We’re all on a personal journey – navigating different paths, growing, evolving and trying to find out who we really are. Wear It Purple is an international movement, aiming to create and nurture safe environments for rainbow young people. Medibank’s Member Health Commercial Account Manager, James McDonald, is a strong advocate of this movement, understanding more than most its importance for young members in the LGBTIQ community.
“Being a young person can be difficult at times, but often when you’re LGBTIQ, it’s a time when you’re readjusting who you thought you were,” James says.
As a young boy he experienced bullying from other kids just for being himself, before he even began his journey of self-discovery. James says as a boy, he found himself trying to fit in what he thought was the correct way to live.
“I think the kids I was surrounded with back then knew who I was even before I did. They would say unkind things, making assumptions. As a response, I lived in denial. I thought the only way was to grow up, get married and have children. I forced myself to be someone who ultimately didn’t fit.”
James (right) with husband Iain.
Although he had friends in school, James admits that he was cautious about letting them get too close to him, for fear that he wouldn’t be able to hide his true self.
“I was so scared of being rejected, I deliberately put a distance between myself and them so no solid friendships would develop. If I could keep space between us, then I could keep up the act of being someone I wasn’t.”
As life went on, James found himself understanding who he really was and surrendering to the life he was meant to live.
“It was incredibly hard but I think at the heart of it, I was able to grow, accept and love myself by talking about how I felt. It was through opening up to friends, family and a few psychologists that I started to hear I am an amazing person who’s worthy of love.”
From his own experiences James deeply understands the need for all kinds of support and guidance for LGBTIQ members, particularly young people. He says when technology is everywhere, rainbow young people also need help in virtual environments.
“We all know teenage years can be emotionally brutal, however I think changes in technology means kids face new struggles. I might have been called names as a kid, but once it was said it disappeared. Now, those names stay on someone’s social media feed for you and all to see. It’s a constant reminder,” he says.
“We all have an obligation to our young people to let them know we think they are truly wonderful.”
James is a part of the Passion + Pride network at Medibank, playing a part in making a difference for the LGBTIQ community, including Wear It Purple Day.
“As part of this wonderful group, I’m involved in helping run activities with the aim of creating awareness. This year for Wear It Purple Day, we are asking Medibank employees to celebrate how uniquely great their children, nieces, nephews, godchildren or any other child in their life is. We’re also raising money for the Wear It Purple organisation, whose mission it is to support LGBTIQ young people.”
James aand colleagues taking part in the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade, 2018.
Prior to working at Medibank, James discovered through research that Medibank is a strong ally of the LGBTIQ community. When he became an employee, it was his top priority to join the Passion + Pride network.
“I think Medibank makes an incredible difference in the way it markets itself. We have LGBTIQ people along with employees from all different backgrounds and abilities. This is such a strong representation of our very diverse country,” he says.
“When young people see us, they may very well identify with one of these groups. It shows we see them and that they’re not invisible.”
When James finally acknowledged his true self at the age of 19, he says he gave up on his dream of having his own family. Now, he’s blown away by how differently his life turned out.
“Little did I know that coming out would give me everything I could ever have wanted. I’ve been married to my partner Iain for almost five years and we have beautiful five-year-old twins, Oscar and Poppy. My home is full of so much love.”
For rainbow young people, James has one over-arching message.
“Every single feeling and thought you have makes you stronger. Life is a marathon, this is a little hill. You need to love yourself because more people than you realise love you. It might be hard to believe at first, but it does get better.”