Meet Emma Bust – wife, mother of two… and straight mate to Toowoomba’s LGBTI community.
Emma was raised Catholic with a strong belief of “do unto others as you would have them do to you,” but she’s since left the church “because of its hypocrisy,” she tells Same Same. However, she feels that she’s “all good with God.” She has a loving husband called Khris and two children aged 6 and 2. What makes Emma so interesting is, she’s swiftly gaining the reputation as the gays in Toowoomba’s “straight ally”.
Working alongside Queensland’s Healthy Communities and members of the LGBTIQ community in the ‘Garden City’ located in the state’s south, Emma organised a rally on Saturday protesting same-sex rights. But it was unfortunately cancelled at the last minute on Friday afternoon when the local council suddenly decided to withdrew its approval.
Rather then be disheartened, Emma went ahead with a picnic instead. In what is considered to be a highly conservative city, it was inspiring to see members of the LGBTIQ brave the cold Toowoomba weather coming out and showing their pride and unity in an often isolated community. See our photos from the event below.
Same Same had the privilege of catching up with this inspiring woman.
Emma, You’re a wife and mother of two children, why do you find equality so important?
I decided early on that it was important to teach my children that they shouldn’t judge people, that they should be kind and thoughtful to friends and strangers, and that everyone is equal in this society and should be treated with respect and dignity. I want to teach my children that its NOT ok to bully people, and standing up for your friends is brave and commendable.
I’m also a big advocate of practicing what I preach, so I felt almost obligated to get off my chair and stand up for my friends and family affected by this government’s inaction on equal rights.
I wanted to be able to tell my children that “see, mum is here to stand up for her friends and family, it IS ok to stand up against bullies!”
What challenges do you think members of the LGBT community face in Toowoomba?
In Toowoomba and surrounding areas of the Darling Downs there is the issue of isolation, not a wide range of health prevention and support services, possible discrimination in aged care facilities, and school bullying.
In Brisbane and other capital cities there are safe places to go to socalise without feeling like they have to pretend to be straight etc, there are LGBTIQ events here, but they are few and far between, very informal and sporadic, and always hidden from public view. I also worry that some same-sex parent families don’t feel accepted at their child’s schools.
What inspired you to organise the rally?
What inspired me to action? Well I can pin-point one thing which got me from the “thinking about it” stage to the “doing it” stage. I was at my friend John’s birthday party. He and his partner Brendan were looking after John’s two beautiful children – they share custody with the children’s mother. My children played with his children; they laughed the same, played the same, asked for hugs the same, whinged the same as my children. There was no difference. And John and Brendan acted the same as my husband and I do with our kids.
In the morning they made eggs on toast and my daughter asked their son why did they have two daddies? Their son shrugged and said “John’s my dad, Brendan’s my stepdad. I’m just lucky I guess”. And thats it. These kids weren’t screwed up. There was only love in this family. And yet if John and Brendan wanted to solidify their relationship with marriage, they would be denied.
Homophobics would say that they were damaging their children. And I just thought, that’s bullshit. When Khris and I got married, no one questioned it. When we decided to have children, no one thought we’d be unfit parents (except for maybe my mother in law haha). It just felt so unfair. So I decided to stand up and do something about it.
In the end you went ahead with a picnic. How do you think this was received with the Toowoomba LGBTIQ community?
We had approximately a hundred people attend, and received a lot of positive feedback. We advertised soon after that we’d be having a volunteer meeting to discuss our plans for the future and we had lots of people attend that, and a lot of new faces in the crowd which seems to indicate that interest in this project is growing. I think Toowoomba can feel quite isolated for this community; it is an ultra-conservative, staunch Liberal city, and homophobia seems to be quite common, so a lot of people may be hesitant at first to join in on public events like this, but there has been a lot of interest in making this a yearly event in the future, so interest is certainly picking up.
We have to remember that Toowoomba’s LGBTIQ community has really only met in the shadows until now, so we’re really trying to encourage people to take a leap and celebrate their lives in a safe, supportive environment.
I think at this time in Queensland’s history its important to keep the issue of marriage equality, surrogacy rights and general LGBTIQ rights in the spotlight, because right now I fear that community is in danger of having these rights ignored or taken from them. We need to be vocal, and we need to make the government aware that this is not an issue that is going back into the closet. We need the government to be aware that the LGBTIQ community and its allies votes!
Emma plans to hold another rally in late September or early October and is currently seeking council approval. Needless to say, Same Same will keep you posted as soon as details emerge.
We’d also like to say a special thank you to Emma and the other beautiful people that are attempting to bring change and make Toowoomba a better place for the LGBTIQ community. Keep up the great work.