These issues are real for countless Aboriginal gay, bisexual and queer men living in regional communities throughout Australia everyday.
While the Molotov cocktail made up of homophobia and racism is often hurled into society by the hands of the mainstream, the equally devastating impact of homophobia and cultural rejection can stem from within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities themselves.
In 2015, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project found silence, shame, rejection and blame to be just some of the effects of the intersections of race and sexual identity faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within their own communities. It also found that larger communities can act to isolate individuals as a result of the lack of understanding around sexuality and gender diverse populations’ issues – often leading to violence.
Daniel Browning’s coming out experience was fortunately, quite the opposite.
With Bundjalung ancestry on his father’s side and Kullilli on his mother’s, Daniel grew up in a strong communal environment at Fingal before moving to South Tweed Heads.
“Growing up I didn’t really get a sense of there being anyone quite like me. I guess there were gay, bi and queer men and women around but I didn’t see that,” says Daniel. While his own coming out experience was overwhelmingly positive – with great acceptance from his father, siblings and family – it was his mother who struggled to come to terms with his sexuality initially. “Culturally we grew up with a very strong sense of Aboriginality,” says Daniel, a gift that ultimately led to his mother’s acceptance of him some months later.
However Daniel acknowledges that not all coming out stories belonging to Aboriginal men are as positive. “I think blackfellas can be as homophobic as anyone else. In fact it might be a greater problem,” he says. “There is a tolerance of toxic masculinity which I find hard to understand.”
“I think blackfellas can be as homophobic as anyone else. In fact it might be a greater problem,”
The toxic masculinity Daniel refers to found its voice through a homophobic social media post made by celebrated boxing champion Anthony Mundine in 2015. After watching an episode of Redfern Now Mundine posted, “Watching Redfern Now & they promoting homosexuality! (Like it’s ok in our culture) that ain’t in our culture & our ancestors would have there (sic) head for it! Like my dad told me GOD made ADAM & EVE not Adam & Steve.”
Despite his inability to grasp the correct spelling of the word ‘their’ and his penchant for a tacky expression, Mundine’s post went viral. Like any controversial statement made by a public figure, sides will be taken. The haters will find newly justified reasons to hate, while others will stand tall against injustices like publicly aired homophobia.
When speaking to Archer magazine in 2014, Steven Lindsay Ross, a Wamba Wamba man from Deniliquin, highlighted the positive side to Mundine’s public rant. “For every person who supported Mundine there were dozens who spoke out against his narrow-mindedness, promoting the loving acceptance of gays and lesbians in our community. And it has also encouraged support and advocacy for black LGBTI peoples in local and broader representations.”