They’re an Aussie sporting dynasty and one hell of an inspirational family.
Grandad Fred Sedgman won 22 gram slam titles and is an international tennis hall of fame member. Dad Russell Greene is a Hawthorn hall of fame recipient and triple premiership player with a 304 game career. Eldest Son Steven played an impressive 42 games himself for the Hawthorn Hawks over five years.
Yet for younger son Brent, also an athletic natural who championed track events, AFL was not on the cards. As a sixteen year old, he came out to his younger sister Angie and confessed he was being bullied at school.
Brent helped out with AFL games, but considered the idea of actually playing “foul.” He constantly dreaded the reaction if the boys were to know his truth in a game where homophobic slurs and loose-lipped jibes were frequent banter.
Fast forward to 2017…. Angie has founded the not-for profit Stand Up Events “in response to the inequality that exists in Australian sport and to seek change in all environments where people feel marginalised.”
On a personal level she’s driven by Brent’s experience “and discrimination he experienced beyond sport” and Fred, Russell and Steven are all actively on board the campaigning to support the wider LGBTIQ community.
From a support network, Brent couldn’t have asked for more and having strong sporting roots is now a definite advantage.
“Dad’s legacy as a football player, and his acknowledgement of how his perceptions have evolved since the 1980s, has a major impact on the men and women of his generation.
By describing his experience as a father of a gay son, talking about how both he and I struggled when I was a teenager and young man, helps shifts perception of homosexuality in the broader sporting community and is highly influential,” he said.
While his dad is having an impact on the Baby Boomers, Brent is grateful Angie has reached Gen X, Y and Millennials through her Stand Up and Marriage Equality Australia roles. She spoke in favour of marriage equality at the 2016 Aria’s as she accepted Sia’s award on behalf of the organisation.
“I feel that Angie has influenced many individuals and organisations across multiple sporting codes in addition to reaching out to younger LGBTIQ Australians through social media and her Sia speech at the Arias’s. She’s received many emails and messages from young kids saying ‘thanks for making me feel great about who I am’ and this is a really positive outcome”.
While the Greene’s have stood together in support of Brent, not all families are as accepting of their loved one’s sexuality.
For author and radio journalist Katherine Cummings, transitioning in 1986 at the age of 52 was no easy feat and the impact on her immediate family was polarising.
“I was fighting for my family to recognise the new person. I lost two of my daughters and my wife. I retained my mother, sister and a daughter. That was the saddest part – not only for me, but it must have been hard on them,” she said.
A sentiment echoed by Relationships Australia NSW’s Matt Garrett. “Transitioning for the person and their family is accompanied with much soul searching and self-reflection. Thoughts can be fluid and change or alter moment by moment in some cases as family member process what they have suspected and now are faced with the transitioning person. Or it may be something that was not thought about and therefore comes as a ‘shock’.”
Matts’ work within Relationships Australia NSW includes meeting with the transitioning person themselves to explore their families (and other significant relationships) as well as working with couples in an exclusive relationship or any other couple relationship permutation.
“Counsellors hold positions of ‘neutrality’ and ‘non-discriminatory practice’ and meet LGBTIQ clients wherever they are in their life journey.”
Sadly this level of counselling was unavailable when Katherine transitioned and she championed the cause personally, first on ABC Radio’s ‘Health Report’ and then by publishing her autobiography “Katherine’s Diary” which won a Human Rights Award for non-fiction.
Today, at a young 82 years old, Katherine continues to work with the LGBTIQ community campaigning for the provision of education, accommodation and work.
“The biggest issue facing transgenders is violence. The most important thing for the wider community to do is educate. From as young as pre-school age, but not just for the kids, for their parents too,” she urges.
Katherine has unfortunately witnessed the fallout time and time again.
“Transgenders get outed and then they can’t get or keep jobs or they don’t get promotions in their current jobs. Suicide rates are very high as a result of the depression which comes from lack of education, employment and accommodation.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission echoes this sentiment and reports that transgender people are three times more likely to experience depression and 47 per cent experienced some form of verbal abuse.
As 2017 Fair Day and Mardi Gras approach, LGBTIQ’s heroic families and individuals continue their tireless work and Brent Greene offers an uplifting suggestion for those not feeling the support of their immediate families.
“Build strong networks in the community. I did this recently when I joined the Glamourhead Sharks (Melbourne’s gay swim team) and have been blown away by what it means to have a network of rainbow friends.
I suggest that if a LGBTIQ person feels that their family is not as supportive as they need them to be, that they take steps and find a rainbow family who will accept them in all their glory. It can be very difficult and scary to take these first steps however the benefits of a network, and the enhanced self-esteem it produces, will help develop a sense of oneself in the world.”
Relationships Australia NSW runs Talk Time: Couple Communication for LGBTIQ couples seminar, this seminar is designed to support couples to develop strategies to deal with common relationship issues. The seminar utilises presentations and practical exercises that couples can practice in a safe environment.
Drop us a line or Call Us on 1300 364 277, if you would like to know more about our non-judgmental and inclusive services.