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    6 MIN READ

    The fear of being found out

    My experience coming out to my conservative family.

    I used to spend a lot of my time Googling things on the family computer. “Am I gay?” “how do I be straight?” “what’s homosexuality?”

    Due to heternormative programming, I didn’t think very much about the act of sex itself, although I remember feelings of disgust, and contempt whenever it did cross my mind. Exploring my sexuality or even the concept of ‘sexuality’ was near next to impossible in a conservative environment.

    The impact this had on my mental health is profound. It’s something I’m currently working on and I’m sure I’ll continue to work on for the rest of my life. The toil and anguish of having to keep not only a secret but deny my very existence, cut me off emotionally from the world. I lived in constant fear of not being accepted for who I am. 

    For certain members of my family, the Grim Reaper advertising campaign of the late 80s (which was state-sponsored), is firmly entrenched in their minds. The height of the AIDS pandemic had formed the foundation of their thoughts around homosexuals. This wasn’t so much about religious scripture, but a lack of understanding, awareness and exposure to the rainbow community – a fear created by indoctrination and their surroundings. 

    Hiding who you are is exhausting. It consumes every fibre of your existence.

    I remember walking into my pa’s lounge room while the news was covering the debate around the 2017 Australian Marriage Equality postal vote. My mum said she wasn’t phased but was most likely going to tick ‘yes.’ My pa, somewhat surprised by this, announced he was going to tick ‘no’ on the proviso that all homosexuals do is “spread HIV and AIDS.” I was floored, but as I wasn’t out, I swept these comments under the rug and ignored them. To this day, we haven’t spoken about this moment and I don’t believe we ever will.

    For my entire life, I’d been hiding who I truly was from my family. They had no idea who Maxim was, and neither did I really. I was finally ready for them to join me on this journey of life-long self-discovery. That’s not to say I wanted to wave a giant rainbow flag around or let them in on everything, but I wanted them to understand that instead of bringing a Samantha home to visit them, it’d be a Steve.

    My nan was the first family member I came out to. I thought, if she doesn’t accept it, then no one else in the family will. I remember it vividly. I asked to talk to her outside about something private, so she prepared herself a cup of tea and one for me. We sat outside at dusk and I had pre-prepared this long-winded spiel on what I was going to say. It sounded extremely rehearsed. I started with, “after a lot of thinking and time, I’ve come to the realisation that I’m gay.” Time froze. She took a sip of tea, waited a few moments and responded: “That’s okay matey, everyone is gay these days!” This was followed by how much she loves the gays and how they’re “so gorgeous.” She asked me if I had a boyfriend, if I’d ever had one and funnily enough she ended with, “and I thought you had something important to tell me.” Before we went inside, she asked if I’d told my mum or my pa. When I told her no, she said plainly, “I don’t know how they’ll take it, but if no one supports you, I will.”

    The next night, I came out to my mum. This one was a real band-aid ripper. We were sitting in the lounge room and I blatantly said, “we’re going to have a really difficult conversation right now and you’re going to have to listen…I’m Gay.” She went quiet, walked to her room and a few moments later returned to say she always knew. Mum echoed my nan. “Have you told your grandfather?” She prepared me for rejection, although in my head I’d already accepted it. 

    It was time. 

    I gave pa the same rehearsed speech. My nan immediately stopped her knitting. A solid 5-10 seconds of silence encapsulated the room, where all you could hear was the light humming of the TV. He said: “If that’s the lifestyle you choose, that’s up to you”.

    “I know your opinion on homosexuals isn’t positive…” I began. He immediately cut me off. “You don’t know what I think at all. Don’t make assumptions.” To this day, my relationship with my grandfather has never been better. It’s never been more authentic and I absolutely love it. He accepts me for who I am, regardless of his beliefs and I accept him for him. We are more than the sum of our opinions. In my mind, coming out as gay to my family was going to change my relationship with them forever – and it did, for the better. 

    Hiding who you are is exhausting. It’s nauseating, it eats at you, it twists you, it consumes every fibre of your existence. When you choose to turn up authentically, it’s scary, sure, but it pales in comparison to the fear of hiding who you are, the fear of being ‘found out.’ It’s like Imposter Syndrome on steroids.

    A few days after I came out to her, my nan asked me “why not earlier, why did you wait so long?” This got me thinking, if I could have my time over, would I do anything differently? Absolutely, however, there’s a caveat to that: I did the best that I could with what I had. I played the cards I’d received and I didn’t reveal my hand until I was certain I couldn’t lose. To this day, not a single one of the fears I had has come to fruition. If anything, it has brought me so much closer to my family. 

    I am so blessed that I made it through this period – it pains me that we’ve lost so many of our beautiful community before they were able to discover just how stunning, incredible and amazing they are.


    1.  I waited until I had an income and was self-sufficient so that if it went pear-shaped, I wouldn’t be out on the street or in serious distress.

    2.  Tell someone you trust unequivocally if this is an option. That support can be incredible. 

    3.  Speak to a professional, gauge their thoughts, a GP, a psychologist/psychiatrist.  

    4.  Write. Journaling is cathartic and provides me with a sense of real release that I’m yet to find elsewhere.

    5.  Read, however, everyone’s coming out is different and yours may not be like what you read online, for better or for worse. 

    6.  Do it in your own time – but remember, you do need to do it eventually. 

    7.  Don’t feel rushed or pressured because of some linear timeline of when ‘you need to come out’.

    8.  Read from a reputable website like Beyond Blue or Minus18

    We’re in a digital world that was only in its infancy at my coming out – you have a direct connection to queer-identifying/LGBTIQ creators right at your fingertips. Use it. Ask questions, read their blogs, watch their videos. It can be an LGBT sounding board that I never had.



    1.  Acknowledge first and foremost that it’s an extremely personable journey. It’s a journey that is not linear, it is not a straight line, it’s weird, it’s wacky and it can be unpredictable. 

    2.  Reassure them, that no matter which way it went, positive or negative, especially if it’s negative, that they’ve done the right thing and it’s now time for them to shine bright and be the person they were born to be. 

    3.  Accept that you don’t need to have answers – In fact – you probably won’t have any. 

    4.  Don’t make assumptions – my friends and family would most likely say I’m assertive, opinionated (in the right way of course) and indomitable. When it came to my ‘coming out’ I became meek, quiet and a shell of myself, paralysed by a destructive fear. 

    5.  Cry, laugh, be a shoulder to cry on because whether they’re happy or sad tears, they’re going to need it. 

    6.  Be appreciative – you will be etched into your friend or family member’s mind for the rest of their life. I remember the first gay man who I told that I came out and I always will and will always have an appreciation for that person’s support – no matter where the friendship is now. 



    We are all extremely powerful beings – truly. We all have a superpower.

    I am who I am because I show up – feelings, emotions, warts and all. I’m not for everyone and that’s A. O. K. – the more authentic I am, the more I project my authenticity, the closer I come to my tribe, my circle who love me for me and I love them for them.

    When you release your authentic self to the world, you reclaim and rediscover the power you have, the power you’ve always had deep down – a power that can’t be taken away from you once rekindled. It acts as a fire inside that can’t be put out. 

    Be who you really are – it won’t be easy – but nothing worth it is!