The theme this year for Wear it Purple is Still Me, Still Human. Lizzy (Liz-ee) Garland (she/her/hers), Social Media Manager, Melbourne shared some of her story and experience to help us all to have the confidence to be who we are, increase our knowledge and be better allies to the LGBTQIA+ community.
We spoke to Lizzy about LGBTQIA+ identification and allyship.
What does Still Me, Still Human mean to you?
It’s said that you aren’t defined by your sexuality or the people who you love, but that’s choosing to deny a part of how we identify as humans. When I hear the theme “Still Me, Still Human”, I think about how I can embrace who I am – fully – and with authenticity. At the end of the day, I’m human and I deserve respect.
I’m fairly open about my sexual identity because I have the right to be proud of who I am. This doesn’t always sit well with others, particularly in the world of the internet, where anyone can voice their opinion on a digital platform about how others live their lives. It’s too easy for people to voice their negative opinion about how others identify and forget there’s a real human being on the other end receiving the brunt of their hatred. This has happened to me, both online and in real life, and it’s so sad that despite the mass information available at the click of a button, and the effort put into awareness on LGBTQIA+ identities, people still choose the negative route.
What do you love most about the LGBTQIA+ community?
“Still Me, Still Human” is about respect and about accepting that the world is changing for the better. I’ve always felt the LGBTQIA+ community to be welcoming and inclusive. It’s incredibly diverse and all genders and sexual identities are welcomed. The community does a good job of understanding and celebrating intersectionality in identity and embracing people for their whole selves.
I identify as Bi+ (bisexual and/or pansexual), and in the LGBTQIA+ community, we make up the largest group, yet we are not visibly represented in the media and pop culture. So sometimes, it’s easy to feel less included in society, almost like I don’t quite fit into the queer community or fit into the straight community. No matter our sexual identity or gender, it’s important we feel that we can be ourselves and know that others will truly embrace us as our authentic selves. For me, there’s this desire to be visible, particularly since I’ve felt invisible throughout my life.
What was the hardest thing for you as an LGBTQIA+ youth?
When we talk about intersectionality, Bi+ people are more likely to experience invisible disability through mental health. This can be attributed in part to the biphobia and bierasure that exists. Some even refuse to accept that bisexuality exists and tell us to “choose a side”. I have been laughed at when trying to explain my identity and have had people tell me that my identity is not ‘a thing’. Well, it is!
When I was growing up, there seemed to be two extremes to the sexual identity spectrum – the overtly gay man and the overly butch lesbian woman, and I felt there was nothing in between. So, I didn’t have that representation of anyone that looked like me! It was hard to see myself in others. I don’t identify as a gay man, or as a lesbian woman. I remember having a conversation with a lesbian friend, and saying, “I think I might be gay”. She sniggered and said, “You’re not gay – you have a boyfriend. You’re just confused”. At the time I just accepted this answer because the representation of bisexuality wasn’t there for me, it just wasn’t spoken about, or taken seriously. There wasn’t an ally in the queer community or in the straight community for me. My youth was a very confusing time and I felt I had no one to talk to about it.
What's the most impactful thing an ally can say or do?
Allies are important as they can provide reassurance that your experience is valid! A good ally doesn’t just presume you're going through a phase, or that they know better than you because of their age or their own experience. Good allies validate me as a human and give the me the space and respect that means they accept and celebrate me for who I am! Advice I would give to allies is to give us the space to speak freely when discussing our identities. Give us the room we need to feel like we can exist, freely.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I could give my younger self advice, I would say:
Keep asking questions
Don’t stop at the first response
Opinions aren’t facts
You will realise who you are
Surround yourself with people willing to learn about you.
Lizzy, thank you for being so open; for sharing your experience; for encouraging us all to be true to ourselves; to respect each other and to provide care, understanding and allyship to each other.