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Growing up mixed race in 1990s Australia, I never really knew where I belonged. Half Māori and half Scottish, my father was too brown for me to be white, and my skin was too white for me to be brown.

Disconnected from culture, I always had a feeling of being lost. Coupled with the all too familiar story of a broken home, alcoholism, and domestic violence, I was on a path of self-destruction.

Maybe that’s why it took me so long to fully understand and come to terms with the fact that I am gay. I obviously always knew what being gay meant ‘technically’ – but with no personal reference points, I never thought it was an option for someone like me.

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Now out and proud for almost ten years, after returning to Aotearoa and reconnecting with whānau and whenua, I find myself for the first time in my life feeling like I’m finally starting to get to know ME. Finally getting comfortable with who I am and who I come from.

It sometimes seems that the more I understand myself, the less I’m understood. I seem to have, over time, ticked all the diversity boxes – but have somehow come out the other side still so different. Ironically, it seems the more society claims to want to embrace diversity, the more people want their “diversities” to fit within a familiar and comfortable mould.

As a child, I was brought up with only one label – and that was ‘half-caste’. Apparently, that is now considered a derogatory term, but I never felt that label was applied to me with malice in the past. I can’t say the same of the labels I have been given more recently – like “straight-acting gay” and “white-passing person of colour”. People seem to find me a living, breathing contradiction.

Rudy-Lee Taurua Live (taken on Jim Jefferies tour 2022)
Rudy-Lee Taurua Live (taken on Jim Jefferies tour 2022)

With all these weird boxes society tries to force us into, I find freedom in comedy. Performing is the only time I get to be wholly, unapologetically, and gloriously ME. And even though I don’t necessarily fit as comfortably in those boxes as you might think, I love getting out there and showing people that there is still more diversity to be found within ‘diverse’, and that we can exist as queer people outside of stereotypes… and most importantly, that I’m fuck’n hilarious!

Rudy-Lee Taurua performs his show ‘Diverse’ on 23 – 27 May at The Classic, Auckland, as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo.

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