City takes small steps towards becoming more accepting
WHEN Kristel Kelly was 13, she knew she was bisexual. At first she thought it was a phase, but when she was 18 she came out to her mother.
Things didn't go as well as Kristel imagined, and for the next six years they spent their lives estranged.
It was only after Kristel started preparing for her wedding with her now-husband that her mother rekindled their relationship.
Kristel's sexuality is now a taboo topic with her mother, and still at times, with society.
"I don't want people to think that I'm different. This (my sexuality) should not change how they see me," Kristel said.
"I'm still that same person you had coffee with the other week."
Today, Kristel is confiding in those who need support at community group Diverse. It's Gladstone's only gay and lesbian group.
The group meets every second Thursday at the PCYC, but organiser Anna Witty said she hadn't seen a large turnout since the group began a few months ago.
Kristel said there was still a stigma surrounding gay and bisexual communities in society.
During her interview, Kristel admitted sharing her story was like "coming out for the second time".
"People feel the need to come out and they shouldn't," she said. "Why should gay and bisexuals have to come out and prove their sexuality when heterosexual people don't?"
Kristel said the problems stemmed from Gladstone's transient demographic.
"So many people are coming in and out of town and they are more judgemental, while the locals seem more accepting," she said.
Fellow group member Mikayla Glossop agreed.
The openly-gay 25-year-old mother said she didn't feel like she had a support network in town.
"I thought I would disappoint everyone," she said.
Mikayla and her partner of eight years, Emily, lived in Mackay shortly after they got together.
While the town was similar to Gladstone, it had a thriving gay and bisexual community.
"Gladstone was missing that culture," she said.
Last year Kristel and Mikayla met former Gladstone resident and gay rights advocate Dylan Carmichael at Gladstone's first marriage equality march.
They have since developed a strong friendship, with Kristel hoping Dylan's legacy in town continues.
Kristel said while Gladstone still had a long way to go, small steps were being made.
"Though I find it hard exposing my sexuality here in Gladstone, I can see that creating a group like this where people who need questions answered... is much more important than my own feelings," Kristel said.