I Was Homophobic Until My Twin Brother Came Out.
Written by Charles Beaton
I was asked a question recently as to when did I realize it was important to stand up for those in the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. A difficult question to answer after hearing so many brave people tell their own stories.
I merely said that the moment you realize your brother considered ending his life because he hated that he was gay, is the moment we need to stand up and make a change.
Now, I own my past contribution to the problems associated with the LGBTI community. Enough is enough, and our children need to understand the impact of homophobic words and actions.
The current debate about marriage equality, and returning to my hometown recently, has got me thinking about my youth, growing up in country Victoria. Despite personally having a fantastic and happy childhood, I haven't stopped thinking about some of the homophobia I contributed to during that time.
I wasn't born free from homophobia. Just like I wasn't born homophobic. But there is no doubt I was a product of exposure. It was common to come across homophobic language, whether that be at school, on the street or the sporting fields. The word p**f, or fa**ot, was part of my vocabulary.
It is something that I've spoken about before - that I was; unfortunately, part of a culture growing up that routinely included homophobic language and taunted others. These are not actions I am proud of, and I now regret them.
It is quite shocking to think that with a gay twin, who was struggling with his sexuality, I was a homophobic teen.
I am sure my homophobic behavior contributed to my twin hiding his sexuality even longer.
Returning to our hometown a few years ago, a big part of me wanted to right some wrongs that had happened in the past. It is a horrible feeling to think that my use of homophobic language was not only used against others but my twin brother Lachlan. It's disgusting behavior with no excuse.
In Lachlan's case, he was so scared of his sexuality and hated himself so much, that he used homophobic language as a tool to hide his sexuality to fit in with the macho culture that dominated growing up.
It makes me feel physically sick as an adult, thinking about the impact that my homophobic language and behavior’s had on my twin brother.
For those who I used homophobic language against growing up, I apologize as it is only over recent years that I have understood the impact of using this type of communication and behavior. We all make mistakes, and I am willing to admit to mine.
I want to use my experience to make sure others don't suffer from homophobic slurs, don't use homophobic slurs, and can lead happy and healthy lives. I also want to make sure people understand that attitudes can change. My twin brother's mental health anguish was a direct result of his struggle with his sexuality, and completely changed my view of homophobic behavior. It made me understand the impact of our words and actions on the mental health of others.
While I can't change what has happened in this past, I am dedicated to improving the future for those who are also coming to terms with their sexuality.
So what changed my mind?
The marriage equality debate has made me realise that my past attitudes are still very much commonplace in some parts of the broader community. Many young people still feel isolated and alone because they are different.
Many people in the LGBTI community wake up every day, hating the person they were born to be, with one of the primary drivers behind blatant homophobic attitudes. Equality will make a huge difference to the lives of young people figuring out who they are and who they want to love. They will be less likely to feel different and alone.
And I hope that some of the language used in the past will be completely unacceptable from this point on.
When someone isn’t viewed as an equal in the eyes of the law, it makes it easier for people to justify the words used and homophobia. It's not fair and has to stop – it's hurting too many people who don't deserve to be destroyed.
Let me introduce you to my brother and best friend, Lachlan.
For some years, I have spent much of my spare time campaigning for equality for those in the LGBTI community. I am an identical twin. I grew up in country Victoria with my twin brother Lachlan as my best friend. As young boys, we did everything together. We played football together; we had the same friends, we did the same subjects in school and given equal opportunities. Our relationship was very close. Throughout our childhood and into our adult years, as far as I was concerned, my twin brother Lachlan was happy and content.
Little did I know that it was the heteronormative and homophobic sporting culture that profoundly influenced the torrid teenage years that my twin experienced. During this time Lachlan saw no other way but to hide his sexuality in fear of losing his friends, his family, and his football club.
When Lachlan was 27, he decided to come out to me as a gay man. I had no idea that he been hiding his sexuality for so long. At the point in time when he decided to come out to me, he couldn’t even say the words “I’m gay.” He merely told me that he had a partner and it was another man. I was completely shocked; I barely knew anyone who was gay. I just remember that night going home in tears, struggling to sleep, wondering what sort of pain my twin brother had been through and what strain would be ahead for him.
While I was supportive of my twin brother, I still failed to ask many questions and, in hindsight, to support him adequately. Ten years ago talking about issues related to sexuality and gender was very difficult. There were very few people in the general public talking about these issues openly, so I did not know where to start. How would I know what to tell or ask? I had no idea what it meant to be gay or the horrific mental health outcomes for those in the LGBTI community.
After coming out, Lachlan’s life continued, and it wasn’t until around eight years after this point that he published a video around the mental health struggles he faced due to his sexuality. In this video, Lachlan talked about the anguish that he went through while a teenager and into his mid-twenties.
I now know that the mental health issues associated with hiding your sexuality can be disastrous. Lachlan would come home every single night wishing that he wasn’t the person he was born to be. He would hope and pray every morning he would wake up and not be gay. What a horrible thought to think that one person can hate themselves so much for being the person that they were born into this world.
During the period in which Lachlan came out, and following this time, he abused alcohol, went through severe depression and considered ending his life. He has always had the full support of his family and friends, but he continued to believe being gay would mean he would lose all of this, hence why he felt the need to hide his sexuality for so long.
How has the marriage equality debate impacted my family?
I know personally, I struggled with the fact that I was given responsibility to vote on whether my twin brother could have the same legal rights as myself. It’s absurd. And while I hated the fact that I had to vote on his rights, I knew we had to do it, and we had to vote yes to move toward an equal Australia.
As a family, we knew that this putrid debate would have an impact on my brother’s mental health.
People talking about his life and the person that he is every single day. Every day I read stories implying that it’s not OK to be Gay and thus, the impact this hurtful debate has with my brother, and our family’s mental health can’t be understated.
So why is it essential for Same-Sex Marriage to be legalised?
Marriage Equality indeed won’t fix the inequality that LGBTI community is faced with on a daily basis - but it will make a difference. Those in the LGBTI community wake up every day wondering why they aren’t viewed as equal in the eyes of the law and the community. They wake up every day feeling like second-class citizens. I have friends in same-sex relationships with kids, multiple children and they are fantastic parents who can't sign their own child’s permission slip at school. They wonder what will happen if their partner is in some form of accident and they can’t legally take control of their affairs. An essential part of why same-sex marriage needs to happen now. We need to take away this inequality, and this is something that we can do quickly. And while there are so many other aspects of the differences faced by those in the LGBTI community, this is one that we can repair.
There are many other things that we can do for the LGBTI community to help improve their mental health. As straight allies, we can all put our hand up to do something positive. Whether it’s pulling someone up on homophobic behavior or just asking your friends if they’re okay, there is so much that we can do to make everyone feel included. It is this inclusion that is so important to everything that I have done in this space. It is vital to ensure our communities are welcoming areas to those in the LGBTI community.
The marriage equality debate has made me realize that past attitudes are still very much commonplace and that many young people always feel isolated and alone because they think differently. Many people in the LGBTI community wake up every day, hating the person they were born to be, with one of the primary drivers behind this, blatant homophobic or heteronormative attitudes.
LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidality of any population in Australia. 20% of trans-Australians and 15% percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians report current suicidal thoughts.
Same-sex attracted Australians have up to 14 times higher rates of suicide attempts than their heterosexual peers. Sadly, the average age of the first suicide attempt is 16 years - which is generally before they come out.
It is very important that we never make assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation, sex or gender identity or what this means to them.
We need to be careful how we are influenced by heteronormative culture, as you never know when you will be faced with someone struggling with their sexuality. Chances you will be exposed to these issues sooner rather than later. As a community, being open, equal and inclusive, will lead to more significant mental health outcomes for those struggling during the marriage equality debate.
We all need to treat others equally and be inclusive. Don't be a contributor to the high LGBTI suicide rate.
Providing an equal and inclusive community makes such a difference. My twin brother has come a long way since his early struggles. With the help and support of friends, he has been able to strive to live the life he always wanted.
And while there has been a lot of negativity around the Marriage Equality Debate, there has been an enormous amount of positives. Record-breaking rally’s, rainbow street parties and rainbow family fun days, just to name a few.
The equality that we are about to achieve together and continue to strive for will make a massive difference to the lives of young people figuring out who they are and how they fit into this world. We are all the same; we don't choose our sexuality or gender, so let's ride the positivity coming out of this horrible debate, as I know Australia is a much better place when we are all treated equally.
Thank you so much to Charles and Lachlan. Charles for sharing your amazing story, straight from the heart. Lachlan for allowing us to share your story. Also thank you for the images.
I have been fortunate to connect with you both via Instagram, and now communication with Charles. You are two beautiful men, who I hope to stay in contact with for the future.
What came out of this article for me was the fact, like our own Jacob, is that Lachlan didn't choose this. It is who he is.
Stay tuned, Charles and I will put another article together in the near future regarding the debate and to keep you in the loop on how things are going for them. In the meantime you can show your support to them by a) voting yes and b) follow them on Instagram here.
An article I will be passing onto our children/teenagers and hope you do too so they know the harmful effects of language.
Do you have a story you would like to share?
Read our article on my beautiful gay friends of over 30 years here.
Watch Charles speak about Lachlan here.