Realising that you are gay and coming out to your family is hard enough for young people.
But imagine having that revelation and then having to tell your husband. And your kids. And imagine if it then became a national news story.
On Debrief Daily’s new ‘Just Between Us’ podcast, we talk to two late-blooming lesbians who did just that. One of them is the Prime Minister’s sister.
Christine Forster is now 50. But when she was in her early 40s her entire life was turned upside down. Christine says she was living the dream – an idyllic suburban life with a happy marriage, four beautiful children and a house on Sydney’s North Shore. Then, she fell in love with another mother from her son’s Catholic school. She says it was a seismic upheaval.
Christine Forster says her family reacted with great surprise when she ended her marriage. While some friends thought she was gay, no-one in her family had any suspicions at all. But she says, contrary to popular perceptions, her brother Tony Abbott was the most supportive of all in her family and the least judgemental.
Forster admits that the break-up and coming out was extraordinarily difficult for her daughters who were then teenagers. She told us she was acutely aware that any public scrutiny would make their struggle harder so she was glad the story that publicly outed her was so sympathetically told and her kids were kept out of it.
Christine Forster feels she was probably always gay but because she was raised in such a conservative family on the North Shore of Sydney she just didn’t know any gay people in her formative years. By the time she was at University and encountered the scene she was on a certain path in life that included university, travelling and marriage. So when she met “a fine man and fell in love” she followed her path because her psyche was that she would be a “North Shore woman with a big house and a career”.
Dorothy McRae-McMahon says she didn’t even know the word ‘sexuality’ when she was young. The Peace Activist and retired Uniting Church Minister came out at 50 after she had been married for 18 years and had four children. After dedicating 16 years of her life to her disabled son, Dorothy began moving in feminist circles with lesbian women. She feels she was probably always gay but because of her generation and the life she’d led it stopped her from doing anything about it.