bright lights, no city
Bright Lights, No City is a project dedicated to documenting the stories of LGBTQIA+ youth from country WA. We thank Community Arts Network for funding this project.
The Centre for Stories collected a number of written and oral stories. Each participant’s story has been thoughtfully crafted with the help of Oral Storytelling Trainer, Sisonke Msimang, and Writing Expert, Susan Midalia. This project was funded by Community Arts Network (CAN). CAN manages the Catalyst Community Arts fund on behalf of the State of Western Australia through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.
In this story, Emery Wishart worked alongside Sisonke Msimang to craft and perfect his story.
About Emery: My name is Emery Wishart. I’m a young pre-service primary school teacher with a passion for supporting trans and gender diverse community development. I spent my adolescent years in country WA and want to share my experience of coming into my queer identity.
Copyright © 2018 Emery Wishart
These stories have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of these stories, please contact the Centre for Stories.
View Story Transcript
My story starts in, basically, the end of year 12. And we’ve just graduated, and me and my friends have gone for a Leavers event to a family beach house. Just the three of us; nothing big, like, not going to Dunsborough or anything. But, yeah, we’re hanging out and having a good time, just, sort of, chilling around after completing exams and that sort of thing. And I’ve had this big, sort of secret, weighing on me – fairly, fairly big – on my shoulders. And me and my friend, Tyler, have just been walking around this block all evening. There’s this whole bunch of shacks and this road that just goes one way in a circle, and we were just lapping around, lap after lap.
And so, yeah, we’re pottering along. And he has been pretty stressed out all day, and I’ve, sort of, noticed. I say, “Hey, what’s going on? You can chat to me about anything. What’s up?” And he’s, like, “Oh, no. It’s all good. Don’t worry.” But, of course, I, sort of did just wanted to know. And eventually, he – we’re walking along, lap after lap, and he just let me know, “Oh. I’m gay.” And I was, like, “Wow. that’s amazing,” and I was there to support him. And it was cool to hear him say that, but on the inside, I was also like, oh my god, yes! Like, I have a friend that’s also queer. And so then I was like, okay. Whilst we’re going on these laps, I’m going to – I’m going to tell him as well.
And so, we’re going around lap after lap, and it’s 1 AM, and we’re just bog lapping around these shacks. It was really strange, but great. And yeah, so then he’s, like, “Okay. I think we should go to bed. It’s pretty late.” And I was like, oh shit. I should have – I should have already told him about this. And so, we’re walking along, and I’m trying to slow down the pace and take it a little bit slower, trying to wait around. And so, then we can see the shack. It’s nearly time to get home, and I needed to tell him before we get home because my friend is asleep inside and I don’t want to tell her yet – just want to tell Tyler.
And so I was like, okay, let’s get this out: “Just so you know, I’m – I’m not straight either.” And that was such a great thing to say, and he was so surprised and happy and excited. And as well, of course, we kept walking. So it’s 1 AM, and we’re lapping around and just having a great time talking about life and just how amazed we are that we both have a queer friend. It was so uplifting. We had this beautiful friendship, and now we’ve got even more in common. And it was a really important night for me. So, yeah, that was a huge night, Leavers.
And then from there, a couple of weeks later, I’m off to uni, moving to Perth to live with my grandparents and leaving Tyler behind. He’s just staying in Collie. Pretty sad about that, but that’s – that’s life. And yeah, I got into architecture, and having to commute an hour and a half each way from Kalamunda to UWA was a huge – three hours a day on a bus. It’s not fun. So I was tired from that and stressed out because architecture has this insane work ethic. Like, everyone expects perfect; good is not enough. It needs to be really good. And a lot of people are really good at it because they’ve wanted to be an architect since they were, like, a baby or something – a bit of an exaggeration.
But yeah, it was like this huge pressure to achieve, and I wasn’t as into architecture as I thought I was going to be, but I just felt like I needed to do really well, so I was really trying. And on top of this pressure from that, I just knew to myself, I’d come out to Tyler as not straight, but that wasn’t the end of it. There was more. This – it wasn’t quite sorted yet, but I was just trying to keep that under wraps. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t know what that label meant, if I was going to be okay, I didn’t want this. So let’s just keep pottering along with architecture, and it will go away. It will be fine. But yeah, when you try and repress things like that, that doesn’t work.
So going along with architecture and this huge heavy weight, this sort of despair, like something – something’s wrong – something is really wrong, and I know it’s wrong. And who am I? What do I want? Where do I want to be? Who do I want to be? Do I like myself? Do I like my body? Like, no, it was really wrong. It was like this intense – this intense feeling that I just couldn’t figure out. Was this okay? This was – no, this was not okay, and just trying to ignore that. So this pressure just kept getting bigger and bigger. And this huge well was forming, but it was filling up quicker than it could form. This big, dark place was getting huge. And I couldn’t take it anymore in the last week of the semester. I ended up overdosing. And just – just wanted to get out here. Just, like, this was too much – too much pressure, too much everything.
And so, then I deferred out of uni and moved back home with my family in Collie, and they were pretty worried. They didn’t think anything was wrong, and then I overdosed. And so, of course, now they know something is wrong. And I was just trying to put on a – put on a happy face, like, what’s going on? Like, why? I’m fine. Don’t worry; everything’s okay. There’s no pressure here, nothing to see. But it was still there – this huge pressure – I just had this feeling: I think I’m trans, and I need to ignore this. I need to just not accept that’s what’s going on. In society, a lot of trans people suffer immensely. And there’s a lot of – like, “stigma” is not the right word, but sort of stigma around that. People don’t want you to be trans; they don’t want to see trans people. They – families don’t want to have trans children. Like, all my family love me, all my friends accept me. This is going to be a mess, and I don’t want to deal with that.
So I’m in Collie hanging out with my friend a lot. And yeah, we just – we’d go around bog laps in the car, hang out at his place. I’d finish work for the day, have a couple of days off, and I’d just, like, message him, like, “Hey. Do you want to go camping?” And we’d go camping for, like, a few days in the middle of the week at random swimming places around Collie because there’s heaps of beautiful swimming areas. So our friendship was just so beautiful. Like, I was really open about everything with him, and at this point, he knew that I was struggling with, like, thinking about a trans identity.
And he was, like, “Okay. Cool,” but also no one really knows how to say the right things or support you. Like, it’s not his place to pull me out of a dark place. And also, how’s he supposed to know how to help me accept myself? It was all about what I needed to do, not what he needed to do. So he was – he was there, and that was important. And I was just still in this – this horrible – this deep spot where I was stuck, and everything was just pretty rubbish. But I could see he was getting really sad about it. I was sad, which made him sad, which made me sad. It just went around, and it was pretty ridiculous.
It was really hurting me to see him upset, and I just went this has got to stop. I’ve got to sort this out so I can stop upsetting my friend. I was at home out in the back garden and just went I’ve got to accept I’m trans. I’ve just got to do it. And whatever consequences happen, like, they’ll happen because I – I need to get better. I need to get out of this. And so, I did. I just went, okay, I’m trans let’s deal with this, and had a good cry – yeah, like, a real good cry.
And then, yeah, I went and hung out with Tyler and probably cried some more, but was just, like – was pretty relieved. He was – he was okay with it, and I had finally accepted in myself, like, this is who I am. I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to live my life. I’m going to be alive. And I’m going to – yeah, I’m going to do this. And so, probably step one of that was, okay, let’s – I want to socially transition, and I don’t really feel comfortable doing this in a small country town where everyone, sort of gossips about everyone, and everyone knows everyone’s business. I wanted to, sort of, do it away, like a little bit less publicly.
So I thought I would move to Perth and find some good people to live with. And I thought really purposefully, like, let’s find a queer-friendly house. That’s got to be number one on the list, and more points if there’s queer people in the queer-friendly house. So I moved to Perth, moved in with a queer couple, a trans woman and her partner. And that was really special for me, just seeing two queer people just living ordinary lives, like having friends come over and visit, and then I’d meet friends and have more queer friends. And it was, like, gradually, bit by bit, this sense of queer community was forming. I was allowed to be me. And I’d be, like, “Yeah. I’m trans,” and they’d be like, “Cool. Well, we’ll use he/him pronouns. No probs,” and like, can be feminine, can be masculine, doesn’t really matter if you’re straight or gay or trans. Like queer people just, sort of, like, “Cool. We’ll embrace that.”
And this sense of community was – bit by bit, inside me, like, being trans is okay, like I don’t – I don’t hate myself, this is all right. And I’ve got my friends around me. I’ve got, still, my best friend in Collie. We still chat and hang out, and that’s a beautiful friendship, and now he’s not sad anymore. Like, it’s not this never-ending sad loop, but – and now I have this incredible family around me. It’s a queer family, really. And yeah, I’m trans. So I’m queer. I’m here. I’m a man. And that’s okay.