Equality and Self-Acceptance with Verushka Darling
Verushka Darling is a multi-faceted Australian drag artiste with a wealth of wisdom and experience. We chat with Verushka about community, equality and self-acceptance.
For those who don't know you, who is Verushka Darling?
I am a Hall of Fame inducted Australian drag artiste. I burst onto the scene in the early 90’s as a fashion model with ultra-long hair and an hourglass figure. The more runways I did and the more women’s clothes I wore, the more notoriety I got and I was able to segue into other ventures. I’ve written and performed in award winning stage shows and have produced internationally acclaimed dance parties. I made history in 1999 when I became the first Drag Queen in Australia to host her own TV show
Verushka’s Closet on MTV at a time when there were only one or two openly gay TV hosts. I’ve also appeared in internationally awarded advertising campaigns and have worked extensively within Australia and around the world to innovate and open doors for the drag performance community.
What does LGBTQI mean to you?
In and of itself, the term LGBTQI means nothing to me but a jumble of letters, some of which intrinsically belong together, and some of which float in and out depending on the prevailing winds of fashion and politics. What really means a lot to me is the community itself. This is a very real collection of people who work, play, live, belong and make sense of the world together, and who support each other against the odds. When I first came out, homosexuality was still criminalised and we were being discriminated against (often by the very authorities and powers pledged to protect society), at a time when HIV/AIDS was killing us in droves. In a very real sense, it was us against the world. Thus we banded together and created something quite magical; an extraordinarily creative, compassionate, politically energised, talented, caring and resilient community.
Where do you feel that equality for this community is currently at?
The answer to that depends on where you are in the world and what religious or ethnic background you come from. In one sense, here in Australia we’ve never had it so good, yet for example, all the freedoms and equal rights we’ve worked so hard to gain could be swept away by the Religious Exemptions Bill that is hovering around in the background. We are a sector of the community whose rights to equality may be voided by someone else’s choice to follow a particular belief system. Although we live in this comparative paradise, we are also all very much aware that we can still be imprisoned, tortured, discriminated against and executed in many other parts of the world.
Is society moving in the right direction to become more equal, and if so are we doing it fast enough?
Society is moving in the right direction but nowhere near fast enough. People need to think of homosexuality as an intrinsic, immutable part of a person - like race - and stop thinking of it as a choice. If you wouldn't discriminate against someone based on their race then why would you think it’s acceptable to discriminate against something equally as concrete as sexuality. Homosexuality is not a choice, but how you treat homosexuals is.
Is there a link between being accepted by society and one’s mental health?
The link between a lack of acceptance by society and poor mental heath outcomes is clear and has been proven in many studies and reports. I also think that a lack of emotional and psychological resilience and locking one’s self into a sense of victimhood are equally as damaging. One may not always be able to change the things one doesn’t like about society, but one can change the way one thinks, feels and responds to the challenges that society throws their way.
Accepting oneself is so important yet do you think that this is difficult for some people to do?
Yes, I absolutely think that acceptance of self is the key for everyone’s wellbeing regardless of sex, sexuality, race, gender identity etc. This can be something that is very hard for some people to do especially if their leaders, religious figures, parents, friends, workplaces, communities and extended families are constantly barraging them (whether consciously or unconsciously) with messages that they are unworthy or less than. This is why having supportive families and communities are important to the lives and wellbeing of so many people. But, at some point, one has to come to the conclusion that one’s sense of worth and self cannot be dependent upon the opinions of others, which is easier said than done. That doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t work on one’s flaws or try to better one’s self, it just means that one shouldn’t let others drag one down.
What advice would you give to the next generation?
Life doesn’t owe you anything and the world does not revolve around you. You are no more special nor deserving than the next person, but nor are you less so. Work hard. Earn what you get. Stand up for yourself and others. Engage in self reflection. Realise that sometimes we are the cause of our own problems and take comfort in the fact that that means that we are also the solution. Be good to others and know that kindness, consideration, respect for others and good manners cost you nothing, but may bring you a good deal in return. Be open to new and different experiences, views, opinions and pathways as they are the key to personal and professional growth. And always remember to be true to yourself.