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Single mother Nama and her son Winston are a close family unit.
“It’s just been me and Winston for 10 years,” says Nama. “He respects how hard I work and all that I do, I do it for him. He's just such a good boy. We’re just really, really good mates”
Winston says, “I love her so much, she's like the best mother.”
At 12 years old Winston was ready to come out as gay, and despite his close relationship with his mum, there was still some hesitation.
“I knew that my mum had a lot of friends who were gay and in Australia we had the vote on gay marriage and I saw her campaigning for it, but at that time I was really scared because I didn’t know how she would feel about me coming out.”
“I’ve heard stories where parents have told their kids it’s just a phase. I was worried that she would feel the same.”
For Nama though, who had already suspected Winston might be gay, it was important to her that she had the right reaction when the time came.
“It sounds like a cliché but I kind of knew already there was something about him, let’s call it mothers’ instinct. So I'd already had time to mentally prepare.”
“I knew that sexual identity is so crucial to a person's being. It’s not a choice, it’s an integral part of who they are. So when your child is revealing their true identity to you and they are at their most vulnerable, your reaction to it is a make or break situation.”
Winston came out when he was 12 years old. It happened when Nama was tucking him into bed one night.
“It’s always that time that you’re putting kids to bed that they want to talk to you,” laughs Nama. “Winston looked at me and said ‘Mum I think I'm gay’ and I just went ‘cool’ and then there was nothing else and he just rolled over and went to sleep.”
“I didn’t go straight to sleep that night,” laughs Winston.
Nama says, “Up to that point I had worked hard thinking of that moment, to make sure I received it in a compassionate way because I knew that would be what Winston needed of me. But to be honest my main concern that night was that it was 10 o’clock and he really needed to go to sleep. It’s funny how that ended up being my main concern in the moment.”
For any parents who might be struggling with their child’s coming out, Nama says educating yourself is the best advice she can give.
“Turn to the people around you. The internet, schoolteachers, anybody who is willing to talk to you and get their perspectives. Educate yourself on something that you might not have much experience with.”
“I realised early on that my life experience is different to Winston’s and if I’m going to stand by him and support him then I needed to educate myself about the LGBTQI+ community. So I turned to my friends in the community, I started following accounts on Instagram, looking at different websites and lots of looking up information that I didn't think would be relevant to me before now.”
And for Winston, his advice for anyone thinking about coming out is to remember there’s a great future ahead of you.
“When I came out I knew there were no guarantees. I wasn't guaranteed I wasn't going to get called names at school, I wasn't guaranteed that my mum was going to love me.”
“You also need to know that even if someone doesn't accept you, someone else will. This is just a speed bump in the road, and in a couple of years you’re going to know who you are and that’s the most important thing.”
Since Winston’s coming out, the relationship between mother and son has only grown.
“Mum buys me pride things all the time, these little rainbow items. We’ve been to Mardi Gras together, we’ve watched it, we've celebrated and it's really fun. The streets are packed and there's so much support, it gives you hope, and it reminds you that there are people with good hearts.”
“This year’s Mardi Gras theme is rise,” says Nama. “I rise to be a better mother each day for Winston.”
And for Winston: “I rise for a gay voice that is loud. I rise with the dream that one day every minority will be treated equally.”