“If you’re from Africa, why are you white?”

Despite living most of my life in the country town of Wagga Wagga, to which I have the most ties with, I still consider myself a born and bread Queenslander. Although I have a German heritage, I am not German. I have never been to the country, I do not speak the language and I have no known familial ties to the country. I believe my identity is formed via how and where I am raised, as well as a combination of personal attributes developed along the way.

However, if I were to become an international exchange student, how would my identity be perceived and how would I adapt to this foreign environment? This question seems to be an increasing dilemma for those students taking the plunge into overseas study.

With the ability to “fashion a self”, international students can “choose who they become…(and) change themselves in the country of education”, as spoken by Simon Marginson in International education as self-formation. This means they are able to fashion a new identity, harmonising with the new country they are living in. Yet, this harmonisation can only occur if both parties have a willingness to accept and merge together to form a new identity.

It can be incredibly daunting to enter a new and unfamiliar situation, think of your first week at high school or your first day at a new job, then times it by 10000. Not only do international students, especially those from non-english speaking backgrounds, have to pick up on our ‘Aussie slang’, they also must quickly adapt to our culture, as if it were a ‘sink or swim’ environment.

According to Marginson, “Using strategy of hybridity the international student combines and synthesizes different cultural and relational elements, blending them together, into a newly formed self”. This is their way of adapting to our new environment, think of Cady, from the 2004 film, Mean Girls. She adapts to her new environment by conforming into the popular “plastics” group. Although, as mirrored in the film, this can cause drastic ramifications for finding her way back to her “place of origin”. And by that, I don’t mean Africa.

After adapting to this new formed identity, the international student, may find it difficult when returning home as not only have undergone changes, but their perception of the world may also have changed. This idea of ‘self- formation’ re-affirms Marginson’s conclusion that “we need to give them (international students) dignity, as persons with equal standing and rights as ourselves” this means, not doing a Karen, and asking someone “if you’re from Africa, why are you white?”

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Baking A Cake of Rainbows and Smiles…

Growing up in a strictly Christian home, I never thought I’d be here; glass of red in one hand, spare condom in my purse, lacy underwear on and about to give you my take on the gender and sexuality case. How would my parents feel about me delving into this somewhat taboo subject, let alone them finding out that their ‘little girl’ is not so innocent anymore. I can almost visualise my father breaking down at the idea that not only does his child consume alcohol, but also she’s sexually active and cannot fulfil the ‘marriage virginity’ so many Christian parents desire. But this is only the tip of the roller coaster ride that confronts the sexually and physically curious young adults of the modern world.

Firstly, I’d like to state I am a white, heterosexual female, I enjoy stereotypically ‘girly things’ like putting on make- up and deciding what to wear for a night on the town with my girls. I identify as a female. However, only recently has the gender/sexuality discussion hit my radar.

Don’t get me wrong, this article is definitely not an attempt to challenge Christianity, but rather to understand and discuss the naivety and lack of acceptance some religions hold. Even now, I still consider myself naive to certain gender and sexuality issues, and continually find myself surprised when discussions arise about topics I’d never even considered to be problematic before.

So, what’s the difference?

Essentially, the term ‘sex’ is what is going on in between your legs, it is biological. Whereas the term ‘gender’ refers to which sex you identify with, whether it be a male or a female, irrespective of what your biology determines.

To break it down further, I’m sure, like me, many of you have never considered ‘toilet etiquette’ before. And by this, I don’t mean spraying air freshener after taking a no.2, but rather the concept of a man who identifies as a woman… which bathroom/change-room does he enter? Does he follow his biology and use a urinal? Or does he enter the women’s bathroom or change-room, only to find a woman in a state of undress?

Many of you wouldn’t notice, you’d keep to yourself and avoid eye contact. However for those who would, what then? Does this make you uncomfortable? Is this a breach of your privacy? How do you take this? But are these feelings correct? If someone identifies as a female, in the gender sense, they should enter the female toilet, yeah?

It seems like a simple fix to me; be truthful towards yourself and use whichever toilet matches your gender, or perhaps gender neutral bathrooms are the way of the future, or perhaps we should simply be more accepting.

However the issue of change rooms still remains. I’ve been to swimming pools where old women are butt naked in the change rooms; out in the open. Saggy breasts and wrinkly skin all over the place. And I can tell you, I feel uncomfortable. Yet, how would I feel if, despite seeing a woman on the outskirts, I saw a penis under the skirt? (Excuse the pun).

I’m not sure how I would react to this, I surely hope I wouldn’t even be staring at someone’s private parts. However, if I think of my parents… I know they would be disgusted. They would probably run home and read Genesis 1:27-28: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female. He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it”. Then pray for that person, as if they were diseased. Which they most certainly are not.

How as a society can we become less naïve, and more accepting? Should we just “bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy” (Mean Girls). Or should we develop ‘unisex toilets’ for those who identify outside of the sex and assumed gender they were born with? Image

Honestly I’m not sure what the solution is; acceptance, keeping an open mind and realising that we are all different, would be a great way to start. I mean, the Bible also states to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

Now did someone mention cake?