FROM the rocky heights of the Grampians to the flat cropping land, Wimmera’s landscape is as diverse as its population.
In regional areas, people with differing sexualities or gender identities can face a range of challenges – from bullying to a lack of specialised medical access and understanding.
Fairfax Media’s Mail-Times has released a four-episode podcast telling the story of three people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, showcasing three very different experiences in the Wimmera.
Everyone has a different story and individual experience, but regional living can bring a unique challenges for LGBTIQ people.
Listen to the podcasts here:
Episode one: Outsiders
Many LGBTIQ people experience a lower degree of understanding in regional areas, leading to discrimination and isolation.
Tom Dryburgh, who identifies as gay, said one of the biggest challenges about growing up in Rainbow was encountering casual homophobia.
Tom, 22, said once he came out, he was supported and embraced warmly by his former home – but as a young boy growing up and not fitting the footy-playing mould, he never thought acceptance was possible.
Horsham’s Lily Dalton identifies as bisexual and non-binary, preferring the pronouns they, their and them.
Someone who is non-binary identifies as neither male or female.
Lily, 19, said after publicly declaring a non-binary identity, they were routinely harassed, verbally abused and physically shoved.
Wanda Jackson, a transgender woman who transitioned 45 years ago, moved from Sydney’s lively Kings Cross to small-town Goroke in 1999 where she’s found a fantastic home and she never wants to leave.
Episode two: Mental health
Lily Dalton, 19, said the abuse, transphobia and homophobia encountered in the Wimmera had huge effects on their mental health. They have twice tried to take their own life.
Sadly, Lily’s experiences and mental health challenges are not unique.
LGBTQ youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population and transgender adults are 11 times more likely.
Wanda Jackson, a transgender woman, said she worried about young LGBTIQ people such as Lily.
Tom Dryburgh, a gay man originally from Rainbow, also struggled with his mental health growing up.
He believes his ongoing anxiety has roots in his experiences earlier in life.
Episode three: Stay or go
Tom Dryburgh, 22, said while he loved the Wimmera, he was only able to come out as gay after leaving the area and going overseas to a place no-one knew him.
His story is not uncommon.
While many LGBTQ people such as Tom flee the Wimmera, Lily is unable to leave for medical reasons.
Wanda, however, took the opposite journey, finding her true home hundreds of kilometres away from the bright and accepting lights of Sydney.
Episode four: The learning process
Tom Dryburgh, 22, said coming out as gay and others coming to terms with one’s sexuality was a learning process.
As an adult, he knows casual homophobia often had no intent behind it – but he said it was important to remember words and actions could have serious consequences on young people who were struggling.
Lily Dalton said while feeling little acceptance in the broader region after coming out as non-binary, they had formed very close friendships.
They said some people “really stepped up” and made the effort gain a better understanding.
Goroke’s Wanda Jackson transitioned 45 years ago. She said it was a tough time and moving to Goroke in the ’90s came with its own challenges – but overwhelmingly people have accepted her.
Why the right words matter
FOR many people, terms used by LGBTIQ people can be foreign. We’ve put together an explainer of some common terms.
Sex: The term refers to biology and sex assigned to someone at birth. It does not always match someone’s gender.
Gender: One’s sense of self, what they identify as.
Trans: The term trans is sometimes used as an umbrella term for anyone whose gender characteristics differ from societal expectations – meaning their gender doesn’t match their sex.
For example a person classed as male at birth, their sex, who’s gender is female might describe herself as a trans woman, or a woman.
Gender diverse: Gender diverse people include people who identify as agender, having no gender; bigender, both a man and a woman; genderqueer or fluid, having shifting genders; or as non-binary, neither a man or a woman.
Misgendering: Misgendering is the term used for describing someone with a pronoun or language that doesn’t match how they identify.
Why does it matter?
Everyone one likes to be recognised for who they are, misgendering someone takes that away from them and can indicate they are not supported in their real identity.
All this is new?
No, people have been undergoing sexual reassignment surgery since 1951. People living as genders other than their birth sex have been recorded back to ancient civilisations.
Help is available
If you’ve been affected by any of the podcasts content, wish to talk or find out more, contact headspace at eheadspace.
For immediate support call lifeline on 13 11 14 or Qlife from 3pm to midnight on 1800 184 527 or their online support chats.