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Around 5.7 per cent of Victorian adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ+). It’s a diverse community made up of a people from a range of backgrounds, who each make their own unique contribution to life in Victoria, from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Our #PeopleofPride story series is an opportunity to understand and celebrate some of the perspectives and experiences of people within Victoria’s LGBTIQ+ community, and how vastly different they can be.

We encourage you to celebrate the LGBTIQ+ people in your life and think about the ways that we can each break the biases that contribute to stereotypes, discrimination and inequality in Victoria.

Elvis Martin

him, his

Elvis Martin standing in front of an office window
  • Victoria is a place where equality matters.

    Equality matters to Elvis Martin, an LGBTIQ+ advocate based in Melbourne, whose road to self-acceptance has been long. Having grown up in a country where being part of the LGBTIQ+ community is punishable by death; it wasn’t until Elvis relocated to Australia to study that he felt safe enough to come out.

    “I was 17 and studying accounting in Australia when I came out to my family,” says Elvis. What followed was a heartbreaking sequence of family conflict, homelessness and significant mental health issues that Elvis had to navigate on his own.

    “While there has been a lot of progress made in Australia for the LGBTIQ+ community, we are still leaving behind our multicultural LGBTIQ+ communities,” says Elvis, who identifies as half Indian, half Middle Eastern.

    As Elvis worked towards recovery with the support of mental health and homelessness services, he recalls withholding his sexual identity from medical professionals.

    “Like many other LGBTIQ+ people, for a long time I didn’t feel comfortable telling health care providers that I was part of the pride community because I was worried that they may be homophobic, and it would impact my care.”

    “It wasn’t until I was transferred to a care facility where I had an amazing case worker who I trusted that that changed.”

    Elvis is the youngest person to be appointed to the Victorian Government’s LGBTIQ+ Taskforce, adding a youthful and multicultural voice.

    “Having visibility across our communities like flags and signs that indicate it’s an LGBTIQ+ safe space is so important to showing people that they can be who they are without fear.”

    Drawing on his harrowing experience, Elvis has dedicated his life to educating others and influencing decision-makers to create better policies, as he advocates for the rights of the LGBTIQ+ and the general community.

    “If I could speak to my younger self in Australia, I would say don’t be afraid to reach out to the LGBTIQ+ community – there will always be people who understand you, who can listen and support you. You are never alone.”

    Every Victorian – without exception – deserves to be safe, supported and equal.

    Thank you, Elvis for sharing your story with pride.

Russell Wright

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Russell Wright in Country Fire Authority emergency gear leaning against a red CFA truck
  • What does equality look like in Victoria?

    Equality looks like Russell Wright: CFA captain, Community Engagement Officer and hotel manager.

    Russell plays a huge role in his close-knit community of Walhalla near the Victorian Alps. A decade ago, he joined the Country Fire Authority (CFA) - an experience which completely reframed his understanding of what roles openly gay men could play within a community.

    “In my younger years, I was the gayest of the gays – very out there, partying until all hours.” He thought his future would be spent “living in a high-rise apartment in the city, not dressed up as a fireman living in regional Victoria.”

    Perceiving the CFA to be a “traditional” men’s club, Russell “turned up like a terrified little lamb before slaughter” to meet the CFA captain. He didn’t believe he’d fit in as he previously “wouldn’t do anything that risked breaking a nail.”

    But with support of the captain and many people in the community, Russell gave it a shot and gradually became an integral part not just of the CFA, but also of the wider community.

    “I’ve grown up a lot since moving here and joining CFA, it’s been a big cultural shift. It’s changed my focus from how I thought a gay person was meant to behave, to what genuinely interests me,” reflects Russell.

    Joining CFA helped Russell to reassess his sense of self as well as the LGBTIQ+ stereotypes he’d held.

    I grew up with this very skewed perception of how a gay person was meant to behave and what they should like, because there wasn’t much representation of LGBTIQ+ people on TV or in the media”.

    “I’m hopeful that one day celebrating our diversity will be fully embedded in how we operate as a society, not just special days, from people with disability to LGBTIQ+ and First Nations.”

    We’re inspired by Russell and thank him for sharing his story as part of #PeopleOfPride.

Bridget Grant

she, hers

Bridget Grant standing on a path in bushland wearing a Parks Victoria Ranger uniform
  • What does equality look like in Victoria?

    Equality looks like Bridget Grant: Area Chief Ranger for Parks Victoria, Gippsland farmer, qualified lawyer, experienced volunteer and proud member of the LGBTIQ+ community.

    Ask her what her most important role is, and she will tell you it’s being mother to her children, who inspire her to be “a better human being every day.”

    “Like most, if not all LGBTIQ+ people, I’ve experienced my share of homophobia and even threats of violence. I come out every day living in a small rural community, and with that comes a safety element, too.”

    Heartbreakingly, while so much progress has been achieved with LGBTIQ+ inclusion in Victoria, homophobia can be found in certain corners of society.

    “My children were bullied at their previous school for having two mums.” Shockingly, the abuse reached a point where a group of young boys threatened to hurt her daughter with a cricket bat. Sadly, the school did not respond appropriately.

    Disheartened by the lack of action, Bridget moved her children to a different school, which became a shining example of how rainbow families should be received.

    “As soon as I shared my identity with the school, the staff undertook LGBTIQ+ awareness training, they put up diversity and inclusion posters, and all the staff wore rainbow lanyards in support. It’s been such a positive experience as a rainbow family.” Bridget shares.

    “LGBTIQ+ people can be found in all areas – we’re managers, we’re police, we’re ambulance officers, we’re parents, we’re carers, we’re volunteers, we’re in government…” Bridget continues.

    “You can’t underestimate the positive impact on younger people in our community of seeing LGBTIQ+ people in such a variety of roles. It shows that you can be gay and successful, whatever that means to you – your identity doesn’t have to stop you.”

    We’re inspired by Bridget and thank her for sharing her story as part of #PeopleOfPride.

Ruby Mountford

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Ruby Mountford sitting at a table in front of a bookcase
  • In Victoria, equality looks like Ruby Mountford. They identify as many things – bisexual, non-binary, neurodiverse, as well as a “huge fantasy sci-fi nerd” and “a Leo with an Aquarius moon”.

    Drawing on their lived experience, Ruby provides powerful insights in their work as an LGBTIQA+ Inclusion Adviser in community health. They are also the Vice President of the Melbourne Bisexual NetworkExternal Link and host the podcast ‘Triple Bi-Pass’External Link (Focusing on bisexuality). Finding their voice along the way has been a challenging journey.

    “Given the work I do and the confident way I come across, I think it surprises people that it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, having a strong sense of community and good friendships is something that is relatively new to me,” says Ruby.

    “For a long time, I masked a lot and tried to change myself to fit in. In hindsight I wish I knew that I didn’t have to compromise myself to be happy, that there are more and more resources and networks available to help LGBTIQ+ people, particularly bisexual people, feel informed, safe and validated.”

    Adding to their navigation of self-acceptance. Ruby was diagnosed with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at age 25.

    This experience inspired Ruby to co-found the Melbourne Bisexual Network, which aims to raise awareness of the unique health and wellbeing issues facing bisexual+ people.

    “Research around the worldshows bi people have some of the highest rates of depression, anxiety and suicide in the LGBTIQA+ community.”

    Despite the considerably higher rates of mental health issues among this group, there is a significant lack of funding to address it.

    “If we don’t acknowledge the reality of our society, people’s pain and hurt is treated as an individual problem, when it’s really a collective issue that can only be solved together.”

    “Imagine how bright our world could be if we all let each other truly to be ourselves.”

    Thank you, Ruby for sharing your story as part of #PeopleOfPride, celebrating Victoria’s thriving LGBTIQ+ community.

Frankie Mazzone

she, her

Frankie Mazzone sitting in a chair in front of a video camera
  • What does equality look like in Victoria?

    Equality looks like Frankie Mazzone: trans activist, student and budding actor.

    With her maturity and experience, many people are surprised to learn that the Melbourne teenager is only 14 years old.

    “Coming out was one of the scariest things I could have ever done, but also it was the thing that I was most proud of - I knew if I came out as a girl, I would live the life I was destined to, and finally be happy."

    If you asked Frankie two years ago what she thought she’d be doing today, she would not have predicted her transformational life change. Back then, Frankie’s school was not an accepting space, and she had no sense of belonging.

    "I could only see a life destined for misery - I couldn't picture myself being happy and living a life that I deserved."

    Frankie moved to a school with an environment where being queer and accepted was normalised.

    "After time of growing and healing I was able to be my true self. I now enjoy going to school, my mental health has improved, and my grades have skyrocketed."

    Visibility of trans people in mainstream media is hugely important to Frankie. Seeing trans people on TV would’ve helped her to ‘find the words to explain who I was.’

    Many people have inspired Frankie to pave her own way, especially social media stars who share their trans stories with the world.

    "They showed me that being trans isn't a bad or shameful thing, it's a beautiful and exciting thing that I should be proud of - trans people are not sub-human, so we shouldn’t be treated any differently."

    “The best way to thrive and do your best in life, is simply by being yourself.”

    We’re inspired by Frankie and thank her for sharing her story as part of a series from Victoria’s thriving LGBTIQ+ community, celebrating #PeopleOfPride.

Rainbow colours symbolising the LGBTIQ+ community

Reviewed 06 February 2023

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