Written by anon. and edited by Yaron Gu
June is one of my favourite times of the year in Sydney. The city and its people come alive with flags raised high above heads and colours decorating the corners of bland streets and buildings. Even a small rainbow sticker is exciting, or a keychain on a backpack, or a bracelet on an exposed wrist. No other month can evoke the feelings that June does: pride, love, belonging, excitement, power.
But despite the ecstatic energy all around, not all can share these feelings. Some remain living in unsafe anti-LGBTQ+ homes and countries, battling between the desire of self-expression and concealment. I came to Sydney with the excitement of finally being able to truly live. No family or friends I knew to spew homophobic comments that I had to feign agreement with. Yet despite living here for more than a year, these ideologies still linger internally. Don’t cross your legs; don’t wear bright colours; don’t dye your hair; don’t limp your wrists. Don’t be feminine, sentimental, or expressive. Don’t be gay. Be the straight stoic man society needs you to be, or you’ll burn in Hell.
And mostly, I was. I remember the middle school night I looked up “How can I be more masculine?”. All I had to do was manspread, speak loudly, and be devoid of emotion. Just follow the actions this article suggests and you will not be killed for being who you are.
I’d like to believe that I’ve grown at least a little since then. Now, I allow myself to feel some comfort while studying in Australia, a country ranked as one of the most LGBTQ+ safe countries worldwide. But I am still impacted by the actions I’ve taken to fit in – to survive – in a society that inherently did not want me. I am still wary of the pitch of my voice, the movements of my hands as I speak, and the way I stand. I am still nervous around people of my background, worrying if they suspect anything about my sexuality. I am still afraid of using gay dating apps, paranoid that people back home might find out. I am still riddled with anxiety as I decide my livelihood after graduation: go back home, or immigrate somewhere safer completely alone.
It’s all bittersweet really. I love seeing queer people happy in a society that largely allows them to be themselves. It feels comforting seeing people like me speak confidently of their partners and bond over experiences that only other queer people would understand. But I also envy them and their supportive families, their openness about their sexuality, their ability to confront a bigot and stand for their beliefs without fear of ‘outing’ themselves. I envy the fact that the universe allowed them the privilege of being born someplace safe while it shoved me to the side and left me to fend for myself. And maybe it’s selfish to think this way. But after countless nights of praying to a God to fix me, and tears over why I wasn’t like the other kids at school, maybe I deserve to be a little selfish. Still, I do also have some privileges. Whilst just a fleeting few years, at least I can study in a country where I am safe.
Maybe after all the sadness in this piece, it deserves a twist and a happy conclusion. But not all of us can be characters in a movie like “Love, Simon”. So this piece goes out to those who have struggled with experiences similar to the ones described here, who remain stuck unable to live their true selves. Whether you believe in hope or not, I hope someday, somehow, you and I will be able to express our real colours and soar with the wings we have had to keep chained for so long.