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July 22, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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The McCourt Report

Welcome to Vic: Land of Rainbows


You know, university is a hell of a lot more than grades and tutorials; it’s about getting involved, meeting new people and finding yourself as a scholar, and—most importantly—as a person.

That’s why communities such as clubs, rep groups and VUWSA exist to help you through what can be a pretty trying time. We encourage and support you to think, act and dream in different ways. We challenge you to leave your comfort zone, or find it for the first time. We are your collective big brother, or big sister, who pats you on the back and lets you know it’s okay to make a few mistakes.

Why? Because such mistakes can often lead to beautiful things. Take sexuality for example. While most of you are (or claim to be) hetero, some of you will veer off the straight and narrow to taste the delectable delights of the same sex. Whether it’s a sly kiss with a mate, or the whole hog with someone from Fringe, exploring our sexuality can be one of the most liberating and fun experiences at Uni. And you know what? Why not?

During these treasured years our hormones are in overdrive, and many of us aren’t committed to our degrees, let alone our one gender.

For me, making my way through the sexuality minefield was both exhilarating and terrifying.

You see, I first thought that I might not be straight in my mid-teens. Being attracted to guys and girls left me in an especially awkward place. Growing up in Gisborne, I didn’t have many queer role models. In fact, I had none. The only gay and lesbian people I knew were comedians or others who made fun of their sexuality. Even then they were distant and unreal. I looked around my community, and my friend circles, to establish whether what I was feeling was okay. The gays were thin on the ground in Gizzy; the bis all but cooped up in closets. Straightness seemed a very pervasive norm, and queerness a very odd ‘other’. What made it worse was that some didn’t quite accept my sexuality was a thing. Bisexuality failed to make it into the lexicon of my family, sex-ed class or daily life, beyond the occasional objectification of female bisexuality for party novelties.

Consequently, I just couldn’t see how the things I was feeling, and the people I imagined loving, fitted with any of the plans I had already laid down for my life, or the plans of my family for me.

It was another love, of history, that allowed me to analyse my situation a bit differently, in the history of man (and woman). History taught me that what I was feeling was actually normal, and that some of the greatest figures of the past have gone both ways, so to speak. I thought, “Hey, if King James can bang girls and guys and write the Holy Bible, I can at least foray from the feminine sort every now-and-then and be a functioning human.”

This is where Vic comes in: it gave a young queer Rory all the networks he needed from Day One, first year, to explore, develop and grow as a person. Even if I didn’t attend the VUWSA UniQ meetings, I knew they existed. Sometimes I got to spend time with pretty inspiring gay and lesbian MPs. At Vic, I was getting messages that it was okay to be bi, or any kind of queer, on this campus, in this community. Our community. For kids struggling with their sexuality, those messages can make all the difference.

I’ve seen and felt first-hand what an impact groups like UniQ and VUWSA make toward not only making students feel comfortable, but normal.

For me, that’s what queer rights are about: the right to feel normal. To wake up, come to Uni, spend time with your babein’ boyf or girlf, and dream about a life with them without feeling like an outsider for harbouring those dreams.

We stand up for the rights of our queer students to feel normal beyond these walls, too. This Association has a proud history of standing up. This year’s marriage equality victory is only the latest in a long line of queer-rights revolutions. Our students were right amongst the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform debate, the Human Rights Act push which made discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal, and of course the critical Civil Unions legislative campaign which finally allowed same-sex couples to form a legal bond.

I couldn’t be more proud this year in delivering a clear message to Parliament that Vic students overwhelmingly supported the introduction of same-sex marriage, following an 84-per-cent referendum result in favour of Manurewa MP Louisa Wall’s Bill.

Of course, positive environments come not only from the work of activists and student leaders, but also because of the amazing support services the University is willing to put behind our minority communities. Health and Counselling, for example, are two great services committed to providing quality advice and support with specialist knowledge of the physical-, sexual- and mental-health issues queer students might face. These services make a difference.

So what should you take away from this column? That growing up is hard to do. Finding yourself is even harder. But exploring one’s sexuality and sexual preferences during this time, with the kind of fantastic networks we have at Vic, is your best bet of answering the $64,000 question –”What’s it like?”

And you know what might be the best first step? Heading along to a VUWSA UniQ Pride Week event. Perhaps we’ll see you at the Traffic Light Party on Friday, where we’ll be ready to give you that aforementioned pat on the back and support you to make some of the best mistakes of your life!

Love, your bipres x

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