This article was written by NUPSA’s LGBTI Representative, Barrie Shannon.
As a researcher whose work exclusively deals with the lived experiences of transgender and gender diverse young people at school, I spend most of my time thinking about issues faced by people who identify within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) community. When I am not thinking about these issues in an academic sense, I am acting as an advocate in my role as NUPSA’s representative for LGBTIQ+ postgraduate students. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my entire life revolves around these issues.
On some level, there’s no way it couldn’t. Every day as I go through the motions, as I eat breakfast, as I kiss my partner goodbye, as I teach classes and later at home as I escape into films or video games, I do it as somebody who identifies as gay and as somebody whose relationship with gender is ambiguous at best. I’m proud of this because I don’t have to pretend or hide anymore. Admittedly, I often take this freedom for granted. Many people don’t have that luxury.
The representations of our lives and our relationships are rarely portrayed on our own terms.
Some Australian commentators would have us believe that there is an oversaturation of and a preoccupation with queerness in public life. That politics, news, soap operas and everybody’s Facebook news feeds talk about LGBTIQ+ issues more than they talk about anything else. Some believe it to be a deliberate distraction from more important issues, because apparently, everything is fine for gay people now and the modern Left has a culture of impotent whinging.
But the representations of our lives and our relationships, and the discussions about our rights, particularly within the media, are rarely portrayed on our own terms. Conservative newspaper columnists who are lining up to have their opinion about our abilities as parents, as lovers or as members of society eventually takes its toll. Horrible media representations of gay men and transgender women can still be found everywhere, and the outright invisibility of lesbians and transgender men means that they can be found nowhere. Also, as an aside, it is not particularly pleasant to read about which foreign despot has decided to round up and execute LGBTIQ+ people this week, nor hearing about which world leader has used his tiny hands to ban transgender people from the military via Tweet.
Some people keep their authentic selves hidden to the rest of the world because they can’t see a path to happiness and fulfilment. Based on the hurtful things we see in politics and in the media, it’s hard to blame them. This is why Pride is so important. Events like Mardi Gras, Pride Month and more locally, UON Pride Week, give LGBTIQ+ people and their allies the opportunity to celebrate sexuality and gender diversity in a way that is fun and positive. We stand on the shoulders of people who fought hard for the right just to be. We owe it to them, and to ourselves to ‘be’ in the best way that we possibly can.
Pride Week will be celebrated at the University of Newcastle from September 12-14.
Postgraduate students who have issues related to their sexuality or gender identity and require confidential, social support or referral are welcome to contact Barrie via e-mail at Barrie.Shannon@uon.edu.au.
NUPSA also encourages students to reach out to the Student Counselling Services (Hunter Hub on Level 2 of the Student Services Building) if they are looking for confidential support and advice.