Julian Joseph sometimes likes to lie leisurely on a concrete seawall barrier and gaze out into the world. He looks out into the placid sea, the passersby and his immediate surroundings. He realizes that we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful country but there is also a curse as we pollute our environment. The endless stream of people of all ages and ethnicity who come to unwind also throw rubbish carelessly often without a second thought. The parks by Suva’s foreshore are littered with an array of rubbish from people consuming fast foods.
The City Council does it part daily to clean the mess. Sometimes volunteers carry out clean up campaigns but immediately after they have done their good deeds, the rubbish throwers come back and it reverts to its original polluted condition. Government has done its part through the plastic levy and the anti-litter legislation but the public has to do its part too. The strange thing, Julian notices is that the litterers are educated, well-to-do people who come in their flashy cars. Even if they are prayer groups speaking in the language of tongues or young lovers communicating in the language of romance, the story is the same the moment they take breaks to eat something. The food wrappings get thrown carelessly.
As Julian looks out into the world (from where he lies leisurely) he feels a sense of regret as the pungent smell wafts from the rubbish. The wind blows the myriads of empty foods packages into the mangroves and the rustling sound of shaking leaves and flying plastic is like the faint cries of a vuvuzela trying to be celebratory but coming off as mournful. He notices that some of the rubbish throwers look at him with contempt hoping he would fade away. Their reflections on the rubbish covered puddles of water in pot holes near Julian give them gargoyle like images. It makes them look obscene amongst the clutter of rubbish. Julian, 26, is gay and very comfortable in his own skin to discuss the trials of his young life.
He appeared in the short video that came on TV and cinemas titled, “Accept Us For Who We Are.” This videowas released by the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission to mark International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The video was aimed at raising awareness about inclusivity of the members of the LGBTIQ community. Julian was happy he could be part of a public education campaign especially targeting adults and parents to accept their children irrespective of their sexual orientation. “I was a bit nervous but spoke from the heart since it’s for a good public education cause.”
Julian admitted that members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer (LGBTIQ) community came under various forms of discrimination. The public needed to accept diversity and respect everyone, irrespective of who they were. Jofiliti Veikoso a gay rights advocate said that the LGBTIQ community “thanks the Government for the recognition of SOGIE (Sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions) in our constitution that governs our nation. However, the people of Fiji need to be open minded and accept people of diverse sexuality.”
On Julian’s appearance in the video, youth leader Miliana Iga noted that, "the rest of us draw inspiration from your campaign in the fight against discrimination.”
Julian reminisces; “I realised I was different when I was a child. Throughout my life, the story has been of relatives and everyone trying to change me. I get so many negative comments and many people give me looks as if I am garbage.” He said that one of the reasons why he has posted creative images of himself on his Facebook timeline is to let people know he is gay. He has accepted his sexuality and wants understanding from everyone else. He admits that everything is fine when he meets people but the moment they find out he is gay their whole attitude changes as if they are in the presence of a polluted creation.
Julian has worked at a hotel in Taveuni, in a cinema and a fish and chips shop. He is also a peer educator on HIV-AIDs. He is looking to doing further studies to get a steady job and save money for the future. He has attended leadership workshops conducted by the Youths For Integrity network and other NGOs.
As Julian looks out to his surroundings, he hopes that people will change and not litter carelessly. He also hopes that people’s attitudes to the gay community will also change. He has a boyfriend and Julian regrets that he (boyfriend) wants to keep their relationship a secret. The sound of the waves pounding the Nasoata reef in the distance reminds Julian of their robust love. Julian wants a warm open relationship and not a secretive one hidden from the public. “I don’t know. He may be confused or perhaps the pressure of people giving hateful looks affects him. I want this to change. What’s wrong with walking the streets of Suva holding his hand? It should be cool.”
Julian gets up from the concrete seawall where he has been thinking about his life and his environment and walks resolutely to the bus stand. Change to stop pollution or attitudes on sexuality must come from within people’s hearts. Public education will help. As he walks he thinks that he has a young fruitful life ahead of him which has to be lived.
Life has to go on whether people’s attitudes change or not!
Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant.
He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or FaceBook
or twitter https://twitter.com/VeramuJose