While I don’t speak for all queer people in Australia (However I did once win an L Word trivia night which I’m pretty sure means I am now queen of the lesbians), I do think that all queer people were able to connect in some way with what Amanda said on MAFS last night.
“As a gay person, there’s always this sense of you’ve gotta work a little bit harder to find your place in society.”
This really struck a chord with me because it made me realise that while I can push down that feeling and tell myself “everything’s chill, I am on an equal playing field” sometimes it’s hard to ignore.
There is usually a moment of awkwardness after explaining my sexuality to someone. People feel the need to say something, whether it be “oh cool, I voted yes!” Or “omg I never would have guessed, you’re so pretty for a lesbian!”
Which is bad on so many levels, even though I know they’re often just trying to express they are comfortable with me sharing my sexuality with them. But comments like these just make it more awkward and uncomfortable, to be honest.
You could say I don’t need to bring up my sexuality as much as I do. My friends love to jokingly pay me out, saying “Hi I’m Jenna, I’m a lesbian” or “OmG ReAlLy, Is ThIs YoU CoMiNg OuT?!?!?” People sometimes assume it’s because I love to talk about myself and am so confident in my sexuality that I don’t care – and I mean, yes and yes, to a degree.
But the real reason I bring up my sexuality so often is to use it as a protective barrier.
If people know I’m gay straight away, I know what I can and can’t say from their reaction. It means I won’t have to explain myself later if I start talking about an ex or nonchalantly talk about strap-ons (it happens more than I would like to admit).
I am incredibly lucky to have a super team of supportive family and friends who don’t look at me as just my sexuality, but as the goofy, anxious, person that I actually am. However, there are still moments where I get envious of my straight identifying co-workers and friends for having it a bit easier.
The biggest way that this affects me is in stand up comedy. I have noticed that queer comedians have to identify themselves straight off the bat… queer off the bat? In stand up, you should start off with a punchy, one liner joke to get the audience on board, and a lot of comedians usually make this joke about themselves.
For me, I address that I am a lesbian. I have noticed that if I don’t make it clear that I am a lesbian from the get-go, and am in a room of mostly straight-identifying patrons, they look so confused when I start talking about an ex-girlfriend or a sexual encounter.
I also have to carefully choose what I wear on stage. I get that stand up comedy is still a performance, and you need to take this into account, but if I am not wearing, say, jeans and Doc Martens, I have found that my jokes about being a lesbian don’t land as well. Yes, I have anxiety so could just be reading into things, but it has happened too many times now for it not to feel legit.
It’s also why I love performing in queer comedy rooms. That sense of automatic safety when I look into the audience and know I don’t have to prove my sexuality to them.
I love being queer, and am so grateful to be a part of the most accepting club in the world. But in my early 20’s, I wanted more than anything for those desires to go away. I didn’t think I was normal, I was meant to like boys goddammit! Not have weird obsessive investments in my best female friends!
I came out at 23, living in inner west Sydney, working in the creative industries, and had an amazing support system. I know how lucky I am and how so many queer people have to go through much worse.
But that fear of being a disappointment Amanda expressed on MAFS last night still prevails for me too, as I haven’t come out to my grandparents. I’ve chosen not to because I think they won’t understand and I don’t want to ruin our relationship, but I am mostly terrified that they wouldn’t accept me anymore and would be ashamed that I am their granddaughter. Which to be fair, I won’t know unless I tell them, but during the marriage equality debate, when the country was voting on the validation of our existence (remember that FUN!) their views became pretty obvious especially my grandfather’s. And it terrified me. During this time, it was up to us, the queer community to educate those who were not. Which seems easy enough, but guess what, it’s actually really hard when it’s your relationship on the line.
It’s bullshit that it is expected that straight is still the default, and you have to ‘come out’ with your sexuality otherwise. But it’s a reality that every queer person has to face. So Amanda talking about wanting that confirmation from her mother and father, wondering if she isn’t enough for them, is so heartbreaking because it is so real. It is what we all think about when coming out. Will I be accepted? Will everyone still love me? What if they don’t?
So to have that feeling, on your wedding day (even if it’s kind of a fake wedding), while on national television, and standing there waiting to see if your family will show up to accept who you are as a human? TERRIFYING! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING?!
It gives me a heart attack just thinking about it. But instead of hiding under a pillow and cry-screaming at the camera to fuck off, Amanda did the damn thing.
Amanda, you have all my respect and love. And remember, in the queer community, you have your chosen family, and we will accept you with open arms, no matter what.
Jenna Suffern is a Sydney-based comedian. You’d be a fool not to follow Jenna in either real life, or online: @jennasuffern.