we were absolutely smitten by each other.

She was the first person I said, “I love you” to, she was the first person I could see a future with, & to be completely honest she was my first love.

I was happy to keep our relationship a secret for however long she needed. I definitely didn’t want her experiencing at school what I had experienced & what I was experiencing. I didn’t want her to be forced to come out like I was, I didn’t want her to feel pressure to do anything, & I was happy to just be by her side through it all.

After a couple of months she was happy to tell some friends, who in general reacted quite well. I was happy that she was happy. Eventually though, as happened to me, the rumours started rolling in & faculty was informed.  They sat us apart in class, they made sure we were always supervised at break times & accused me several times of “influencing her to be like this”

Someone had advised the staff that we were “having sex in the classrooms at lunch”.

This truly broke us, both as a relationship & as part of the LGBTQI+ community. We were truly exhausted at this point. Because the rumour was sexual in nature, & involved the school our parents had to be notified. They had a meeting with me & my Dad & I begged & pleaded with them that they couldn’t tell her parents because she’s wasn’t out, I swore on both of our lives that the rumours weren’t true through more tears than I’ve ever cried. I knew if her parents found out she wasn’t straight it would be the end of us, her parents knew I wasn’t straight & that was enough for them to hate me.

I was scared for her because I knew their reaction would be negative, I was scared for me because I knew I’d lose her.

Somehow, I think the school took pride in their effort to separate us, because in the end they were successful. The day the school spoke to her parents she called me hours after the fact. The voice I was met with on the other end didn’t sound like her, she just sounded like she’d truly given up. She had called to break up with me, her mother was screaming at her in the background, she didn’t even want her to give me the courtesy of a breakup phone call.

To this day she hasn’t had another girlfriend, I haven’t spoken to her much, but I do think that the prospect of being out terrifies her. Who would’ve thought that a school could bully their students to breaking point, that even in adulthood they’re too scared to accept who they are? I just hope one day she finds enough strength inside her to love every part of her.

Am I really Bisexual?

While I’ve always been confident that I like guys & girls, there’s always been something not quite right about the bisexual label for me. Something was missing but it took me years to figure out what exactly that was.

One day while scrolling through Facebook I came across an article. Within it the term “Pansexual” jumped out at me, now I’ve always considered myself quite educated when it comes to LGBTQI+ issues & terminology, so I was shocked when I had come across something I was unfamiliar with. I researched a little & once I realised that I’ve never really had any physical deal breakers, & that I’ve never really had a “type”, it was like I’d stumbled across a missing link with my sexual identity.

Pansexuality by definition is: not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity.

For me, personality has always been first & foremost & the physical aspect has always been all but irrelevant to me. Even as far as platonic relationships I’ve always thought my friends & family are beautiful, & it’s not until relationships break down that I see ugliness shine through in people’s physical appearance.

Motherhood

I became a mother at 18-years-old. This has not stopped me trying to break down barriers that my community face.

I find a lot of the time, when people are made aware of my sexuality, especially now that I have a family of my own, its often met with shock. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if its because now that I have a child I need to stop talking about it in case he gets ideas or in case I turn him gay, but it won't stop me educating people & it won't stop me raising a socially conscious child.

One day a Facebook friend posted an LGBTQI+ related “article” on their personal page.

The term pansexual was included & there were a lot of comments with the usual (obviously hilarious) “jokes” about people being attracted to pans (excuse me while I die laughing). I was pretty sure that nothing I could say would make these people stop the things they were saying, but as per usual I tried anyway. There was a bit of sarcasm that ensued on their end but at some point it turned into a full blown hateful, homophobic spiel. I had someone tell me that they “felt sorry” for my child because his mother wasn’t straight. I had people tell me I was attention seeking because I was providing facts as well as personal experiences.

We as the LGBTQI+ community rely on our stories to be heard, we rely on statistics & facts for people who won't ever experience first hand what we go through, to understand us. When human rights issues & equality issues become “attention seeking” is when we need to fight harder, because as long as the people who want to watch us suffer aren’t listening & aren’t understanding us, while still having the right to vote on topics that affect us, we won't ever be treated equally.

Soulmate

When I was 17 I met my partner, who is male. We fell in love with each other very quickly. We were engaged 6 months after we started dating & I fell pregnant with our child at 18.

I think a recurring problem in the Bi/Pan community is the notion that your sexuality is irrelevant if you’re dating/engaged/married to someone who is of the opposite sex. I’ve been with a cis man for 4 years, I am still Pansexual & even 20, 30, 40 years into the future I will still be Pansexual. Something that is really important to me is that the LGBTQI+ community is still going forward despite my choice in partner. It always has been.

My partner is a voice for me & other LGBTQI+ people, he supports me in protest against homophobia & transphobia. He supports me in teaching our son that being LGBTQI+ isn’t a bad thing. He is just as quick to shut down people talking ill of my community as I am. He has never made me feel as though my sexuality is something that I should be ashamed about & he has never disregarded it.  That is what being an ally is, not just saying that its okay to be LGBTQI+, but showing real support & spreading the word that we aren’t bad people, that we aren’t trying to ruin the sanctity of marriage & that we aren’t trying to corrupt your children.

I suppose as far as me being not straight goes, I’m lucky in the sense that the person who I chose to start a family with, & the person who I love is male. Because I have the privilege to go down to the courthouse tomorrow if I wanted to, I have the privilege to marry the person I love. People who aren’t straight, or aren’t cisgendered have been getting married for decades & I think that’s what is even more of a kick in the gut about the rest of my community not being able to marry their soul mates, that our country who “shares a dream” find it acceptable for me to get married as long as the non-hetero part of me doesn’t shine through.

What are my thoughts on Marriage Equality?

When it comes down to it entirely, we need to separate church & state. The number one reason for people being against marriage equality is religion. Religious freedom is a right we all have, & its something I very much believe in, but someone else’s religion should not affect my lifestyle, or the lifestyle of others.

Marriage equality shows coming generations that it is okay to be in a same sex relationship, it shows that its okay to have same sex parents, it shows its okay to exist as a member of the LGBTQI+ community. It shows tolerance & that is ultimately all we’re asking for. We don’t want to be bullied, or assaulted, or homeless, or discriminated against & we don’t want anyone else in our community to experience it either because of something none of us can change.

I have a very simple solution for those who are against same sex marriage; don’t have one. But please, vote yes on the upcoming postal plebiscite for those who can’t marry their soul mate, for those who cant marry their life partner, for those who cant marry the mother of their children, for those who cant marry the father of their children, for those who are raising adopted children in a loving happy home.

Vote YES for love, because we all know this world needs more of it.

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About The Author - Chelsea Higgins

Hey everyone! My name is Chelsea.

Today I’m going to share with you all my story of coming out & growing up, & how even now that I have a family of my own I’ve fallen victim to the archaic practice of homophobia. I’m also writing to tell you why marriage equality is so important for LGBTQI+ Australians.

For more information about Chelsea, or to commission her to write for your publication, please visit her on Airtasker.