Dani. 18. Waihi. North Island.
Hi, my name is Dani. I’m 18 and I am currently living in Hamilton, New Zealand but I am originally from Waihi which is a tiny as town by the beach. Waihi is about 45 minutes north of Tauranga.
How do you identify?
I identify as a bisexual female. I swing more towards women but I still date men.
Great. So going back to Waihi. Can you tell me more about what Waihi looked like?
Waihi is a really small, really rural community. I think like 90% of the kids that I went to school with came from farms or were around farms. It’s a huge farming community. I think in my year that graduated last year, there were only 6 of us that were openly LGBT out of the 100 of us in my year.
My school was small. The kids who went there were either from Waihi and Waihi Beach. There was also a quite a few kids from Whangamata. The Whangamata school was super small–like you did your whole schooling at just one school. So a lot of them came down just to have a different, bigger school. Oh, and there were some people from Paeroa and Karangahake too.
Did you live in Waihi your whole life?
Not all of it. I came to Hamilton for boarding school when I was 13. I studied in Hamilton for the first 3 years of high school but when back Waihi for my last year of high school. But other than that, my whole life was in Waihi.
Why did you move back to Waihi for your last year of high school?
I wanted the experience of being at home for high school. All of my friends lived at home and went to our local high school. I didn’t get that family feeling ‘cause I was staying at other families’ houses like an international student doing a homestay. I just wanted my last year to be at home, with my family, and set in a place that I knew.
Can you tell me more about your family?
So there’s me, my mum, and my stepdad. We have sort of been a family since I was about 6–that’s when my mum and stepdad got together. We’re quite close as family. We go on holidays together and like to generally spend time together. It’s really quite nice.
Do your parents know that you are bisexual?
Yep. My mum is quite okay with it but my stepdad is a bit less about it just because he knows that Waihi is not a good place for accepting that sort of stuff. That’s why he encouraged me to get out of Waihi to get my university degree because he knew that if I stayed in Waihi I would have to deal with a sort of a lot of homophobic attitudes. He’s mostly just worried about my safety.
What would you do for fun when you lived in Waihi?
Me and my friends would hang out a lot and do things like go dirt bike riding and things like that. We lived on a farm so we were able to. I was part a big group of neighborhood family friends. We would all go on holidays and stuff together. So all of us kids from the families would sort of chill out together. We would go swimming, dirt bike ride, and do crazy stuff with fireworks that we still have scars from.
Did the other families that you were close with know that you were bisexual?
Two of them do know like I’m out to. But the other one I’m not out to because they’re pretty homophobic and they have a big stigma with that.
So this family was sort of homophobic and your dad was concerned about the homophobia in town. How did you view the homophobia in your town?
Some of it was okay to deal with. But there were things that were difficult. During my last year oh high school, I had a girlfriend at school. I wasn’t allowed to take to her the high school prom. So I had to go with my gay friend and she went with a male friend just so we could still go with each other–just not as each other’s date.
Were you told by the school that you weren’t allowed to bring same-sex partners?
It wasn’t the school–it was the ball committee. They refused to sell us tickets if we were a same sex couple.
Who made up the ball committee?
It was a lot of the disgustingly heteronormative, straight girls. I had quite an experience with these girls since coming out. In year nine, everyone in Waihi found out that I was bisexual. These girls were talking about me a lot. I was like “I’m not even around you guys anymore. Why are you doing this to me?”. I sort of got over it. I kept reminding myself that if they don’t know where I’m coming from then that’s their problem. I just needed to be the bigger person. I would ask them things like, “If your friend told you that he might actually I might be attracted to his best guy friend, are you going to victimise your friend and be a total dick to him? Or are you going to be a decent person and say “go experience that and explore and something might happen”?
This gossip even happened when I was away. That’s actually when they started talking crap about me. When I came back I was just sorta like “You know what, I’m not dealing with you guys right now. It’s your problem. You deal with your own problems and keep me out of them. And if you want to cause drama, cause drama in someone else’s life like your own.” Living away during boarding school helped me to separate myself from that drama.
How did your relationship to Waihi change while you were in boarding school?
It kind of changed. I really didn’t ever like living in a small town where everyone knew each other. Moving to Hamilton which is sort of a big city in New Zealand sort of changed my view about Waihi. I saw just how much smaller Waihi was and how tight knit the community was. I think that I might move back to Waihi someday. But at the time being I want to stay away and learn more about the world.
When you were living in Waihi, did you have any particular experiences with homophobia outside of school?
Not really. My family goes to church quite often which is fine. However, there’s still one church family that really doesn’t like me turning up to church because they think that it’s wrong that I still get to believe in God when they think that homosexuality is wrong. You learn to sort of breeze through that. You start to think, “Well actually, the church is welcoming to these people and it’s not really wrong. We’ve just been giving the wrong idea”. You have to learn to make peace with the negativity and move on.
When you were living in Waihi or anywhere you’ve lived, where did you get the information about being bisexual?
In Waihi: Not really. I was the one who actually started the LGBT club at school because there is nothing here and there are at least six of us who wanted to get a club started. But with info and stuff–I used the internet because that’s usually what people my age do–there really wasn’t many paper-y resources around when I lived in Waihi.
What would have been the most ideal situation that you could have obtained information and resources about your sexuality?
I think I would have liked to have more resources that helped me to understand what my sexuality meant. I knew that I was attracted to guys and girls but I wanted to know what that meant for me. Does it mean that you’re sort of mean you’re on a scale or attraction? Or does it mean that you decide when and who you’re attracted to? Or is attraction like pendulum that swings back and forth between liking girls and guys? I also think it would be helpful to have resources that could help you figure you out where you and when it is appropriate for me to come out.
So reflecting on your experience in Hamilton and Waihi– what would be something that you would give to other queer youth in rural and small towns like Waihi?
I would want to tell them that even though you’re living in a small town where you’re not accepted, it’s not like that everyone. Get out. Explore. Go find somewhere where your are accepted and love yourself the way that you’re meant to.