“You are who you are meant to be and don’t ever let anyone tell you any different” | Aziz Al-Sa’afin
Three’s The AM Show presenter Aziz Al-Sa’afin talks to Oliver Hall about the aftermath of his homophobic attack, being an ambassador at Winter Pride and opening up to high school student about his life and sexuality.
“It’s still before the courts and waiting on sentencing, so not much can be said at the moment, but hopefully it will all be wrapped up by the end of the year,” Aziz tells us, as we broach the subject of his physical assault.
A life-changing event for Aziz, his attack shocked many as two cis-presenting men were assaulted in the middle of Pride month of one of the country’s most rainbow-friendly streets (K Road).
“Initially after the attack, I became a lot more reserved, which is something very odd for me,” he explains. “I tried not to let it affect me too much, but when you go through something so traumatic, it’s hard not to. The hardest thing was talking about it, but I needed to create something good out of something so horrific. I needed to talk about it so that other’s would have the courage to do the same thing. Shame and fear are the first emotions that latched on to me, and I finally understood why people don’t report crimes like this, which is why I chose to speak up.”
His assailant was arrested and a couple of months ago in court, Aziz came face to face with him for the first time since his assault.
“It was traumatic, but also healing,” he tells us. “I read out my victim impact statement both to the judge and to my attacker. It wasn’t until that moment that I felt an entire weight lift off my shoulders.”
Aziz says the incident left him feeling determined to ‘make a difference’ for his community, so when the opportunity to be an ambassador for Winter Pride was presented, he grabbed it with both hands.
Amongst his duties of MCing at events up and down the mountains, Aziz also visited Wakatipu High School to talk to year nine to thirteen students about being gay and having pride. He describes it as, “the best thing I have ever done.”
“It was also one of the scariest moments in my life, it felt like I was coming out all over again, this time to over a thousand strangers!”
Topics included: what Pride was, what LGBTQIA+ meant, and the importance of kindness, acceptance and inclusion.
“I gave them my personal story and experience growing up, what it was like realising I was gay and I opened up about my assault.”
He describes the student’s reaction as ‘incredible.’
“They asked positive questions, they were intelligent in their responses and they were kind! I was very proud of this school and the kind of safe space it had created for these kids. I wish it was something I had when I was younger.”
For Aziz, the most important moment was when a student approached him after others had left.
“They said for the first time in a long time, they felt normal about who they were. It brought tears to my eyes... That’s a sentiment I think we all want – to feel normal, loved, and accepted in this world.”
Keep up with Aziz by following @Azizle on social media.