Celebrity News

How Australian celebrities from the LGBTQIA+ community have overcome diversity to become the nation’s biggest role models

''Love is love.''
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While Australia’s LGBTQIA+ community deserves to be celebrated everyday, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras gives us an apt opportunity to recognise our country’s gamechangers and pioneers.

Mardi Gras brings together Australia’s queer and mainstream communities, taking over the city for weeks on end, culminating in the world-famous Parade: a colourful and dazzling night of pride, acceptance and self-expression that started way back in 1978 with a group of brave protestors.

Ahead of the parade, we’ve taken a look at the touching, inspiring, and at times heartbreaking, stories from our favourite LGBTQIA+ celebrities.

(Image: Instagram)

Anthony Callea

The singer has become a bonafide role model for LGBT youth since was inadvertently outed in a radio gossip segment back in 2007. The announcer, who was also a close friend of the singer, thought his sexuality was common knowledge.

In the years since shooting to fame on Australian Idol in 2004, Anthony has been vocal about the homophobic abuse he has copped from strangers.

“Things are thrown at you and sometimes it gets a little bit overwhelming, just going out on the weekends, and you wonder why you put yourself in that position,” he told news.com.au in 2014.

Anthony found his happily ever after with his husband Tim Cook, whom he married in 2014 after six years together. “Our paths crossed many times professionally but I never knew that Tim was gay,” the former Celebrity Apprentice star told SBS in 2017.

(Image: Instagram)

Ian Thorpe

Australia’s golden boy of swimming has previously said he would have come out earlier if he’d had more time to become comfortable with his sexuality. The Olympic gold medallist grappled with his sexuality during his teens before coming out during an interview in 2014 at 31 years old.

“For me, when I did come out, it was amazing to have such a kind of warm embrace from people,” he told The Guardian in 2016.

But his journey to sharing his authentic self wasn’t without hardship, with Ian unfortunately suffering from bullying and homophobia well into adulthood.

“I know what it feels like when you literally isolate yourself. Even before I was out, people would yell homophobic slurs and things at me,” he told The Age.

“I struggled to come out. I realised what kind of impact that will have on young people to say, ‘the way you are feeling is equal to anyone else’. They may feel like the only one in their town, and I don’t want young people to go through that.”

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Ian Thorpe reveals he’s excited to start a family

(Image: Getty)

Magda Szubanski

The icon behind the beloved fictional character Sharon Strezlecki from Kath and Kim faced private struggles as a closeted actor before she was ready to come out publicly as gay in 2012.

“I think this happens to a lot of LGBTQI people, that our potential isn’t realised. When you’ve internalised society’s homophobia, it’s like it corrupts your operating system, is the best way I can describe it,” Magda told Andrew Denton in 2018.

“For me, it was like a virus in my system, that shame I felt… Totally misplaced but it kind of meant I did not feel like I was standing on solid ground.”

Magda was vocal for her support of LGBTQI+ equality during Australia’s plebiscite in 2017, where Aussies ultimately voted in favour of same-sex marriage.

“I just felt so nervous the whole time because if I put a foot wrong, I could be blowing it for everyone. I felt a tremendous responsibility,” she said.

(Image: Instagram)

Jack Vidgen

Jack was a bright-eyed teen when he shot to fame on Australia’s Got Talent back in 2011, and in his decade in showbiz since, the singer has continually campaigned for LGBTQI+ equality.

It was only when he was 19 and he was dating his first guy that Jack found the courage to come out to his family – a revelation he described as “one of the most incredible feelings of my life”.

But Jack’s decision to come out to his loved ones wasn’t without trepidation.

“It becomes something in your head that’s dirty and disturbed … and you think something is perverted when it really isn’t. It’s the absolute opposite. Love is love,” he said in 2021.

(Image: Instagram)

Penny Wong

The South Australian senator has been a pioneer for the LGBTQI+ community in parliament for the better half of two decades.

As Australia’s most prominent openly gay politician, Penny was vocally against the same-sex marriage plebiscite in 2017, saying she didn’t want her relationship or family “to be the subject of inquiry, of censure, of condemnation, by others.”

“Many same-sex couples don’t hold hands on the street because they don’t know what reaction they’ll get. Some hide who they are for fear of the consequences at home, at work, at school,” she said at the time.

When the results of the vote were counted, Penny broke down in tears on national television. The next day in parliament she wept again, saying, “This is the most personal of debates because it is about the people who matter most to us. It is about the people we love.”

Penny praised her partner, Adelaide public servant Sophie Allouache, and their two daughters.

“So I say to Sophie, thank you for your love and commitment and for all you do. And I say to our beautiful daughters, Alexandra and Hannah, I work for and fight for the world I want for you.”

(Image: Getty)

Kylie Kwong

Celebrated chef Kylie Kwong has been refreshingly candid when talking about her heartbreaking journey to coming out as gay. In a 2019 interview with Ahn Do, Kylie revealed her father initially disowned after she told him she was dating a woman.

“He said, “Darling, I just want to say thank you for being so honest,” but he said, “I don’t… I just don’t understand it and I don’t agree with it’,” she revealed.

Kylie’s father then told her: “It’s Wednesday. I want you out of the house by Saturday. From this moment, I disown you as my daughter.”

Fortunately, Kylie’s mother was far more understanding, and the pair sobbed together following her father’s outburst.

“She held me very tightly and she said, “Oh, my darling, now you can be free. You can be whoever you want to be’,” Kylie shared.

Kylie and her father have since mended their relationship, and the moment ultimately brought them closer together.

(Image: Instagram)

Joel Creasey

The NOVA radio host might be known for his light-hearted quips and effortless wit, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. In 2014, Joel and fellow gay comedian Rhys Nicholson travelled to the regional Victorian town of Colac to film a series for the ABC, but the pair were met with disgraceful homophobic slurs from locals.

“The mayor was doing a great job, she’s really progressive – but we had people yelling stuff out of car windows, and our small camera crew could not grab it,” Joel said on Who’s Binge List podcast in 2018.

“We had people yelling at us 24/7, and so Colac is a very homophobic place. Sure, I haven’t been there in three years, but I don’t know how much can change in that time.”

Then in November 2019, Joel was forced to cancel a comedy show in the regional town of Bendigo following homophobic threats.

“I’ve never had to cancel a show before, love performing and love Bendigo – so it’s a bit of an all-around crappy situation,” he said at the time.

The funnyman has been happily dating his boyfriend Jack Stratton-Smith since 2017, with Joel previously describing his beau as “the love of my bloody life.”

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