My first year of uni was different from most â€“ yes, I was adjusting to a new place like everybody else, but I was also adjusting to a new me. â€˜Newâ€™, not because I had become a completely different person, but new in the sense that, for the very first time in my life, I was finally coming to terms with my homosexuality.
Throughout my high school life, and even in the latter years of primary school, I would get asked almost every single day whether I was gay. I could never answer the question, not only because I was confused about my own sexuality, but because I didnâ€™t even understand what being â€˜gayâ€™ meant. I never wanted to find out either because whenever I was asked I felt as if I needed to defend whatever answer I gave, and to give that answer without using my â€˜gay voiceâ€™. I thought, surely it doesnâ€™t matter who I am, and even if it does, surely it shouldnâ€™t matter to others?
In the first few weeks of uni I found it difficult to make friends. I was withdrawn and distant, and would eat lunch by myself between classes. I remember that it started raining one day while I was sitting outside waiting for my next lecture. Everybody hurried inside with their friends, and as I watched them all screaming and giggling, I remained seated at my table, alone, and hoped the rain would wash me away to someplace else.
It wasnâ€™t until I was reading through my uni emails one day when I came across an LGBTIQ event UNSW was hosting. At that moment I realised that it didnâ€™t have to be this way; that I needed to stop this inner turmoil, overcome my mentality of â€˜the homosexual otherâ€™ (almost undoubtedly caused by my schooling experience) and take proactive measures to understand who I was. I attended this event and many others soon after, and began speaking about my feelings and what I was going through. For the very first time in my life, I felt like being gay didnâ€™t matter, and I liked that.
Of course, I still grappled with other difficult thoughts â€“ how do I tell my family and friends Iâ€™m gay, and do I have to? Why do I feel pressured to come out when heterosexuals arenâ€™t expected to say â€˜I am straightâ€™? I was lucky enough to have people in my life who are so understanding and loving, so when I finally made the decision to tell them, I have never looked back.
I told my law school friends first when we were walking from upper to lower campus. I remember just blurting it out and having them look back at me, confused. Some asked â€˜why didnâ€™t you tell us earlier?â€™, and others just said â€˜why does it matter?â€™. These responses immediately showed that my friends had already accepted me. They didnâ€™t need me to come out, but was happy that I did because they knew it gave me peace of mind â€“ weâ€™re still friends today. As a result of their acceptance and understanding, I became a lot more comfortable with my sexuality, and despite my previous ambivalence towards the â€˜homosexual labelâ€™, I am now openly gay.
Even though I personally had to take proactive measures to accept my homosexuality, by engaging with LGBTIQ events through uni, it shouldnâ€™t have to be this way â€“ being gay shouldnâ€™t require some additional action. I think itâ€™s very important to not only realise the struggle gays go through but to do more to accept us. Weâ€™re just like everybody else, just attracted to the same sex. We canâ€™t help it just as much as straight people canâ€™t help being attracted to the opposite sex.
If I could give my old self advice, I would say: be yourself, donâ€™t let your mentality get the better of you, be patient with others, and most importantly be patient with yourself. It took me eighteen years to come into my own skin, and three more to come out to my friends and family. Being gay is now something that doesnâ€™t constantly loom over my head, but is a part of me I can openly discuss and embrace. Uni really facilitated this, and is still facilitating this, by providing platforms, such as this blog, where LGBTIQ students can share their experiences and encourage others to be themselves, and be happy with being themselves.
I really thank uni for helping me be proud of my sexuality and want others to know that uni can help them too. Everyone needs to understand that being gay is just as normal as being straight.