This article was submitted by Francis Nadaraju, a PhD student studying Chemical Engineering.
We are all faced with decisions every moment of every day. What should I eat? What should I wear? Should I exercise? There comes a day, a moment that becomes a fork in the road, a choice to make… do I follow the path of least resistance and stay in the “comfort zone” or do I walk down the road less travelled?
This moment was reached by a fellow named Joe – he had a choice to make or he was to remain in limbo indefinitely. And Joe, being a smart guy, decided to evaluate the pros and cons of each choice. The comfort zone is the life that he was living. You see, Joe was gay and he was “in the closet”. He grew up in a religious family of close-minded bigots who promoted the stereotype of “man and wife”. He was exposed to a society that considered homosexuality as a contagious disease and a cancer of sorts.
Joe feared being ostracised by his family and friends and does his utmost best to hide his true self. What he didn’t realise was that his internalised homophobia and self-hate made him a loner and to the outside world, a rude, unkind and unfriendly person. Joe couldn’t relax and always felt highly strung since he must be on high-alert in case anyone finds out the truth.
And what of the alternative choice? This path leads to a life of joy, happiness and freedom. A life where Joe shares of himself freely, without care and experiences everything his heart dreams to have. A world where people are embraced for their differences with love, respect and understanding.
So… what was Joe’s decision? Of course he chose the road less travelled, to leave the closet where he has been hiding for a significant part of his youth; a path full of fear, concern and worry. And what followed the decision was pain, heartache and lots of tears. It was not easy for Joe to hurt his family and friends. To change a perception that his loved ones had of him was not going to happen in an instant. But, Joe made the choice to love and respect himself in order to live a life of integrity and authenticity.
That decision Joe made almost four years ago. So where is Joe today?
Today, Joe’s siblings have ostracised him; they do not speak to him nor do they want to associate with him. They would prefer he stayed in the closet since their only concern is “what will people say?” Communication with his parents are strained as they do not wish to talk about “the elephant in the room” and have reiterated that “he’s just going through a phase”. It is so sad that Joe’s family thrive in the comfort zone and choose to ignore what’s right in front of them. It’s a shame that they do not want to see the real Joe.
So did Joe make a bad decision? Certainly not! On the surface it’s apparent that his family do not wish to accept Joe for who he is. However, having courage in the face of his worst fear and the pain of being rejected has toughened Joe emotionally and spiritually beyond measure. Going beyond the walls of fear has opened his eyes to a new world filled with better and brighter things.
What Joe now knows for sure is that the people who are in his life have made the choice to be part of his life. They love Joe for who he is and he doesn’t have to say, do or be anything in order to be accepted. He is truly happy by virtue of being.
Through all the pain that Joe experienced coming out of the closet, he is still glad to have made that tough choice. See, Joe’s life isn’t perfect, it never was nor will it ever be perfect. All he can do is strive for excellence by living each day from moment to moment, being grateful for everyone and everything in his life. Something that once spelled fear and darkness has opened up a new world full of possibility.
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, NUPSA’s LGBTQI Representative 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.