On staying out in every conversation..
Words || Timothy Zhang
In mid-January, I flew to China for a four week family visit. My flight home was one of the best flights I have ever had partly because of a conversation I had with the lady sitting next to me who is coincidently a Macquarie Alumnus. She is quite an extroverted character and as our conversation built up along the way, she became more than willing to share her journey living down under. We touched on various topics, from our favourite brunch place to more serious topics such as skill migration and employment prospectus for international students. Just like many other International Students, our exchange eventually leads to the most frequently asked question, “Do you want to stay in Australia?”
The answer is a “Yes” for both of us. I told her I choose to stay in Australia for my career and my partner whom I spent the last three years with. I was never comfortable to use the word “boyfriend” to describe my other half since I always see him more than just my boyfriend. Indeed, after three years of relationship, I tend to use terms like “other half” or “partner” to describe him. Perhaps intrigued by my commitment to a long-term relationship at a young age, she pursued further and asked, “Where is she from?” I thought she should have realised I was gay after all those conversations about brunch. Without a second of hesitation, I responded, It’s actually ‘he’.
Immediately, she apologised for her hasty assumption and said, “I had a feeling that you might be into guys but I didn’t want to offend you if you were not. Honestly, I’m so surprised but at the same time amazed that you would tell me about your sexuality.”I told her not to apologise as I was not offended whatsoever. Being gay is not something that we need to broadcast, but if you do bring it up then I would be open and honest. She then went on and said:”Exactly, I feel in a sense, honoured, that you are willing to share such a huge part of your life with me. You don’t have a problem. It’s us, the straight people, that often have a problem with your community” That moment, her words touched my heart, but they also triggered my thoughts.
I have always been very outspoken about my sexuality and LGBT Rights through my role as the GLBTIQ Representative at Macquarie University Student Representative Committee (previously, Student Advisory Board). I spoke a lot about my experience growing up as a gay man in a conservative country, I shared my struggles of coming out in various occasions, and I have done a lot of work trying to advance the study experience of LGBT students at Macquarie University. The whole time, my focus was to deliver tangible benefits for other people who identify themselves as LGBT. I never really thought about how much impacts my honesty and openness can have on people outside of the LGBT community. In fact, I just learned that our conversation does not even need to be supported by frontier scientific research or state-of-art arguments. Just a simple statement, It’s actually HE, can create such a power in building trust and understanding between LGBT and non-LGBT individuals.
My partner once said to me, “If you want to live in a world where it is okay for two guys to hold hands on the street, than start by holding your boyfriend’s hand while you’re walking down the street. Then, you live in that world.” If we want to live in a world where LGBT individuals are perceived as equal, then be comfortable in your own skin. I know coming out is a very personal choice and I am not here to urge everyone to come out. However, if you do come out then do stay out in every conversation you have, especially amongst people who know so little about our community.
9 hours of flight gave us plenty of time to discuss further. I think I have opened up her mind about the LGBT community and she said she will be joining us at Sydney Mardi Gras this year for the first time. For me, every time when I get to say It’s actually HE, I feel loved. That love comes from an open and honest exchange, that love comes from supportive allies, and best of all, that love comes from the person who you fall in love with. I hope you will feel the same. After all, love is the same.