Big Brother star speaking out against homophobia
WHEN a gang of homophobic thugs bashed David Graham and left him for dead in a Brisbane street, the former Goondiwindi man took it upon himself to take a stand and open the minds and hearts of the Australian public.
It was the tipping point for the former Big Brother contestant, who won the hearts of Australians as Farmer Dave - the everyday bloke who 'came out' on television after battling with his feelings his whole life.
One night in 2006, after making a break from the isolation of Goondiwindi to be around other gay men in Brisbane, Dave confronted a group of thugs hurling homophobic abuse at men leaving a pub.
"On my way home I saw a gang of guys throwing glass bottles at guys leaving the pub," he said.
"I walked up to reason with them and after talking with what appeared to be the ringleader he calmed down a bit.
"It was when I told him that he was speaking to a gay man that the punches started - the six blokes left me in a pool of blood."
In his recovery a determined Dave turned his anger and frustration into a steely resolve to open people's eyes and that's when the prospect of being on Big Brother became a reality.
"My mind was made up - I thought this is bulls**t," he said.
"There were too many people hating on the homosexual community - it was just bullsh**t hate.
"In my mind the only way to change people's minds was to show we're not freaks, we're just like anybody else."
Even then, a mere nine years ago, homophobia was rampant in society - despite a changing viewpoint on homosexuality in society.
"There were so many people living in the closet - people had to run away from the bush to live in the closet in a new city," Dave said.
"I never wanted to hide and be secretive about how I am."
Dave admitted to following increasing media coverage on gay rights quite avidly.
"All I was listening to was talk back radio and Bob Katter was saying it wasn't right and people calling in and saying it was weird and wrong," he said.
"I had a gutful of the people ringing in."
The fire wasn't always within though for Dave, and right up until he hit hid mid-twenties he grappled with his sexuality.
"Growing up there was very rarely a day that would go by that homophobic weren't slung around as joking insults or genuine insults by stockmen, shearers and my own family," he said.
"There was general homophobia in the culture - it was made clear to me that being gay was a bad thing."
The homophobic behaviour carried on into his days at Toowoomba Grammar School and attending agricultural college in Geelong.
"It got much worse when I went away to boarding school in Toowoomba - I was on the receiving end of a lot of it," he said.
"I was suicidal for the seven years I was there and I had many attempts at suicide in that time."
During his time studying in Geelong, Dave sought out help in the form of a coming out course hosted by the Victorian AIDS Council.
"It taught me to accept myself as I was - that homophobia was their problem, not mine," he said.
"A lot of men went through the same thing and came out the other end even worse - a few guys I knew committed suicide when I was at college."
It wasn't until after his stint on Big Brother that Dave felt fully accepted - experiencing 'absolutely zero' homophobia after his time on the reality TV show.
"People thought holy s*** - that's incredible what you did," he said.
" You can get a lot of support coming from a country community provided you're straight up and honest with people.
"A lot of support I do get is from older men with families who couldn't do what I did - I feel very sad for them."
Homophobia is a disease, according to Dave- an opinion that will change with time.
"It's their decision - homophobia is a disease and it's theirs," he said.
"People can change their views but you can't change who you are."
The results of the beyondblue survey didn't come as a shock to him, with the farmer saying it didn't surprise him at all.
But given some of the negativity surrounding the findings, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"Those statistics are better than they were 10 years ago," he said.
"They're totally different to where we were as a society 30 years ago."
Looking to the future, a proud Dave said things would continue to change as people got to know each other more.
"The only way forward is to get to know each other a bit better," he said.
"On Big Brother I didn't walk in and say 'My name is Dave and I'm gay', I let people get to know me as Dave first.
"Being gay is a great part of my life and I wouldn't change it if I could."