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Australian Story – Since Adam Was a Boy (1997)

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Coming out to the family education content clip 2

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

This is a searingly honest moment in which Adam’s parents truthfully tell how they felt when Adam told them he was gay.

They had anticipated the continuance of the family name and a mess of grandchildren. Nevertheless they stood by their son and their relationship has grown even stronger over the intervening years.

Curator’s notes

The really fantastic thing brought out so well in this program is Adam’s courage, and that of his family, in revealing his sexual orientation so that others who live in the bush might learn that they don’t have to live a lie. It wasn’t easy and the director clearly and compassionately shows how difficult it was – and how for many years Adam lived with a terrible anger towards the world and himself until he felt able to tell the truth.

The great footage of Adam performing stunts on horseback with his family watching admiringly, nicely sets the mood for the comments we are about to hear.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows Adam Sutton, a horse breaker and trainer, practising riding tricks on his horse as he describes in voice-over how he 'came out’ to his family and the reaction of his parents, John and Barb, to the news that he was homosexual. John and Barb describe their immediate response to learning about their son’s sexual preference, including Barb’s fear that she would 'lose’ her son and John’s hope that this was a passing phase.

Educational value points

  • Coming out, or announcing sexual identity, to family can be a difficult step because of fears about how family, particularly parents, will react. This may include a fear of rejection from family, or a fear of disappointing or hurting family members. Adam says that the 'hardest thing’ was to tell his parents that he was gay because he knew it would upset them. Gays, bisexuals and lesbians may also keep their sexuality a secret because they are concerned about being harassed by family, friends, or others.
  • Adam’s mother and father describe their difficulty in accepting Adam’s sexual preference. According to the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, parents who learn that their child is gay may go through a grief process that can include anger, denial, disbelief, guilt and a sense of perceived loss (such as the fear that their child will become a different person, and the possible denial of grandchildren) before accepting their child’s sexuality. Being 'out’ can, however, ultimately strengthen the relationship between parents and child, because the child may no longer feel they have to hide this part of their identity from their family.
  • Adam’s mother says that when her son came out she was angry because he had earlier denied he was gay. Yet, she agreed to be in the documentary, suggesting that she had come to terms with her son’s sexuality. Identifying as gay or lesbian can be difficult due to the stigma sometimes associated with being homosexual and ignorance within the community about homosexuality. A 2005 Australian Institute report showed that 35 per cent of the population aged over 14 years believe homosexuality is immoral. Gays and lesbians face discrimination, homophobia (a fear or hatred of homosexuals) and even violence.
  • Isolation, homophobia and a lack of support services can make it particularly difficult for gays and lesbians in rural areas to come out. A 1996 study, The Rural Mural: Sexuality and Diversity in Rural Youth, found that young gays and lesbians in rural areas are less likely to confide in their doctor because of confidentiality issues, particularly a fear that the doctor might inform parents. A 2005 Australian Institute report, Mapping Homophobia in Australia, found that homophobia is more prevalent in rural areas.
  • Adam participated in Australian Story because he wanted to counter negative stereotypes of gays and lesbians and serve as a role model for young gays and lesbians in rural communities, perhaps helping others to be open about their sexuality. A lack of positive role models has been linked to higher rates of youth suicide among gays and lesbians in rural areas. According to a report released by VicHealth (the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation) young gays and lesbians, particularly in rural areas, may be six times more likely to commit suicide than other young people, and the report found that the stress experienced by gay and lesbian people who have not come out contributes to this risk.
  • Research conducted by La Trobe University in 1996 found that around 10 per cent of young people aged 14 to 18 are sexually attracted to members of the same sex.

Interviews with Adam and his parents are intercut with footage of Adam performing stunts on horseback while his family watches.

Adam Sutton, horse breaker and trainer The hardest thing for me was to tell my parents I was gay and I knew, in telling them, I was going to hurt them. I came out to my sisters first and they were pretty good – shocked, I think, but also they were happy for me. When I told Mum she broke instantly down into tears and screamed at me and said, ‘No, you’re not.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think I am.’

Barb Sutton, Adam’s mother I had this dreadful fear I was going to lose my son that I know. I just thought, ‘He’s going to change, he’s going to take on a new direction in his life. Things are never going to be the same again.’ That was my big fear. I did have trouble talking with Adam for a while. I think my struggle was the fact that I had asked him and he said no and the way I interpreted that, Adam had been lying to me. We’d looked forward to having an heir to the name – that whole family picture that you have.

John Sutton, Adam’s father Barb’s religious and it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, and I think it took a long time to sink in. I was hoping that maybe there would be a turnaround. Maybe if he’d found romance in some other man that, as soon as that was over, he would turn back to being heterosexual again. But, you know, that’s not to be.

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Terms & Conditions

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described here and elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions. ALL rights are reserved.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading this clip:

When you access ABC materials on australianscreen you agree that:

  1. You may download this clip to assist your information, criticism and review purposes in conjunction with viewing this website only;
  2. Downloading this clip for purposes other than criticism and review is Prohibited;
  3. Downloading for purposes other than non-commercial educational uses is Prohibited;
  4. Downloading this clip in association with any commercial purpose is Prohibited;

The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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