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March 27, 2017 | by  | in Opinion |
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Queer Fear

Sitting in Kirk 303 just before our Campus Coaches tour kicked off, a fellow first year sitting next to me asked if I was going to join one of the many clubs here at Vic: a simple question for most, but for me one that produced a lot of anxiety. What I wanted to say was “Yes. I’ve made sure to keep my Friday afternoons free for UniQ. It’s the LGBTQIA+ group.” But something pulled me back and all I could offer was, “Maybe? I’m not quite sure yet….  A little lie that alerted me to a bigger problem.

I started high school thinking I was straight. The five years following was a rollercoaster of crushes on classmates that resulted in questions about my identity. But now, I know a lot more about who I am and who I want to be. I’m gay. I’m full of pride but I don’t know how to share it.

Leaving high school meant leaving the safe liberal bubble I’d built for myself with teachers, peers, and friends. Until now my world has been full of social justice warriors, feminists, genuine allies, and people who just get it. I knew that if I disclosed my sexuality or talked about issues around it that I’d be greeted with open arms. Many of these people haven’t lived the experiences that come with being LGBTQIA+ but they know how to sympathise and connect, nonetheless.

I see Victoria as a new world with so many people with different thoughts and lives to mine. That includes people who don’t fully support my identity, don’t understand it, or don’t want anything to do with it. One of the things about living in the closet for so long is it can protect you from certain kinds of discrimination. It’s like armour you wear so people think you’re batting for their team rather than the “other” team.  

But now that I know who I am, how do I let people into that? I don’t want or need to disclose my sexuality to every single student here but I’d like to be able to talk about going to the Pride Parade or about how much I’m looking forward to UniQ. But the queer fear is larger than I am: the fear of rejection, misunderstanding, hate, and ignorance.

I’m now in a space where asking for someone’s pronouns isn’t the norm, where I don’t get to have an automatic bond with someone because we’re already in a queer supportive space. I’m stepping out of my bubble and into the world. I hate it because it makes me uncomfortable and vulnerable. This unfamiliar environment and life is lonely, and makes me tired but mostly just scared. Scared about trying to find a place for myself where I can thrive, because if I’m not able to be honest about who I am, I can’t thrive and I can’t succeed, whether that be in lectures, tutorials, or social circles.

Some people like to say that sexuality isn’t everything, that you shouldn’t define yourself so strictly. But for me, it’s about more than who I’m attracted to and how I express myself. It’s a complex identity and shared experiences that I have with other queer people. It’s shaped me into who I am and how I see the world. I need to be able to talk about it, even just casually.

I walk around campus and lectures trying to spot the other queer kids — sometimes that’s rainbow badges on a backpack, a haircut like mine, but often it’s a smile that feels just a bit too kind, because maybe they know how it feels. I shared a smile like that with the girl standing next to me at the UniQ stand for clubs week, then we both took lollipops and went our separate ways. At that stand, with all the flags, I felt safe for the first time in this new world, but I want to take that feeling with me everywhere I go.

I’m writing this piece for the other people who still feel this queer fear that I do. I see you. Hopefully within the next three years here I can work out how to let myself be seen too.

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