“But you don’t seem Gay?”
“You can’t even tell your Gay”
“You don’t act Gay though”
I hear these statements way too often. It’s almost as if I there’s an expectation that I have to introduce myself as a homosexual.
Hi, my names Vincent McIvor. I’m a 23-year-old jewellery store Manager living in Christchurch, originally from Southland. Oh, and I’m Gay too!
I shouldn’t have to tell you that, but I guess it’s expected of me. If I don’t tell you then how are you supposed to know? Do you really need to know? Why is it so important that society has to define who I can love and how I can love? Why does society get to label me? Why does society get to label anyone? To me, labels come with conditions, stereotypes. Stereotypes that say to be Gay you’ve got to be flamboyant, or you have to love musicals and shopping, that you have to hate sports and cars. As a growing and proud community, I feel we need to find a way to relinquish these stereotypes to be able to move forward and spread our rainbow wings to every corner of New Zealand. We need to show the youth of our communities not to let society define who they must be or who they must love.
I grew up in rural Southland and as you can imagine the LGBTQI+ scene wasn’t a happening thing. I went to a High School where the word Gay was used more as an insult or term of disgust instead of being used to show pride and happiness of who you were. A stereotypical country school where the expectations were that boys would play rugby or take agriculture classes and the girls would play netball and take art classes. It was a school that never celebrated anyone who wanted to be different. These expectations are confusing for the LGBTQI+ youth, they were confusing for me.
Like most rainbow youth I knew at a young age I was different. Growing up in such a rural community meant I wasn’t exposed to the rainbow community. Being gay wasn’t spoken about; it didn’t seem like an option. Fortunately, my mother got me into Ballroom Dancing at the age of 11. This gave me an out, a way to express myself and be me. It was through dancing that I met more LGBTQI+ friends and began to accept who I was.
Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have the best family and friend support system; I had a place where I could be myself. Unfortunately, I know there are youth out there that have no support and when faced with these everyday expectations and stereotypes it can feel like the only way to live is be someone that they’re not.
Trying to live up to the society’s expectations and trying to be someone you’re not can take its toll. If people don’t have the right support they can feel their only way out is to take their own life. Our national suicide rates are rising, with last year’s rate being the highest recorded in three years, recording 604 deaths within the year. The statistics are overwhelming and shocking. According to “The University of Auckland”, in 2012 a survey was carried stating that one in five rainbow youth attempts suicide in comparison to the rate of non-rainbow youth which is one in twenty (The Ministry of Justice, 2017). We can’t just sit back and expect a change. We need to do something about it.
There are so many fantastic LGBTQI+ youth support groups throughout New Zealand. Safe havens for our youth to get the support they need. For more information, you can go to the Rainbow Youth website www.ry.org.nz. Rainbow Youth has a bucket load of valuable information from regional support groups through to resources for parents, family and friends. Check it out!
At the beginning of writing this opinion piece, I struggled with finding a topic that I was passionate about. This topic has been a massive wake up call for me. Before being involved in the Mr Gay NZ competition my involvement with the LGBTQI+ community was limited. I now have a passion, a passion to want to help the youth of our community. I want them to live a life where they can be proud of whom they are and live the way they want to live. If we can all embrace everyone’s individuality, uniqueness and differences we can conquer the expectation and stereotypes. We can live life the way we want to and we can be proud of who we are.
The advice I give to our rainbow youth is to find someone whom you can be yourself with. Reach out to our community and find the place where you belong. We all belong somewhere and YOU my friend belong in our great big rainbow family!
Please remember If you ever need to talk to someone else you have these options:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
Last Updated on Jan 26, 2018