Wear it Purple Day – Interview with Kai Noonan
Have you heard of Wear it Purple Day? Westfield is a proud supporter of this initiative – an annual awareness day especially for young people within the LGBTIQA+ community. Every year, we wear purple to show inclusion and solidarity, and celebrate diversity. Ahead of Wear it Purple Day on August 30, we interviewed Kai Noonan, the Associate Director for LGBTI Health Programming and Development at ACON, about growing up in the LGBTIQA+ community and why awareness days like this are so important. Kai is also a finalist in this year’s Westfield Local Heroes, which you can learn more about here.
What do you love about Wear it Purple Day?
Wear it Purple is a day where whole communities decide to turn their grief into action and show solidarity and support. We can’t stop the bullying that led to the need for Wear it Purple, but we can say that we are a united force determined to prevent it from ever happening again.
Wear it Purple Day wasn’t around when I was young. As a young queer person I found a home in the LGBTIQA+ community, but I definitely did not feel the support of the wider community. There is something powerful about having people say ‘we see you’ and ‘we’re here for you’. And that is what Wear it Purple is all about.
What do you do and why did you start working for ACON?
I am an advocate for social justice – that’s how I describe what I do.
Before ACON I was working in the domestic and family violence (DFV) sector and the whole time I worked there I had no clients that identified as LGBTIQA+, and yet I knew that DFV existed in our communities. When the job at ACON came up for a project coordinator of their DFV work I knew that this is the space I wanted to work in. I wanted to raise awareness of the issue of DFV in our communities and look at why it is that LGBTIQA+ people were not accessing help for their relationships.
I often say that this is a unique time in history for LGBTIQA+ people. Never before have we as a community been safe enough to be as open about our identities and our relationships as we are today. Society still has a long way to go with true acceptance and celebration, but this newer found freedom has allowed us to not only explore our identities but to be open about our relationships: mainly our fabulous, fun and loving queer relationships, but sometimes our not-so-healthy and even unsafe ones, too.
What is one of the most powerful moments you have witnessed in your life or career where you have seen the importance of inclusion?
Inclusion is the work I do so I can’t help but notice examples of it everywhere I go. I notice every television show, parliamentary sitting, workplace and party where diversity is lacking. But I also notice every film, every school, every news panel and every community event where diversity and inclusion is thriving. I notice all the smaller signs of solidarity – I notice the ‘Welcome Here’ stickers in shop windows; I notice the rainbow badges on people’s backpacks; I notice the flags in shops and cafes during Mardi Gras; and I notice people practicing someone else’s pronouns to make sure they get it right. Grand gestures of inclusion are impressive, but smaller, every day acts of thoughtfulness and kindness are just as impressive.
However inclusion is not the highest standard we should set for ourselves as a community. I once heard a saying that I think explains it better than I could: ‘Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is feeling free enough to dance like no one is watching.’
What do you wish you could tell 15-year-old you?
15-year-old me was terrified of being different. I wanted to fit in with everyone else and be (in my mind) ‘normal’. To overcompensate, I wore make up and dresses, talked incessantly about boys, and chose parties over school work. I suppose you could say I rebelled (and got in a fair amount of trouble for it too).
On reflection, I can see that the often scary, sometimes painful journey of finding myself, my community and my place in the world was in fact a necessary journey that I had to make. I honestly believe that although my ‘coming out’ journey was hard at times, it also taught me resilience, empathy and independence.
I think that 15-year-old me would be both shocked and comforted to know that adult me truly believes that being queer is the best thing that ever happened to me!