Pride, Respect, Equality: Meet Sage and their Mum, Leila

As part of Respect Victoria’s 'Pride, Respect, Equality' campaign, Sage and Leila shared their story with us to encourage other families to support, celebrate and respect each other.
A Mum and their adult child sitting at the kitchen table. It is a colourful and bright scene.

Sage and Leila have a fantastic relationship now, but there were many hurdles and a lot of learning along the way. Read some of their insights below, and visit our campaigns page to learn more.    

On the challenges they faced:  

“At that point, I wasn't smart enough to deal with it kindly and perfectly. I was shocked, and it was very new to me.” – Leila, on how she originally dealt with finding out about Sage’s sexuality.  

Sage is a queer, non-binary person of colour, and their pronouns are they/them. Some LGBTIQ+ people can face rejection, discrimination and in some cases family violence when their parents or other family members learn about their sexuality or gender identity. For Sage, all those factors became a reality when they were forced to come out – initially as a lesbian - in their early teens. Their father played a big part in that, and Sage explains he was very controlling. For a long time, there was no acceptance of Sage’s sexuality or identity, and they didn’t receive the respect or support they needed.   

On culture and religion:  

“As a parent, I didn't know what to say or what to do - especially coming from a different culture.” – Leila.  

Sage and Leila are Lebanese, with strong ties to community and family both in Australia and Lebanon. One of Leila’s biggest fears when it came to Sage was that they would experience judgement and discrimination from others in their family and community.  

“I was so surprised when my family weren’t judgemental. As soon as I started talking about it, they just accepted it – my Mum said: ‘Why are you angry? We’re going to love Sage as they are.’” – Leila 

On the turning point:  

“The defining moment for us was when Mum started realising she was hurting me and that my mental health was so bad as a result. She came to me and asked me what would make me happy and asked if we could talk more.” – Sage   

Leila explains that while it took some time, she slowly started to realise that she was hurting Sage and they began to rebuild their relationship. Leila started seeking professional support and doing her own research to understand Sage’s sexuality and gender identity. She also spoke to friends and family. 

When Sage chose to have surgery to affirm their identity, Leila was there to support them throughout, along with Sage’s fiancée. And when they went home, the whole family was there with flowers and food to celebrate them. 

“Mum did the work. She put in the time to find out, do the research, to learn what was going on. And now, we talk on the phone every day.” – Sage   

Mum and child standing close to each other and hugging.

On their advice for parents and family members of LGBTIQ+ people: 

“I would tell other parents, that's your child, you have to love them no matter what. Don't think about anyone else in your life, just think about your kid.” – Leila. 

  • Doing the work. Leila attributes the research she did into sexuality and gender identities as vital to their journey. Wondering where to find resources? You can start by learning about other LGBTIQ+ Victorians and their stories of support, visit our communities of respect page
  • Getting support. Both Sage and Leila talk about the importance of seeking professional support. “Asking for help is one of the most important choices you can make.” 
  • Listening and asking what your person needs. Sage says that one of the most important gestures of support from their Mum was when she started asking ‘What do you need? How can I help?’  
  • Become their biggest ally. Sage is a strong LGBTIQ+ advocate, but explains that means “I can’t just live my life as it comes – I have to fight for my ability to be myself in the world.” They explain that when family and friends can take up the fight as an ally, that can relieve the pressure and create a more accepting community.  

“I love Sage to the moon and back. There's nothing that's going to stop me from loving and supporting them to the end.” – Leila on her relationship with Sage now. 

If you need support, Rainbow Door provides free specialist advice to LGBTIQ+ people and their friends and families. Rainbow Door is open 10am – 5pm, everyday and can be accessed via phonecall, text or email. Call 1800 729 367, SMS 0480 017 246, email: or visit the Rainbow Door website

A person smiling at their Mum.