• September 1, 2017
One Otago student is embracing her sexuality but is unable to do so publicly. Photo: courtesy of Express.
Adjusting to university life as an international student can be hard enough without also having to navigate issues surrounding your sexuality or gender identity.
Currently studying at the University of Otago, one student far from home keeps her sexuality a secret because homosexuality is very much frowned upon in her home country.
“My parents and brother are also homophobic, so I have to be constantly vigilant.”
Her parents “spend a lot of time expressing how disgusted they are about it”.
“It is really hard to have to listen to them and not able to say anything against it.”
Friends and other Muslims from her country are all unaware of her sexuality.
“My partner is also my best friend and flatmate so we go almost anywhere together, even when I hang out with my Muslim friends, but I have to be careful so people will not suspect anything.
“I always worry I might accidentally call my partner with the terms of endearment in front of them. Those who know my secret were asked to keep it a secret too as I am not out.
“I do not want to bring shame to my family back home.”
The small number who do know about her sexuality “are the loveliest people”, she says.
Having only recently embraced her sexuality, she says she is still new to the rainbow community but has met a lot of queer friends through the Otago University Student Association’s LGBT+ programmes.
“They are amazing and kind. There is no judgement and I really feel comfortable spending time with them.”
However, she is usually unable to join in public LGBT+ community events, particularly since she wears a hijab.
“I do hope I can join them one day – I am still gathering my courage.
“Through these movements, I am able to get to know more like-minded people. It is lovely that I am able to meet a group of queer people where we can have fun and sometimes, have deep conversation together.”
University staff who know about her sexuality don’t pass any judgement and are accepting, she says.
She feels safe, but only because her sexuality isn’t commonly known.
“This is largely because people think they have the right to pass judgement and even punish. There some places I have seen to respond very negatively to queer people.
“As for the people who know, they all have been very supportive and I am extremely thankful as they helped me to embrace my sexuality and accept me for who I am.”
This story is an edited version of a story that also ran on Express.