What it’s like to be Queer at Monash
By Cordelia Attenborough
Being visibly gay, proud of your sexuality or your gender identity does not come without consequences. Last year we voted to give Queer people the basic human right to be married, but just last week a man was beaten up in Melbourne, in a reported hate crime.
Queer young people are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide, 7.7% of intersex people have been diagnosed with PTSD and transgender people are 11 times more likely to attempt suicide. (https://lgbtihealth.org.au/statistics/#_ednref118).
Whilst we may not live in a society of complete equality, I am completely aware that Australia is still a lot better than many other countries when it comes to ‘tolerance’ of its Queer community. This is not Russia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Dubai or any of the other 76 countries, 46 of which compete in the commonwealth games where it’s still illegal to be gay. I have perspective on the democratic first world country I am lucky to live in but the very fact I should be thankful for not being persecuted, criminalised or being stoned to death is a disparaging reality to accept. To be a Queer Australian is to be part of an identity and a community that still must fight for representation and equality.
Before this year I lived in Tasmania where it was still illegal to be gay up until 1996 and up until last week those ‘criminal’ records couldn’t appealed or cleared. Whilst it is ‘acceptable’ today for me to be gay, it is expected that I don’t shout about it. If a Queer person in my state wants any form of equal treatment, it is expected that they won’t disclose the sex of their partner, or even be addressed by their desired pronoun. Every day, I wake up prepared to answer numerous homophobic questions or sit idle by as gay slurs get thrown around. I worked with Queer advocates and mentors that had been fighting every day for equality and couldn’t believe the fight was just as tough as the day they began in the 70s. I know, just as every other unequal minority knows, I have a burden to represent my community and to shy away from my identity is not a reality.
Despite this, since stepping foot on this campus, I have been completely dumbfounded not just by everybody’s openness and acceptance, but also the sheer pride and support for my community that I encounter every day. Not just the Rainbows splashed on every door or the fact that I can talk more openly than ever before but the knowledge that everywhere I turn there are people without a bias. It’s not acceptable to be Queer here its celebrated both within the student body and within the administration.
Monash is a tiny portion of Australia, yet it is the first place where I haven’t had to police my expression or my identity. I feel comfortable sharing my story and confident that the future is becoming brighter every day for Queer students. Within the Queer community there are always discussions about safe spaces where it is okay to be openly Queer and not have to hide it. I never understood this concept because I in my life I had never experienced it, at times I even believed it was a fruitless concept. Monash doesn’t have safe spaces. Monash is a safe space.
Monash as an institution doesn’t just support the Queer community for the sake of political correctness, but because it truly wants the Queer community to be comfortable living, working and breathing life into it. Whether it be LGBTI+ leadership scholarship, a huge list of Ally’s, the much anticipated Queer ball or the Queer student association. For once in my life I feel less like a minority who can only be truly accepted within the LGBTI+ community. I am part of a University and a community where I can proudly know I will be treated with equality irrespective of my identity or sexuality.
What is it like to be Queer at Monash you ask? I am free to be who I am. I represent my community out of pride, not for the sake of fighting for the lack of representation. Being Queer at Monash is being able to thrive, a life that sadly very few queer people get the opportunity to live.