Warwick man finds the part of himself lost after coming out
VOLKSWAGEN Beetle enthusiast Ronnie Look's prized collection was vandalised multiple times in the late 1990s.
Back then the Warwick resident had just come out as gay and he said he faced a lot of scrutiny for revealing his identity.
"I think for any gay person in a country town coming out is the hardest thing they will do in their life,” Mr Look said.
"People would call me names as I was walking past on the street, at first it was very hard.”
"I am a gay guy who owns small cars, people took issue with my identity.”
Around the same time he came out Mr Look was showing off his collection of VW Beetles but the bullying grew so intense he had to give up his passion.
"People who didn't like me would be able to identify me from the cars, I had to sell them to protect myself,” he said.
"I had to sacrifice an important part of myself, it was devastating.”
For Mr Look the antagonising did not stop until one day he stood up for himself.
"I said I'm not tolerating it anymore and now I only focus on the positive side of life and keeping positive people around me.”
While the stress of those early days took a toll on him, Mr Look now has three VW Beetles in his backyard and a group of supportive friends willing him to keep moving forward.
He has owned 19 VW Beetles in his lifetime, most of which he has meticulously restored.
"The vehicles have helped keep my mind occupied and focus on getting back on track.”
"They have helped me learn new skills and meet new friends through the car club.”
With family and friends often chipping in to help him complete his restoration work, the cars have been a catalyst for many of his closest friendships.
Not content with just owning all the Volkswagen memorabilia he could find, Mr Look has used his artistic talents to gradually cover his body with tattoos, many of which reference the cars.
"The VWs will always be an important part of my life that's why I got the tattoos on me.”
"They are known as the people car, they bring people together.”
With a new positive spin on life and a strong friend base within Warwick, Mr Look said things have improved a lot since when he first came out.
"People used to be calling me names when I walked past them, now they are running up to me to say hello,” Mr Look said.
"A combi-van is next on my list of restorations.”