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Community Connections

Craig Mutton: Pride goes beyond the rainbow … it’s about the everyday

Pride is about celebration, expression, identity and belonging.

It is shown through parades, and fair days, and rainbow flags. It is the courage of the ones who pave the way for the entire LGBTIQ+ community, and the activism to lobby for policy changes.

But it is also about openly having a conversation with your mother about what being non-binary means, without fear gnawing a black hole in your gut. Not having to think twice about the gender of the person you fall in love with, and what people are going to say about that. Expressing your own pronouns – or not – and in your own time.

Pride is going for a walk with your husband – as husband yourself – and, hand-in-hand, saying hi to the neighbours.

Craig Mutton, the University of Canberra’s Chief Digital Officer, and his husband Adrian Thia, find Pride in the ordinary every day – in being part of the Canberra community now, and the Melbourne community before that.

“Pride is just about having the comfort and confidence to express who you actually are – and honestly, you should feel that freedom whether you’re talking about which football team you support, your religion, or your sexuality,” he says.

Craig and Adrian moved to Canberra last year, when Craig decided to join UC – leaving their previous home of Daylesford, Victoria, the couple knew they were exchanging one accepting, open community for another.

“That’s one reason why we moved to Daylesford in the first place – it was a community where we knew we could be ourselves,” Craig says – and it afforded a quieter lifestyle than their previous home in Collingwood, in inner city Melbourne.

“Canberra is a very progressive, open city – so to be honest, I don’t know that it’s been a huge change. I know we don’t feel particularly different here, which is a really positive thing.

“We can walk around our neighbourhood, engage with our neighbours and community, and never feel ostracised or not accepted.”

Which means that Craig and Adrian have been able to focus on the really important things with their move – like where the cool places to eat are.

“And Adrian has recently started a job at local design firm Designcraft – an area which is new for him, but which feeds into our shared interest in design.”

Ultimately, Craig hopes that we all keep moving towards open acceptance, of other people’s life choices being a non-issue, as we seem to be in Australia.

“Ten years ago, some of my friends, who hadn’t come out, longed for the day when it wouldn’t matter if they did or not,” he says.

“Meanwhile, I think that people come out more when they are younger, nowadays. Parents and friends are generally more accepting. And that all points to us heading in the right direction.”

There’s still a way to go yet though – just five years ago, Australians were in a nationwide discussion about who had the right to get married.

“The fact that we had to debate marriage equality was unfortunate – but it had at least one positive effect, because it led to a lot of conversations which I’m sure were difficult for many people, but also managed to shift the perceptions of quite a few.

“It humanised people in the LGBTIQ+ community – and took away some of the stigma which had built up over time.”

Craig and Adrian were both active in the lobby for marriage equality, and when the Marriage Act was updated to reflect that the right to marry in Australia was no longer determined by sex or gender, the couple decided to tie the knot in 2018.

“We’ve been together for 26 years, so getting married wasn’t about trying to legitimise our relationship – we did have many of our friends bring their kids to the wedding, so they could see that there’s nothing remarkable or unusual about gay marriage,” Craig said.

“Plus, we had two nieces who were dying to be flower girls!”

To people trying to navigate their place and identity in the world today, Craig wants to convey what he wishes someone had told him as a young person, growing up in a conservative community.

“Don’t let your difference diminish you, hold you back or make you hide a part of your life,” he says.

“There are a lot of people out there – older people, support groups, or Pride groups – who can help you with any bumps you might encounter on the way to you finding out who you are.

“Your friends and parents might be straight, and you might need advice from someone in the LGBTIQ+ community – or you might just need to know that you’re not alone.

“Find a tribe, because it will build a bit more resilience in your life.”

Words by Suzanne Lazaroo, photo: supplied

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