Coming Out with RJ Miles from Brisbane
Name: RJ Miles
Location: The Gap, Brisbane QLD
Gender/Identity: Female Lesbian
When did you first realize your identity? and what was the story behind it?
When I was about 4 years old, I noticed a thin, red line that extended from my bellybutton to my vulva. Until I was about 10, I believed that this was a surgical scar that had been left when I had been ‘changed at birth.’ I didn’t realise that it was a normal skin feature and that some people just are gay.
Was there someone who helped you to come out or given you some advice to help you in the coming out process? Or were did you go through it all by yourself? Or were you outed by someone?
I was stuck in Bundaberg, QLD when I came out. I was 15 years old and attending a strict, conservative Christian school. I reached out to my Year 10 history teacher, really seeking affirmation; I was looking for someone to say, “It’s fine, there are others just like you. You are loved and you are normal.” I would have told my parents then if I had received positive feedback. Instead, I got sent to conversion therapy with a chaplain at school, behind my parent’s back. When they found out, they were furious and had a screaming match with the principal. Needless to say, I started at a public school the following year. My music teacher in Year 11/12 was a lesbian woman herself, who played the bass guitar. I started to write about my feelings and she helped me get on stage in front of the whole school at assembly to play one of my original songs. It was about falling in love with a woman, and it was called Forever on my Mind.
Who did you come out to first and what was their reaction? Was it positive or negative? Did you plan the whole thing or was it impromptu? What made you choose to tell that person?
I came out to my Year 10 history teacher first and the reaction was traumatic, negative, and scarring. It was planned, but I had decided to tell her because I believed I could trust her.
How did you feel after coming out? What happened? Do you remember what were the exact words that you said when you came out? Was the subsequent coming out sessions easier or harder than the first?
The first time, it was absolutely traumatic. It impacted my education, the relationship I had with my family and friends, and the view I had of myself in the world. The second time, it was received very positively because the environment was different. My parents and new friends were more open to it at that stage.
Since coming out, how has it affected your life? What about other areas such a job, family, friends, school?
It has been a rough road in some areas of my life, particularly employment. It is a lesser known fact about the teaching world; it is actually hard to do it if you are gay. I cannot speak for everyone, everywhere, but this was my experience in two different private schools. I was excluded from medical leave for IVF to start my family, I had to put up with bullying (including a staff member handing out fliers that called gay people evil and offensive to God), and I developed severe clinical anxiety that made medications my reality. As soon as I resigned, I went off the medication and learned how to balance my life. This has had a profoundly positive impact on my working and home life. This year, I was successful in publishing a children’s book about how two mums can make a baby (One in Many Millions), and I also got married. I fell pregnant with my first child in March and I believe the lower stress levels helped me. I now work in an environment that loves and embraces what I bring to the table – I would never settle for anything less again.
What does being out mean to you? What difference, if any, did your cultural background make to your experience of coming out?
It means living without fear, being true to oneself. My cultural background did not impact my experience of coming out, unless you consider my experience in religious schools.
What positive message would you say or give to someone who is wanting to come out or still in the closet?
It is a cliché, but it can get better if you persevere for long enough. Sometimes, a change is as good as a holiday. Don’t work anywhere where you can’t refer to your husband or wife by name without shame.