Growing up in Ulverstone in the 1980's 38-year-old Garry Wakefield had it drilled into him that to be gay was to be different.
Regular advertisements on TV from 1987 featuring the Grim Reaper saying "gays and IV drug users" were largely responsible for an AIDS pandemic in Australia scared him.
And anti-gay rallies at Ulverstone in 1989, at a time when Mr Wakefield was realising that he was gay, made him think that he was "not wanted", "was not normal" and "should not be part of society".
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Braddon Liberal MHR at the time Chris Miles addressed the rally saying legalising "homosexual acts" was immoral.
"The act of homosexuality is unacceptable in any society, let alone a civilised society," he said.
Mr Wakefield said the rallies gained media attention and he was seeing everywhere that being gay was wrong.
"That was the message I was hearing, and it was tough growing up like that," he said.
In the over 30 years since the rallies, Mr Wakefield has learnt that being gay is completely normal.
And even though he said he was subject to larger societal stigmatisations about homosexuality, he feels he made it to where he is fairly unscathed.
"Despite growing up in that environment I was pretty lucky and I haven't really experienced a lot of homophobia," he said.
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Still Mr Wakefield said when he was younger, homophobic slurs were regularly used towards him.
Despite the slur regularity decreasing, he said he still hears them being used in a derogatory way and each time he does they open up old wounds.
"They did have an impact when I was younger but I just don't hear them as much anymore. When I do, though, it triggers that kind of response that I had when I was 16. I go into that mindset of survival, they're still not nice things to hear," he said.
Overtly homophobic language has largely made way for cries of "gay" or "that's gay", and Mr Wakefield said hearing a word used to describe a group of people used as a "throw away insult" has become a source of disappointment.
Though he considers himself lucky, luck is relative.
For Mr Wakefield, regular life experiences continue to leave the stigma of being gay hanging over his head.
Recently, he organised an event on the North-West Coast called Drag Queen Bingo, posted it in the local Facebook community group and had a negative reaction.
In January he launched a podcast aimed at inspiring LGBT pride in the North-West community. The podcast was featured by The Advocate and posted to their Facebook page before a number of homophobic comments had to be deleted.
And on a trip to the hospital not long ago the nurse tending him thought his partner was either his son or his brother, a default position commonly referred to as a "heteronormativity".
"Everyone defaults that you are heterosexual unless you're proven otherwise. So everyone just assumes you're a straight person until you tell them otherwise," he said.
There's no cookie cutter person, everyone is different and putting this heteronormativity filter on everyone just assuming that is how things are going to be is detrimental to so many people.Garry Wakefield
While each moment has made their impression on Mr Wakefield, it is another thing altogether that continues to frustrate and annoy him, and reinforce a stigma about homosexuality.
Working at a call centre in Burnie, Mr Wakefield's workplace takes part in yearly blood drives. But because he is gay, and has not been celibate for over three months, he cannot participate.
This is despite the fact he has been in a monogamous relationship with his partner Adam Hall for over 10 years, and is engaged.
"It is really frustrating. I've been in a serious monogamous relationship for 10 years and when we do the blood drives at work there are 20-year-olds that brag about the new person they slept with over the weekend and they're signing up to give blood," he said.
"Being gay, I'm not eligible to be a part of that, so I get excluded from the normal day-to-day and I feel that sense of exclusion from the group.
It's awful, I dread it every time it comes around.Garry Wakefield
Mr Wakefield said not only does being excluded from the blood drives impact him personally, it reinforces a stigma.
He said some members of the call centre had used homophobic language in the past and combined with an exclusion from blood drives, thinking differently of gay men was normalised.
"There's people that we've already had to stop from saying 'f*****' in the kitchen. Those people already have this idea that I'm different, or not safe, or dirty and not being able to contribute blood to a good cause just reinforces that stigma and exclusion," he said.
The glorified Grim Reaper
Mr Wakefield's frustration stems in large part from a discussion and education about HIV/AIDS that many in the gay community have known for decades, and one that he believes has "made gay people extra cautious".
Information from the Australian government department of health shows only 0.1 per cent of the Australian population - 28,210 people - is infected with HIV. Of them 89 per cent have been diagnosed.
Further information from the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations indicated that there has been a 44 per cent decrease in transmission of HIV among Australian born gay and bisexual men.
As a result, the Australian department of health's current HIV strategy said, "Australia's HIV prevalence among the general population remains one of the lowest among developed countries".
Australia's HIV prevalence among the general population remains one of the lowest among developed countries.Department of Health HIV strategy
"The number of new HIV cases diagnosed each year has remained stable at around 1000 people over the past five years," it said.
The strategy has an HIV transmission elimination target for 2022.
Mr Wakefield's frustration is further driven by the fact he and his partner tested negative for HIV/AIDS prior to engaging in their long term, monogamous relationship meaning "there is zero risk in taking their blood".
He said removing the three month celibacy period for men who have sex with men wanting to donate blood was a cultural step towards smashing the stigma around homosexuality.
"It removes another barrier to us being accepted by society. There's always going to be people that find anything to cling onto to validate their homophobia, so if we can remove discriminatory policies in as many places as possible then the more normal people will see us and the more accepted we will be," he said.
"[Blood donation policies] clearly say, 'you gay men are not normal, and we don't want your blood' ...
We are normal and we're no more at risk than anyone else.Garry Wakefield
Time for individual risk assessment?
On January 31 Red Cross Lifeblood cut the celibacy period for men who have sex with men wanting to donate blood from 12 to three months.
The decision was made in accordance with a decision from the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.
LGBTIQI+ advocates have since called for the three month period to be cut all together in accordance with blood taking procedures in other countries.
An article in the American Journal of Public Health reviewed changes to the procedure in the USA and found among gay men who wanted to donate blood the prevalence of HIV was lower than in the general population.
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said, "to remove discrimination and increase the supply of safe blood, Australia must adopt a new [individual risk assessment] approach to blood donation that screens donors for their individual sexual risk rather than the gender of their sexual partner."
A spokesperson for Lifeblood said the individual risk assessment procedure was reviewed as part of the submission that led to the change from 12 to three months for celibacy.
The spokesperson said the individual risk assessment model relied on, "an even distribution of newly acquired HIV infections across the population, which Australia doesn't have".
"In Australia, we take a population-based risk approach to blood screening. This means we establish whether groups of people who engage in certain activities and behaviours have a statistically higher risk of exposure to a blood-borne infection," they said.
This story is the first part of a series called Smashing the stigma looking at the lives of Tasmanians in the LGBTIQ+ community.
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