Warning: The following article contains mentions of suicidal ideation.
Some of the most pivotal conversations of Deni Todorović's life have happened in the living room of their parents' Geelong home.
They were complicated conversations in which Deni shared what they'd learned about their sexuality and gender identity. They were moments of shame, heartbreak, anger and confusion, and ones of self-determination and, above all, unconditional love.
Speaking to Mamamia's No Filter podcast, the stylist, fashion editor and LGBTQIA+ advocate (who uses they/them pronouns) reflected on three of the most impactful.
The first conversation: 'Do you get picked on at school?'
Deni was 13. They arrived home from a long weekend at their cousins' place. Their mother beckoned them into the living room where their father was waiting to talk.
They sat down.
"Deni, do you get picked on at school?"
They did. Every day. Incessantly.
The usual things, they said. (Kids would call them 'wog boy', because of their name and Serbian heritage.) Like, whatever. People are racist.
"Do they call you gay?" Yes. "But are you?" No. "Well, then why do you have a crush on your Year 9 science teacher?"
In that moment, Deni learned their parents read their diary.
For the next three hours, Deni's mum, dad and brother steadily persuaded them they weren't gay, that it was just a phase, or perhaps confusion because of the taunts of those teasing peers.
"I just believed them, because I'm so close to my parents. And I was like, 'Well, yeah, they're probably right'," Deni told Mamamia.