Dave Graham’s big voice is telling me about the times he’s tried to kill himself.
More than a decade ago — still in his twenties — he was under intense pressure, living a lie, and so he decided to try and stop it all by driving his ute into a tree.
People would think he died in an accident, not that he killed himself because he was gay.
“Views are like a pair of undies. When they get shitty, change them,” he told the HuffPost Australia more than a decade after he last found himself staring down a dark highway with no light at the end.
“Suicides in the bush are always covered up, because we have such shame about who we are,” he said.
“But I found as many times as I tried to do it, I’m a pretty hard bugger to kill.”
It was a stupid view, he said. A sense of self loathing that being gay is wrong.
“It’s the view that needs to change,” he said.
“We are who we are.”
It’s been more than a decade since Graham, now 38, came out on national television during the Big Brother TV competition in 2006.
He’s found some peace in the years since appearing on the show.
The dog trainer and behaviourist brought his contagious optimism to a Facebook video about the Federal Government’s $122 million same-sex marriage survey.
“The thing I love about this whole debate is its getting people talking, allowing people to confront themselves,” he said.
“If you are saying, ‘No, I don’t want them to have marriage’, well why is that?”
“Is it because I’m an asshole? Is it because I like the power I have over someone else’s life? Or is it because I genuinely feel that ‘no’ could change too much?”
He maintains that despite what the ‘no’ side says, it’s a debate about marriage — not safe schools, not children’s rights.
“They’re red herrings. Every part of this ‘no’ debate is a red herring,” Graham said in the five-minute clip, which has been viewed more than 63,000 times.
“When you get the form and it’s in front of you, and it’s sitting there and you haven’t opened it and you think, ‘here we go’ and chuck that in the bin — go and look in the mirror and say, ‘What if I was never able to get married, what if by law I was a second class citizen in Australia?'”
Gayness, or something to do with it, is used as a common insult on a conversational basis between blokes, he said.
“You grow up with an almost innate sense of self-loathing,” he said.
Born the 11th child to cattle and cropping station owners in south-west Queensland, Graham was steeped in a conservative outlook.
The Maranoa electorate he hails from has the lowest support for same-sex-marriage of any in Australia.
But he knows his area, and attributes that the low ‘yes’ vote to a natural bush conservatism: being offended by the Government wasting money when drought assistance takes convincing, anger over the ‘song and dance’ over the survey, the sense of: ‘Aren’t there more important things to deal with?’.
“They all lead to a sense of unease which can easily be converted to a ‘no’ vote,” he said, adding that he suspects the conservative streak is part of the reason the Government chose the postal survey route.
He points out the bush conservatism he’s used to is forged by dealing with constant changes in the environment, daily life and death decisions.
“We don’t like change. It’s not like the ease of the inner-city where change is a great thing. In the bush, it’s a life or death thing every day. So change, culturally, is not warranted,” he said.
“I still definitely still hear the bullshit.”
But he holds out hope.
“At the end of the day I just want to get back to what I do good, and let everyone get back to what they do good. Let’s just get on with it. It’s 2017, vote ‘yes’,” he told his Facebook followers in the video clip.
“And if you know anyone really nice, I’m single as shit.
“Send them my way.”