Sexuality and self-acceptance: I’m tired of hiding the real me

I am a gay man. Five words that Maxim couldn't bring himself to say out loud.

And so, for the best part of a decade, Maxim hid, refusing to accept his sexuality. Worrying about how others would perceive him. Dealing with the internalised stigma that was so embedded in his thoughts.

In the LGBTIQ+ community, there is a much higher rate of mental health conditions and suicidality. This is directly related to stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

For Maxim, seeking help would mean unwinding a lifetime of denial. Yet maintaining his silence meant a continuing and painful sense of disconnect – to everything and everyone around him.

This is an episode about sexuality, self-acceptance and finding your voice.

 
Photo of Cliff with quote, “I felt like I was in this sealed glass box that just moved where I moved.”
 

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Transcription

NARRATION

This season of Not Alone was made possible by Australia Post, proudly supporting Beyond Blue.

CONTENT WARNING

Just a heads up, this episode of Not Alone contains a firsthand story of mental health. If you or someone you know needs support, visit beyondblue.org.au, or call our support service on 1300 22 46 36.

NARRATION

Hey there, I’m Marc Fennell and this is Not Alone, incredible stories from everyday Australians talking about their mental health, to help you with yours.

And this episode is all about sexuality and self-acceptance.

(Music - show theme, Sense of Home by Harrison Storm)

FORUMS MONTAGE

MALE VOICE 1

My dad just assumes I’m too young, and that it might just be a phase.

FEMALE VOICE 1

I want to come out…

MALE VOICE 2 & 3 (in unison)

I think about it all the time.

FEMALE VOICE 1

…but I don’t feel ready for the tidal wave that’ll hit me when I do.

FEMALE VOICE 2

No one knows me as myself, and that makes me feel really uncomfortable.

FEMALE VOICE 3

Her dad said, “what are you trying to do to her? Turn her gay?”

MALE VOICE 4

It has been frustrating, scary, stressful, and confronting.

FEMALE VOICE 4

My whole identity is inside of me with nowhere to project it to.

FEMALE VOICE 5

To this day I still cannot seem to accept who I am as a person.

MALE VOICE 2

I feel like I’m the only one in the world who feels this way.

FEMALE VOICE 1

I feel like I’m the only one in the world who feels this way.

FEMALE VOICE 6

I feel like I’m the only one in the world who feels this way.

MALE VOICE 4

I feel like I’m the only one in the world who feels this way.

(Music - high pitch drones)

MAXIM

If you asked me back then if I could get an injection to be straight, I probably would have taken it. If I look back now, there is no way I would have taken that injection.

NARRATION

 On this episode of the show, we’re going to be hearing from Maxim.

MAXIM

I’m Maxim. I’m 24. And yeah, I’m six foot two and a half, so pretty tall.

NARRATION

But it’s not his height that he’s talking about today. Rather, Maxim’s story starts at that moment of identity formation and sexual awakening that might be familiar to lots of you.

(Sound effects - leafing through a catalogue)

MAXIM

Like when you would flop, like go through the catalogs for like Harris Scarfe or K-Mart, and you would suddenly hit the men’s underwear section. I was kinda like, “whoa, like, okay, like, I know, I shouldn’t be looking at this, but like, I’m still looking and I can’t stop looking. But I’m gonna turn the next page so no one can see.”

That is kind of when I was like, “okay, I’m somewhat attracted to this in some particular way.” But at the same time, I didn’t have this incredible understanding of, like, what that is, if that’s wrong, if that’s normal, because that’s just, you know, my natural instinct. It wasn’t good or bad at that point.

(Music - Maxim’s theme begins; light-hearted accordion intro)

MAXIM

Because, you know, when you’re when you’re super young, ‘straight’, ‘gay’, all these labels they don’t actually mean anything. You just take people for who they are. And, you know, labels don’t really come into it. And yeah, it wasn’t until I started hearing, you know, the word ‘gay’ in a negative way that, you know, I would start to associate negative things with that particular word.

(music - Maxim’s theme kicks in; boppy hip-hop)

MAXIM

So I grew up in Cranbourne, which is in the southeast of Melbourne. And yeah kind of grew up in that really typical, you know, working class Australian family. My mum was a single mother. I did have a stepfather that came in at a later point, but my biological father, I don’t know his side, I’ve only met him once. And so in the immediate home, it was myself, my mum, and then obviously later on my sister. My sister is 16.

And quite frequently, because my mum would work extremely long hours, my grandmother would come over and look after us. Cook, clean, fulfil those female-expected duties. It’s funny because it’s a huge juxtaposition between my grandmother, who’s this very traditional, you know, “this is the woman’s job”. Whereas you’ve got my mum who’s like, “I don’t have time for that.” Like, “I’m going out there, I’m making money.” Like “you do it or I’ll pay someone to do it.”

And then, you know, down the road, we would have my grandfather. Yeah, it’s an amazing family. I’ve never, because I’ve only had the one side, I’ve never not felt that I’ve been missing anything. My grandfather filled a lot of the, I guess, void in not having a father. But I very much think like whether they’re a father, or a mother, you know, if it’s a person, that’s all that matters. And my grandfather filled that quite a lot. And so did my grandmother as well, because my mum was working a lot.

Yeah, that’s kind of what the family dynamic looked like.

NARRATION

And for the most part, it worked for them as a family. At the same time though, Maxim was being exposed to beliefs that conflicted with these burgeoning feelings inside him.

(Sound effects - mardi gras cheering [through the tv])

(Music - up-tempo dance club beats)

MAXIM

You know, Mardi Gras would come on TV. And funnily enough, like, my nan would love Mardi Gras. And she’d be like, “I want to watch it.” But she would say “the gays”, but…

MARC

She was just watching for the sequins. Your nan is mad for the sequins.

MAXIM

She loves the outfits.

MARC

When she’s done with the Harris Scarfe, she gets out the sequins.

MAXIM

Yeah, she chucks on the sequins, she chucks on Mardi Gras. But, you know, the rest of my family, it was kind of a bit like, “oh, you know, it’s a bit out there. It’s a bit much.” You know, “if they’re so normal, they’re so like us, why do they need a parade?” You know, “you don’t see straight people going around doing this.”

And, yeah, I think just a lot of things that Mardi Gras stood for, in terms of people being themselves and being free to be open, was kind of a threat to, you know, their thought processes that they’ve developed over decades. And kind of that indoctrination of what a male is and what a female is. And, you know, blue’s for boys pink’s for girls. And I think that the very thought, or seeing something that counteracts that on mainstream TV was kind of just a bit like, “urgh, nah!”

NARRATION

But even to Maxim, the term “gay” was something of a bad word.

MAXIM

I think that was kind of the start of when that negative association with that word was starting to, you know, brew in the back of my mind. You know, in my head, kind of get to a stage where “ooh, you know, this, I don’t think this is normal. I don’t think this is okay. No one else seems to be the same.”

MARC

Before you verbalised it was there a moment you knew that you were gay, you just didn’t hadn’t said it out loud?

MAXIM

I couldn’t say it out loud. Not even internally to myself, there was a real deep shame about it.

(Music - dark and brooding hip-hop beats)

MARC

What were you afraid of?

MAXIM

Kind of the unknown. Like, if I am outed, what’s the reaction? Weirdly enough, it was never the the fear of a physical violent reaction. It was that “how people perceive me? Will I have the same opportunities?”

And it was again, just that fear of the unknown.

(Music - hip-hop beats continue)

MAXIM

Look, when you hide something as big as that, you get very good at it. And, you know, for me it would be saying nothing. You know, a family member did sit me down, who doesn’t agree with homosexuality at all. And said to me, you know, “the only association I’ve ever had with homosexuals is AIDS and the AIDS crisis.” And I was a little bit like, “alright.” Didn’t really know how to take that. And I just wouldn’t say anything.

And It was also something that I’d kind of accepted as just the norm, as standard. So there was no need to question it. I know, if I even dared question it, you know, there would be questions kind of, you know, raised a little bit as to be like, “oh, why do you think that?” And so for me, it was ensuring that that big huge secret was kept that.

MARC

So saying nothing doesn’t invite questions.

MAXIM

Yeah, saying nothing, having no reaction to it. Not even giving a facial expression. Just being blank. So, you know, when people were like, “oh Maxim is a bit feminine”, they might simply go, “oh, yeah, but it’s a stage, he’ll grow out of it.” Or, you know, my cover was “well I’m just trying to…I don’t have a girlfriend ‘cause I’m trying to focus on getting into a really good uni.” And I was getting the grades for them to not question that. So that was always my cover.

Yeah I think it was definitely a very cold and robotic time because again, my focus was on not - like every other teenager - not being seen as different, or an outlier, or as gay.

NARRATION

As his final year of high school came to a close, Maxim was faced with the realisation that the negative association he had with being gay, had now become something much more troubling.

MAXIM

It was a hatred, an absolute hatred. A very intense stomach churning feeling. And that definitely played on my mental health. So it was obviously a lot of the internalised homophobia. And it was building up and building up and building up like a pressure cooker.

(Sound effects - pressure cooker hiss rises and then shuts off suddenly)

(Music - hip-hop beats end)

NARRATION

Somewhere in the midst of this, Maxim found the courage to tell a few friends about his sexuality. But their positive and supportive response wasn’t actually enough to release that pressure building inside him.

The following year, he started uni where his problems kind of just followed him. The freedom, new environments, and friendships provided too many options, and it kind of became overwhelming.

MAXIM

And it was a bit too much. All the structures and foundations that I built up of, you know, this story, having things hidden, that all crumbled away now, because school was finished, I wasn’t exposed to the people that I previously was at school. We’d all gone our separate ways.

And, that is when it was really the catalyst and I felt it go way down. Mood completely just gone. It sounds dreadful, but just not really feeling happy, not having any kind of feeling of happiness feeling numb. If I’m not if I wasn’t feeling numb, I was feeling extremely angry and agitated. Yeah, as soon as I hit University and it crumbled, it just exploded.

And I had this perfect plan, and I reached an extent of it, and I kind of - because that independence and all the changes that have happened, and that structure now disappearing - I went “oh, this isn’t actually what I want.”

Yeah, that’s when I kind of went “well, I’m gonna leave, screw it. Like, I can. No one…no one can stop me.”

MARC

That sense of like overwhelming options and the plan falling apart, what does that feel like on the inside?

MAXIM

I felt very lost. I remember feeling extremely lost.

(Music - laid-back cocktail lounge beats)

MAXIM

And, yeah, that was kind of when I don’t know how I came upon it, but I kind of took a painkiller. And that’s when, I don’t know, I didn’t actually feel anything. And that was great. Like, that was better than actually feeling something. So, you know, I was going through packets. But, you know, when I did have employment, I would need to still be able to do my job to earn an income, so I would take a few of these before I’d start my shift. I would kind of just be this numb robot.

NARRATION

Maxim spent so long hiding from himself, that he couldn’t recognise his mental health was deteriorating. Becoming restless, he quit uni and continued on I guess you would call it a self-destructive path, self-medicating as a release-valve on the pressure cooker bubbling inside him.

MARC

Some of those ideas you had about yourself, how are you dealing with them?

MAXIM

I’m not and that was the problem. That was the problem, I wasn’t dealing with them. It was pushing them deep down. I wouldn’t see a doctor, I wouldn’t see a psychologist.

MARC

Why do you think that was?

MAXIM

I would perceive that as a sign of weakness, like back then.

MARC

Ah, okay. You touched on something earlier, and I’d like to understand a little bit more, that you were talking about this this pressure cooker. If I was observing you from from outside, how would you have looked? How would you have felt?

MAXIM

You wouldn’t know. That’s the thing, you wouldn’t know. I would be able to conceal it pretty well. If things were way too much, I would probably be extremely tired. I would be very intolerant.

Yeah, I’d kind of be this really nasty person. Little things would set me off. Like, if someone slammed a door, I would lose it. If someone was late, I’d be just extremely critical of them as a human being. I think I’d literally destroy them inside and out. I would probably sleep a lot, because I just didn’t really want to deal with anything else.

And it’s awful like it plays with your physical body as well. I would get sick. I would really kind of have no concept of time, because I would be so in my head, going over the worst situations. Feeling unwell, feeling exhausted, tired, disengaging from society, from friends from family.

(Music - gloomy woodwind soundscape)

MAXIM

I would say I definitely had, you know, suicidal thoughts. You know, sometimes people have views of people who take their own life as, you know, it’s a weakness or something, you know, they couldn’t just they couldn’t cut it in the real world. But when you are in that particular situation, it’s a very intense and full on feeling. And it’s a build up, it’s over a very long period of time, or over a long period of time.

And the feelings of just absolute despair were just awful.

(Music - gloomy woodwind continues)

MARC

If you had to describe that sense of despair to somebody who doesn’t have a frame of reference, how would you go about conveying what it’s like to be at the centre of that?

MAXIM

Just feeling absolutely nothing at all. Not feeling good. Not feeling bad. Just having no hope. Like, there’s nothing that could possibly happen that would excite you. And also depress you even further, because you’ve already reached that point. So just this, this absolute empty, but heavy feeling. And when people talk about that cloudy fog that you feel when you are in a depressive episode, exactly that.

And I think for me, the most emotionally intense I ever felt was coming to the conclusion in my mind that being a gay man is not something I would accept.

(Music - gloomy woodwind fades)

NARRATION

Things got a lot worse for Maxim. His mood spiralled, he continued to self-medicate, and he kind of seemed aimless and without hope.

He was proving kind of tough to be around, but his friends stuck with him. And eventually encouraged him to seek out professional help.

MAXIM

One of them, you know, even said, “I’ll even come with you and wait out front, if you want.” Like I had really good friends. Like it wasn’t…I was very lucky to have that. Not everyone has that. And that was, yeah kind of the moment where I just thought, “well, I’m either going to…the situation I’m in is crap. So I’m either gonna sit here and wallow in it and carry on. Or I might actually go and give something a go, and I don’t have to pay for it. So why not give it a shot?”

And that’s exactly what I did.

(Sound effects - door opens; then shuts; then keyboard tapping)

MAXIM

I was probably the worst patient. Asking me all these questions, and I was giving her absolutely nothing. But yeah, it was the best thing I’d ever done, because that was when I was put on proper medication. You know, diagnosed by someone who actually knows what they’re doing, and not just some 18/19 year old, you know, fresh-out-of-high-school-kid who just sees a cute packet and just reads the back of it.

MARC

What were you eventually diagnosed with?

MAXIM

I think it was like, I think it was major depressive disorder. Um…yeah.

MARC

When you hear the words, ‘major depressive disorder’, it’s big, it sounds heavy. What were the sort of things going through your mind when they said that?

MAXIM

Well, I already kind of knew something was not going well. I don’t know, the actual diagnosis really didn’t faze me. It was like…and to this day, I still don’t even really think about that. It’s just for some people putting a label on that might actually help. But for me, I didn’t really think about it. It was just “okay, this is the situation I’m in. These are the things that I need to do. I see you every month.” Yeah.

NARRATION

Maxim engaged with mental health professionals in a way he’d never considered possible before.

MARC

Was there anything that came out of the therapeutic process that surprised you that you weren’t expecting?

MAXIM

How much you can actually learn about yourself if you just kind of lean in. But don’t have any like expectations. Like, just lean into it. Kind of, like, just go with the flow a little bit.

MARC

Yeah.

MAXIM

And also trust that the person that you’re dealing with - once you’ve built up obviously, that connection with that psychologist - knows what they’re doing.

Yeah, I listened to the professionals first and foremost. Like, I was taking the medication. That helped a lot. I was challenging myself a lot. So I would do things like yoga. Yeah, getting into the gym, being fit. And eating really well. I actually noticed a lot change when I kind of cut out bad foods and was more mindful. That definitely helped a lot.

(Music - warbling drones)

MAXIM

And I actually remember when she suggested writing in a journal. And I just gave her this look, like “are you serious?” Like I actually think I said to her, “I’m not doing that.” And it was quite good, because she has had a response of just like, “well, you either want to get better or you don’t. Like, that’s up to you.” And yeah, the first few times I didn’t do it. But then yeah, I eventually started doing it. And I still do it to this day. It’s…yeah, one of the most incredible things I’ve actually ever done.

Yeah, I think just changing…recognising that the habits that I had formed, were contributing to the way I was feeling. And logically, if I wanted to change how I was feeling, I would change the habits. And that’s easier said than done. But, you know, slowly, a lot of those foundations that I built, day by day by day, my mood would slightly change bit by bit.

But when they started…when I started explaining the situation, for them to sit back and go, “oh, this is actually a lot. And no wonder xyz has occurred.” That was kind of when I probably felt a bit more relief. Yeah, that “okay, there actually isn’t something wrong with me, this is actually a very complex thing that’s going to take unwinding.”

MARC

Take me into that process. What does it mean to unwind it? And what were the things that you were unwinding?

MAXIM

A lot of it really centres around that identity crisis of, “I can’t accept that I’m a gay man.” Couldn’t accept it. In terms of unwinding that, it was kind of addressing, you know, all the points as to why I could not accept that reality. Because that’s the reality, that is a fact. It’s not something that can be changed, it’s not something that can be altered. And that’s what my psychologist said, “it’s going to be something you either accept, or you don’t.” You know, “you can accept it and come to terms with that, and live a perfectly normal and happy life. Or you can not accept it, and you can continue the way you are, and be completely miserable.”

I think the concern that we were trying to address in the room was more being comfortable saying, you know, “I am a gay man.” Which, I still remember, like, we would have sessions where they’d be like, you know, “say after me”, and I would just say, “no.”

MARC

Really?

MAXIM

Yeah, it was “no.”

MARC

Wow.

MAXIM

And there were certain things that they would try and touch on. And I would just be like…yeah, they would know when to stop. But the more and more comfortable I got, I ended up just saying one day, like, “I am a gay man.”

It went from being this huge thing I couldn’t say, to then being something that - I wasn’t amazingly comfortable with - but I could acknowledge that “yeah, I am a gay man.”

MARC

Even now when you say it there’s like this, like grin that passes over your face when you say. Like, “I’m not totally comfortable, but I am comfortable, but…” There’s a weird cocktail that passes over your face every time you say it.

MAXIM

Because it’s just - I dunno - like, it’s a blessing to even be able to say those words in some public spaces.

MARC

Totally.

MAXIM

But at the same time, it’s like, “why do I have to do that?” It’s not like, you know, Jane in accounts has to go “I’m straight.”

MARC

It’s true.

MAXIM

Do you know what I mean?

MARC

There’s an inherent imbalance there for sure.

MAXIM

It’s just…I deal with things through humour. So I kind of like have fun with it at the same time. But yeah, it was obviously a very defining moment for me when I did, with a professional, acknowledge that and come to that realisation. And suddenly a small part of it was just like, “okay, I actually think I can accept this.”

And I definitely have now but it’s one part of me and it’s it’s not my entire identity. But it’s also a part of my identity that I am extremely proud of.

(Music - bright, hopeful hip-hop; piano intro)

MARC

A lot of this story starts with the views of gay people that you heard growing up from your family. So what happened when you finally told them that you were gay?

MAXIM

(laughs) Ah, yeah.

NARRATION

First on the list: nan.

MAXIM

I went and visited my nan, the one we were talking about earlier, who always want to watch ‘the gays’ on TV.

I was like, “look, after all the years I’ve come to the conclusion that, you know, I’m gay.” And, what was it she said, “that’s okay, everyone’s gay these days.” And I was just like, “okay, I’ll take that.”

And then she talked about ‘the gays’, and how ‘the gays’ are really beautiful. And then she actually turned to the serious discussion of “have you told your mother? Have you told your grandfather?” And she said to me, “I don’t actually know how anyone’s going to react to this. So if no one supports you, like, I’ll obviously support you.”

NARRATION

Next up: mum

MAXIM

And she froze. She just looked at me. And I think she said something along the lines of “oh, I always knew.” But then she got up, walked down the hallway and went to the door, like shut the door. Still don’t know what happened in that room. I don’t know whether she like let out like a little cry, or scream, or whatnot.

But she came back out five minutes later, sat back down. And probably in the same boat I was, just kind of in denial, but at the same time, like if you are a parent, how do you even approach that? Like, especially with the environment that we were in. Because her next question was “have you told your grandfather?” And I went “nah.” And my mum just said, “look, I don’t know how he’s gonna react.”

(Music - bright hip-hop ends)

NARRATION

And finally: pa.

MAXIM

I did the exact same thing, I literally had a script at this point. And - what did he say? it was - after like, the longest silence it was, “if that’s the lifestyle you choose to lead, then that’s up to you.”

And that was a huge, weird relief. It was a weird feeling. Like it’s now a secret that I don’t have to keep any longer. It’s not something that I celebrated

Look, to this day, he probably still tells people I’m going to get a girlfriend. But it was surprising actually, because a week later, a week or two later, we actually had like a big family lunch or dinner or something like that. And I rocked up late. And yeah, I remember my grandfather was in this like livid mood. And it wasn’t until later that my grandmother explained to me that, there was some comments made that he just lost it at. They were homophobic comments, and he had pretty much just said, like, “not under my house.” Like, “this is my grandson.” Like, “I accept my grandson for who he is.”

And, you know what, I know when I bring someone home one day, the person that’s probably going to be closest to them will be him. You know, he gets me and I get him, and we’ve never been closer.

(Music - happy, boppy, cheesy club RnB)

NARRATION

While the family’s support was a huge relief, Maxim had started a journey of self-acceptance. As a result, his mental health was beginning to improve. That pressure cooker inside him, I guess you could say, it started to simmer down, until it became something more manageable.

MAXIM

It’s not something that I guess for me - and I can only speak to my experience - I find it doesn’t go away. I just cope with it in a healthier, better way. And I actually do think that a lot of the experiences that I had dealing with a major depressive disorder, were benefits as well. I’m a much more empathetic person. It’s allowed me to be conscious of other people’s feelings and, you know, acknowledging that we’re all different. We’ve all got different backgrounds and experiences and beliefs. So I definitely think - I know it sounds weird - but there were benefits to it as well.

NARRATION

Recently, Maxim has begun advocacy work for the wider rainbow community. He’s done stints with the Victorian Pride Lobby, Victorian Pride Centre, Sex Work Law Reform Victoria, and the Victoria Police where he consults on their engagement with the LGBTIQ+ community.

Where once he was too ashamed and full of self-loathing even to admit his own sexuality to himself, now he’s a proud and active member of the community.

MARC

How different are you internally, to when you were keeping it inside?

MAXIM

Oh so much more happier and emotive. And, you know, previously I was just a cold robot, really. I definitely think I speak my mind much more, because I can speak my mind. Previously, I would maybe, you know, tow the line or be quite assertive, but, you know, reading from a script, so to speak. Whereas now it’s, you know, if I’ve got something to say, and I think it’s appropriate to say, I will say it.

And, you know, for quite a long time, I definitely would stay silent. But now, I’m not silent anymore.

(Sound effects - mardi gras cheering [live])

(Music - up-tempo mardi gras stuff [live])

MAXIM

The last Mardi Gras I was there. They were watching, actually. And my nan, she’s so funny, she’s like, “I was trying to spot you.” And I’m like, “look, there’s like, how many hundreds of 1000s of people there, like…”

MARC

Were you marching?

MAXIM

No, No, I wasn’t. I was in some pub somewhere watching it.

MARC

So that would have made it very difficult to see you.

MAXIM

Very difficult.

(Music - mardi gras tune ends)

MAXIM

Going to my first Mardi Gras was just this incredible experience where I’m like, so grateful to be part of such a diverse and creative and incredible community.

(Music - Maxim’s theme begins; low-key accordion)

MAXIM

I actually think being gay is one of the most incredible blessings that I could have possibly been given. Yeah, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

It’s amazing, and people from all walks of life and now feeling safe - in Australia that is - feeling safe to come out and be who they are. And by being who they are, they may not realise it, but they’re subconsciously making it easy for the next person to come out.

(Music - Maxim’s theme kicks off)

NARRATION

Those in Australia’s LGBTIQ+ community are significantly more likely to experience a mental health issue. And this is particularly true for young people. To understand why, I sat down for a chat with Beyond Blue’s Lead Clinical Adviser, Dr. Grant Blashki.

(Music - Maxim’s theme ends)

MARC

Thanks so much for talking to me.

DR GRANT

Yeah, great to chat, Marc.

MARC

Just reflecting on Maxim’s story, so for so long, you can hear it, like Maxim just refused to accept his sexuality. And he’s masking something quite big. I guess it was a matter of time. I mean, certainly the impression I get listening to him talk is it was a matter of time before his mental health was going to kind of bear some of that toll. What is the negative impact? Like, from a psychological perspective, like what is the negative impact of keeping a secret on our mental health?

DR GRANT

Well, look so much has been written about coming out and actually trying to hide an identity or such a fundamental part of yourself. And I think what we heard with Maxim was it was exhausting. You know, on the one hand, he had these feelings. And not only was it sort of external expectations about who we should be, but his own internal expectations about what was acceptable. And quite honestly, it was just exhausting for him. And I think over time, the anxiety and the stress all started to bubble through as he expressed.

MARC

I’m not incorrect in saying that there is an increased prevalence of mental health issues among the LGBTIQ+ community is there?

DR GRANT

There is and it’s not so much about their sexuality or their gender, but the context of discrimination and bullying that they are experiencing. And so not surprisingly, we do see higher rates of mental health issues, and very worryingly higher rates of suicidality as well. So Beyond Blue is very committed to supporting these communities and make sure that the help is there.

MARC

Are there specific support services for the LGBTIQ+ community?

DR GRANT

Yeah, look, fortunately, there are lots more supportive services now. And I think it’s really important, because we know that, as in Maxim’s case, there’s unfortunately a lot of stigma in the community, and actually a lot of discrimination and bullying. And it’s not a small thing. So we know from the research that, you know, an Australian study, some - more than 60% - of non-heterosexual people report verbal abuse. So their experience is not uncommonly filled with a lot of this sort of discrimination.

So there’s some terrific services out there. Q-Life is a national support service people can ring. Beyond Blue has some good material about mental health and the LGBTIQ+ community, and we have campaigns like the Stop Think Respect campaign. So there's a lot of help there now. And I think it’s great for people because they don't feel so isolated. It's quite an isolating time.

MARC

Dr. Grant Blashki, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to me.

DR GRANT

Great to speak, Marc.

(Music - show theme)

NARRATION

I want to thank Maxim for sharing his story, his humour, his positive outlook on life.

You can join the conversation and share your story at beyondblue.org.au/forums

If you or someone you know needs support, you can visit our website or call our Support Service on 1300 22 46 36. There’s also a great organisation called QLife, where you can access support and referrals on a whole range of things including sexuality, gender identity, and relationships. We’ll put some info and resources in the show notes.

Not Alone is a Beyond Blue podcast, hosted by me, Marc Fennell, produced by Sam Loy, and executive produced by Darcy Sutton and Sarah Alexander. It was recorded by Ryan D’Sylva, with sound design and mixing by Que Nguyen.

This podcast was produced on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, Boonwurrung, Gadigal and Dja Dja Wurrung Country, and we pay respect to the traditional owners of these lands.

Thank you for listening to Not Alone.

Auslan translation

Not Alone is hosted by Marc Fennell, produced by Sam Loy and executive produced by Darcy Sutton and Sarah Alexander. Mixing and sound design was done by Que Nguyen.

Our theme song Sense of Home is by Australian artist Harrison Storm.


Helpful resources

  • You can join the discussion on our Beyond Blue online forums
  • QLife (1800 184 527) provides anonymous and free LGBTI peer support and referral for people in Australia wanting to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships.
  • ReachOut is the most accessed online mental health service for young people and their parents in Australia and features dedicated pages to identity and sexuality.
  • headspace provides early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds. You can download their resource 'Understanding sexuality and sexual identity' here.
  • Head to Health can help you find digital mental health services specifically catering to sexuality and identity from some of Australia’s most trusted mental health organisations

Suicide and crisis support:

  • The Beyond Now suicide safety planning app helps you stay safe if you're experiencing suicidal thoughts, feelings, distress or crisis.
  • The Suicide Call Back Service provides professional 24/7 telephone and online counselling to people who are affected by suicide. You can access this service by calling 1300 659 467.
  • Lifeline provide crisis support and suicide prevention services – they can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 13 11 14.
  • If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000

 

Back to Not Alone home page

 

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Season Two of Not Alone was made possible by Australia Post proudly supporting Beyond Blue.

 

Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include:

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