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‘Too pretty to be gay’, what it means to be a gay Aboriginal woman

‘Too pretty to be gay’, what it means to be a gay Aboriginal woman

Ella Bancroft poses with her hand on her head and is looking sideways

Ella Noah Bancroft is an Australian born artist, storyteller, teacher, director and mentor. Her Indigenous heritage has played a key role in her story.

Perhaps I am being a little biased, but woman are a powerful force.

As a proud Aboriginal gay woman, I am a minority of the population of Australia and it excites me.

I am excited to challenge contemporary ideas, to empower women to rise above and to challenge stereotypes that wider society have about Indigenous, gay and female peoples.

Growing up I could shapeshift into most communities, both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous, but often I was confronted by both about being a ‘White Aboriginal’ or not being black enough.

I have Scottish, English and Aboriginal blood mixed through my veins, and I’m proud to identify to all of them.

It did get confusing though constantly being challenged about my Aboriginality and then later in life being constantly challenged about my homosexuality.

Apparently I didn’t look Aboriginal and I didn’t look gay.

‘You’re too pretty to be gay’, what a weird thing to say to somebody, yet I have heard this over ten times in my life and that is ten times too many.

When you repeatedly hear such racist statements or ‘jokes’, it informs you of how it is you are viewed by the rest of the world.

Initially I realised that this world wasn’t so nurturing for a lesbian who has Indigenous heritage and a strong voice that opposes stereotypes that the wider community has on these labels.

Changing the world

How could I make a change to the world of media and impact more people with my messages?

Art was the answer. I found art, after much resistance being the daughter of one of Australia’s most talented Indigenous artists, I found art.

Art allows me to create images that channel my ideas, thoughts and frustrations. Colourful, contemporary images that shape my perceptive.

A colourful painting with green and purple colours
One of Ella Bancroft’s pieces. | Photo: IndigenousX

Through my artwork I long to create images that may free us from the constraints of domestication, patriarchy and colonisation, not just an Indigenous people but as a human race.

My political protests don’t just end with my artwork.

I am a keen advocate of using my body as a billboard to protest these three constraints.

I let my armpit hair flow, my leg hair dance in the wind and I will not bend to mainstream concepts about about what society considers to be beautiful and civil.

A billboard of my own protest against expectations, the beauty industry, western ideals and consumerism.

My artwork aims to highlight the beauty of the female form in nature.

The recent series of artwork is focused on women, the importance of female orgasms and women who love women.

an art piece featuring two women embracing
One of Ella Bancroft’s art pieces. | Photo: IndigenousX

Art as therapy

Art has become a therapy for me. A way to release my inner thoughts and pleasures.

A way to reach larger audiences, a way to hopefully invoke a different thought around Indigenous art and what it means to be a gay Aboriginal woman in 2018.

I also hope to provide my two younger sisters with an idea that beauty isn’t reflected on the outside, that beauty is an inward concept that we need to accept.

My amazing partner is a solid support in my endeavour to test the boundaries and she loves me for who I am on the inside just as much as the outside. Leg hair and all.

I was blessed with a very accepting family. For this I dedicate all my works to them. To their strength, their determination and their unconditional love.

They never made me feel different for any of my decisions and this has allowed me to flourish. I guess my hope is that all families can look to love those around them regardless of their sexuality, race and or occupation.

The disease we have in this society is one of expectation; expecting people to be something that they were never meant to be.

The theme of Boomalli Artists Co-operative’s latest Mardi Gras Exhibition; Luscious All Sorts: Love Won.

Says it simply. Love Won.

Let us allow Love to Win.

The Exhibit curated by Kyra Kum-Sing opens on the 23rd of February and continues until the 1st of April. Beauty for is like art.

There will always be those who like the artwork and those who don’t, this doesn’t make the artwork any better or worse it’s only based on individual opinion.

You’re beautiful to someone. x

This article first appeared on Indigenous X and has been republished here with permission.