Achut: For me to take up space means to challenge the predominantly white spaces.
Aretha: My generation, you know, I’m only 20, is really good at understanding the fluidity of identity.
My race and my culture is just one subset of who I am as a whole, just like also being queer and also being a woman also consider myself non-binary and like it, you know, my identity changes all the time. And it’s a fluid thing.
Achut: My experiences make my identity – things that I’ve been through like anxiety and depression kind of define who I am, and the struggles I’ve found, like settling in Australia.
Asiel: Growing up, my own reflections as someone who was non-binary, as someone who was Queer, as someone who was Latinx, I never really had a role model or an image that I could model myself with. And that can create a sense of isolation, that can create a sense of loneliness, I suppose. Rather than celebrate all of those beautiful intersectionalities for what they are.
Lev: I’m a trans man, and I’m also pansexual and panromantic. Identity, to me means living a life, I guess, in a general sense means living a life that’s authentic and genuine to me, and not having to fake it, or pretend to be someone I’m not just to try and fit into expectations and boxes and whatnot.
Achut: To be honest, I did struggle, like growing up with my self-image, you know, when I was young, I was way too skinny.
And then when I came to Australia, I was a teenager, I was like, 15 years old. And then all of a sudden, people were so obsessed with like, comparing who’s the skinniest and things like that, and looking through magazines that were just, you know, predominantly white So what if I add 5-10 kilos? You know, that shouldn’t, you know, stop me from trying to feel good about myself.
Asiel: Probably the most important thing in order to protect that self-image is making sure that the space that you walk into is a safe space, that you feel that your identity, your sense of self is going to be respected, it’s going to be valued, it’s going to be celebrated. Which is why I think having all this work around inclusivity, access and inclusion is just so so important to ensure that young people have these safe spaces to walk into.
Aretha: I’d walk into a lot of spaces, and people wouldn’t even realise I’m Indigenous. They’d be like, “oh you’re Aboriginal, I never thought that I thought you were Italian, I thought you were…” who knows what, and I used to take that as, like a personal insult, and I would go “oh my god, like, you know, this reflects me and how much I know about my culture.”
And it really, like, affected me personally. But now when it happens, I have to realise that it’s actually other people’s ignorance about Aboriginal culture, not a reflection of my own, you know, the realness of my own identity.
Now that I know it, I can almost laugh at it now, because I’m just like, “oh, this is a reflection of you, not me”.
Achut: I’ve always made myself so small, because, you know, I just wanted, you know, people not to judge me or like to make other people comfortable. But at the same time, I just felt like there was this, like, fire, passion in me that I want to do things and all that stuff.
I’ve adapted a lot better from young to, like adulthood, like, I’ve had to teach myself how to cope, how to express my feelings and things like that. I think probably the most important thing is to celebrate all those wonderful aspects of your identity that make you a unique person, and finding the people in your life that bring joy to all of those things.
Lev: And you can you know, take language and put your own spin and meaning to it. There’s not like, one single definition of a certain identity, it can be fluid as well. Like, you may realise that language at one point described you well, and then later down the line, you realise this term doesn’t really fit my identity anymore. And that’s also okay.
Like you don’t have to like, “okay, this one term and it’s like me for the rest of my life and I can’t use other language” sort of thing.
Aretha: Yeah, even at the moment I kind of you know, I call myself Queer because I still don’t really know what I am yet.
And sometimes I like ‘she’ sometimes I like ‘they, because I’m still just exploring what works with me, what feels comfortable to say out of my mouth. Just have fun all the time. That’s my advice.