As clichéd as this sounds, I am going to start with one of my favourite lines from the song I Was Here, by Beyoncé.
In her song, Beyoncé expresses that she wants to leave her footprints on the sand of time and that she lived, she loved and that she was here.
I want to leave my footprints on the sand of time
Know there was something that, something that I left behind
When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets
Leave something to remember, so they won’t forget
I was here, I lived, I loved, I was here
This verse has always resonated with me on many levels and at different times in my life.
It was on the 3rd of March 2008 at around 6 am. I arrived in Sydney to start the next chapter of my journey. I was excited, happy, and nervous. I was looking forward to finally commencing my film degree at a university of my choice. At that moment, I had everything. I was here.
Two days later, I was on a bus from Eddy Avenue to Anzac Parade. I got off the bus and as I looked up I saw the University of New South Wales for the first time. It was O-week and it was absolutely buzzing. In that moment, it was everything that I thought it would be. I started walking through the university, looking at the people, looking at all the stands, and thinking in my head that I am going to sign up to everything and be part of every single club. Unfortunately, I did not sign up to any. I saw a rainbow flag. I paused. I looked from afar, but I walked past.
A couple of months later I started working on campus and began to make friends with my colleagues. As I started to get to know them, I realised that at least four or five of my colleagues identified as part of the gay community. At that time, after years of hearing stories about how marginalised the LGBTQIA+ community is, years of hearing judgements, and years of predisposed thinking, it all dawned upon me. I remember moments where I would be mesmerised by them and would often think about how beautiful their relationships were, how good they were at their jobs, but most of all how normal and beautiful their lives seemed to be.
My mind was trying to rewire years of hearing homophobic comments and judgements from the community I come from – about the community that I belong too.
It was March 2009 and the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade was on. I did not go. Instead, I sat in my room at my uncle’s house where I lived, and I tried to watch part of the parade without being noticed. That night was overwhelming for me and I cried.
I cried because I remembered moments from my childhood that I had forgot or couldn’t piece together until now. I cried because I realised when I was younger and decided to put up posters of Leonardo DiCaprio from Romeo & Juliet and the Titanic, it wasn’t only because I was a fan of his films, but it was because I liked him. But mostly, I cried because I realised I could not do anything about it.
I was on a student visa, living with my uncle and his family and the reality was that there was a chance I would be going home after finishing my studies. I was in the situation where I did not know how my family would react if I said anything about the way I felt or expressed my sexuality. At that point in time, I felt as though my parents and my uncle had control over my life, my studies and my finances in Australia. I could not take the risk.
Over the next few years, I graduated and I found a job. On one rainy night in Wollongong, as I was returning home from a night out in Sydney, I just bawled my eyes out on the train. I was listening to Katy Perry’s song Firework, and just could not contain my emotions when I heard the words “do you know that there is still a chance for you because there is a spark in you”.
I will always remember that night as the night I finally had the courage to accept myself. It was the changing point in my life where I told past versions myself – ‘you are ok, it will get better and you made it this year’.
When I got home that night, I made a list of ten people. Then I contacted them and told them I was gay for the first time. It was the 15th of August 2015 and I was finally starting to live.
A year later, I walked into the Glenmore Bar at The Rocks and I met the most beautiful man. Little did I know that I would propose to him a year later and he would became my husband in 2018. Dash reminds me every day that I am loved, but also that I can love in return.
My focus now is on the ‘I Was Here’ part of my journey. The visibility that I saw at UNSW shaped my life and over the last few years, I started being increasingly involved with creating the visibility and advocacy to help people like me feel comfortable with who they are and provide them with the opportunity to see someone like them out there and living their lives.
I am extremely blessed to be working at a university that is a true ally at its core. The mission of creating equality and inclusivity is the spirit that leads our community and this resonates from our leadership team and cascades into all areas of Torrens University.
It is now 2020 and I feel every organisation, big or small, ought to have an LGBTQIA+ component in their workplace, in their marketing approaches, and their outreach. Torrens University lives this value and we pride ourselves in fighting the fight. The work we are doing in our PRIDE space is moving forward and we are gathering more support from our leadership and the rest of our community. Torrens University is serious about creating safe spaces for all of our students and staff to flourish. We are open to our students and staff to share their stories and I feel like we are doing this for the right reason.
May 17, 2020, is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). It is a day to celebrate and promote the visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community. In light of this day, I wanted to share my story. I want to ensure that for every hate comment, for every person who fights against us, and for every “no” we have received for being who we are, people know that there are millions of people that support and love you.
Let us continue being proud and visible to represent those individuals who might be walking into their schools, their universities or even their first job and are struggling with their journeys and to encourage everyone to be comfortable with living life as their true self and not out of fear.
Our job as members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community is to let our future generations know that it will be ok, that they will get there and when they do, they will also be able to say “I lived, I loved and that I was here”.