Created in collaboration with our mates at Levi’s
When Abbe May began writing her new album, Fruit, Australia was a different place. That was five years ago, when marriage equality was still a pipe dream and May’s sexuality wasn’t a topic she wanted to sing about. A lot can happen in half a decade. With Fruit finally released this February, May announced herself to the world as a gay woman – and created a killer album in the process. (Oh, and Australia got marriage equality, too. Finally.)
May is one of the subjects of I AM…, a series of short films produced by Levi’s that celebrates the diversity of Australia’s LGBTQI+ community. We caught up with May to ask her about the film, the album, and why being herself can be a struggle.
Fruit has been described as your ‘coming out’ album. Did you make a deliberate decision to be more upfront about your sexuality? I did. While I was working on the album, my girlfriend at the time was having problems with her family, who were vocal supporters of the No campaign. I have an amazingly supportive family, but it upset me that people were dealing with this assault on their rights as human beings. I thought, maybe I need to make it clear that I’m gay, so I can be visible, and be a support for people who don’t have the support I have.
Were you always comfortable being yourself? Being comfortable in your skin isn’t easy when it’s always shedding. There have been times in the past when I thought I was really cool with myself, but then life throws something at you that changes who you are. You need to find a core within yourself, but sometimes your core shifts. Being cool with that is one of life’s struggles.
How have you shed your skin recently? For years my life was about sex and rock ‘n’ roll, and I was very self-centred. Then in 2013 I had a seizure. It was horrific at the time, but it was also one of the best things that have happened to me. Having a nervous system breakdown showed me I couldn’t keep living with that level of stress. Now I’m much more realistic about how much I can do, and my focus is centred on my family. It took a while to get used to this newer version of myself, but it was an important lesson. You have to look after yourself; you are your own responsibility.
What does strength mean to you? In a funny way, it means opening yourself up to your own vulnerabilities, and being open to attack. Being strong means revealing your weaknesses and carrying on regardless. That’s what I wanted to do with Fruit; show myself in a very public way.
In your Levi’s video, you talk about wanting sexuality to be boring. What do you mean by that? Coming out was really difficult for me. I fell in love with a woman when I was 24. It was a beautiful time, but it was also really scary going home to tell my parents. Later, my mum and I laughed about how strange it is that you even have to come out; my brother never had to come home and say, “I’m straight”. When the day comes that being a member of the LGBTQI+ community isn’t interesting, that will be bloody amazing. There are so many things about me that are more interesting than the fact I’m a lesbian.
Do you have any advice for people struggling to feel good about themselves? It’s really important to be around people who don’t make you feel bad, so if you’re surrounded by negativity – even if it’s your family – get out, if you have the choice. You will find a community, and it will get better.