During this whole pandemic, I realized that I really needed to either get a job or at least use this time to make myself useful.  As a first year graphic design student, I decided that – why not look for opportunities where I could get some experience and create stuff to add to my portfolio?

Upon first discovering StartOut, I knew I wanted to be a part of this great cause.

Here’s a little about me – from the time I was born, I have always been part of the church. It is like my other family – I’m even part of the church band every Sunday.

So when I was in year 8 and started to think about girls differently, things were quite confusing. And scary.

I thought that this phase of being infatuated with girls or having these girl crushes would go away and I wouldn’t have to be so disgusted with myself. For a long time I’ve felt really guilty – I’ve had to fake who I am.

Having gone through the struggle of accepting myself, and growing up in a religious family, I remembered that younger me would’ve appreciated it if I had someone to look up to/have access to the type of support that Startout offers today.  It would’ve helped if I had someone to tell me that everything your feeling is NORMAL, feeling unsure is FINE and you are NOT going to hell. In essence – I wish I had someone to cheer me on along the way. Being a part of StartOut and having a chance to do my bit to improve the lives of other young DSG people, is MY way of feeling like I belong.

Aside from that, Startout’s cause is extremely important for me, as I saw my best friend go through the very struggle of coming out and overcoming so much just to be where she is today.

Having moved from Sydney to a small town in Lake Macquarie, my best friend had to leave behind all her friends – and that included me. Long distance friendship was hard, and a lot of the time, I think she felt quite lonely and isolated in this new place.

At the age of 16, my best friend had to leave her family and was excommunicated because her family did not accept her sexuality. Her family were Jehovah’s witnesses and her father was a Jehovah’s Witness elder. It was really hard to see her go through all of that, but I tried my best to be there for her. Both her and I shared a lot of religious guilt, but I think for her, as someone who had grown up in a “cult-like” environment, the guilt was quite deep seated and incessant.

As brave and as strong as she was, I know, without the support of her friends, she might not have been able to make the change of living in a more accepting environment.

Today, with simply the acceptance and love from her new family and friends, she is now more resilient, free and truly living her best life.

I hope that with Startout beginning to grow, other young people who might not have the support of friends and family won’t have to feel so alone in whatever they’re struggling with, either.