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A life more ordinary?: Bill Darby on coming out on the Coast

A life more ordinary?: Bill Darby on coming out on the Coast

SEXUALITY SERIES: THE way we see each other - who we are and who we love - is changing.

In this four-part series in collaboration with the University of the Sunshine Coast, we explore sexuality, gender and politics in our region.

In this episode, Coast business and tourism stalwart Bill Darby speaks publicly for the first time on his sexuality, and on the impact, if any, that has had on his career.

 

PART ONE: A life more ordinary?: Bill Darby on coming out on the Coast

PART TWO: Why this Coast man could no longer live as a woman

PART THREE: Teens face 'degrading' sites as Safe Schools shelved

PART FOUR: How we feel about sexuality on the Sunshine Coast

 

ONE of the Sunshine Coast's most prominent and respected business figures has spoken for the first time about his sexuality, same-sex marriage and prejudice after two decades of success in the region.

You probably won't run into him at Mardi Gras or a drag queen show but that doesn't make him any less passionate about marriage equality.

As a tourism and business leader, Bill Darby is not necessarily a topic of conversation when it comes to the gay community on the Sunshine Coast.

"People ask me how long I have been gay," he said.

"I say to them, 'Well when did you know you were straight?'"

"You don't make the choice, it's always the same. It's biological."

Since arriving on the Coast 25 years ago as a 26-year-old, Mr Darby has become an acclaimed figure as the general manager and marketing director of Rumba Beach Resort, a director of Sunshine Coast Destination and even an advisor to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman's business forum.

Since his arrival, he has come to appreciate the Coast for being embracing and tolerant.

"I'd be naïve to think that there has been no prejudice against me," he said.

"But if there has been, people have been kind enough to not make me aware of it.

"The more you put into the community the more you get back out of it. I think that's the same, irrespective of your sexual orientation."

"There's probably one or two times where I've heard something said behind my back over the years, but not that it's ever affected me, or ever mattered.

"I can't say I've noticed it's ever been an issue with anyone. I haven't found that kind of bigotry here."

Bill Darby, general manager and marketing director of Rumba Beach Resort.
Bill Darby, general manager and marketing director of Rumba Beach Resort. Patrick Woods

Looking back to the mid-1990s when Mr Darby first arrived to the Sunshine Coast, he says it was obvious the beachside destination was "culturally backward" with little entertainment for a young, gay man.

"On occasion I did want to go out and be a part of that culture, I went to Brisbane - I would think that is not dissimilar now for young people."

Mr Darby's sexuality is not something he hides but he said it was also not a defining feature of his personality.

While others might be enthusiastic about the gay "scene" or "pride culture", Mr Darby described himself as more "conventional".

"You would find the majority gay people would probably be a bit more like me, who blend into society and are better known for our similarities to traditional society than our differences," he said.

In that way, he said he was "appropriately respectful" to others when it came to public displays of affection.

"I don't think the gay community generally speaking would think people here would want it in their face, if that makes sense."That caution comes out of respect, he said.

"I have had occasions where people, I felt, haven't been respectful towards me and I say something.

"Get a room, you know, I don't particularly want that in my face."

Although he doesn't want to get married himself - he jokes that he is too old - Mr Darby said it was a "national disgrace" there was not yet marriage equality in Australia.

"It's debated in parliament because of Christian heritage," he said.

"As the decades go on more people fall off the Christian perch because they realise they were being brainwashed by a whole lot of things that are a great big fairytale, that churches were in it for the money. I'm very clear on that point."

Mr Darby compares the way the government treats marriage equality to the way people with mental illnesses were once locked away.

"I think society will look back and say 'What were we thinking? What were our politicians thinking?' that they still behave like homosexual people are different when they are exactly the same."

Mr Darby counts himself lucky to have grown up after the 60s and 70s, the eras when same-sex couples faced persecution and the challenges of AIDS and HIV.

"Over the last 20 years things have become a bit more fashionable, and I think people think it's quite a thing to have a gay friend," he laughs.

"I have made a lot of really good friends who have said that they've learnt a lot about people who are gay because they know me."

Mr Darby said he had "resigned himself" to remaining a single man, saying he "never really met anybody as a long term life partner".

Although he does question whether his odds would have been increased if he lived in a capital city, or if he was more actively involved in the gay community.

"If people don't know you're gay, those opportunities are never going to socially present themselves."

Mr Darby said he was often approached by friends who wondered if their child was gay. His advice? Just ask.

"I've always had that saying, if you think somebody is gay, they probably are. If you got that impression, you are probably right."

 

BILL DARBY ON:

HAVING A CAREER

"I might be naïve but there's been no prejudice against me. If there has been, people have been kind enough not to make me aware of it. And there's been no particular gain. [Being gay] has never defined me.

 

HOMOPHOBIA

"I can't say I've noticed it's ever been an issue with anyone. We're all a pretty happy lot. I think the Sunshine Coast - we're more interested in getting on with our own lives and doing our own thing rather than worrying about what other people are doing. I think that's a credit to the community that it's not an issue."

 

RESISTANCE ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

"I think it's ridiculous. I think it's archaic.

"I think society will look back and say 'What were we thinking?' and 'What were our politicians thinking?' that they still behave like homosexual people are different when they are exactly the same."

 

HIS OWN WEDDING PROSPECTS

"I'm too old for that.

"I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm quite happy on my own.

"I've never met anybody as a long-term partner".

 

ON RELIGION IN POLITICS

"[Same-sex marriage] is debated in Parliament because of Christian heritage and Christian history. Sorry to say, but as the decades go on, more people fall off the Christian perch because they realised they were being brainwashed by a whole lot of things in a great big fairytale - the churches were in it for the money."

 

THE GAY SCENE:

"Some really embrace being with other homosexual people. Some don't feel a particular attraction to the scene or community. My life has been far more conventional."

 

PUBLIC AFFECTION

"I think I'd be cautious. I'd be appropriately respectful that it's a regional area so I wouldn't push it. That would be out of respect. I'd expect opposite-sex couples to be equally respectful of me".

 

BEING OPENLY GAY

"I don't make any secret of it. Noone has ever asked (me to speak publicly about it)."