According to GLSEN's 2015 National School Survey, 57.6% of LGBTQ youth feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
There aren't many things that I remember from Secondary School besides the burnt pizza and chocolate concrete, but one thing that always springs to mind is 'the gay rumour'. This rumour came at a time when I didn't know what sexuality was - spending 5 years at an all boys school I was taught that "boys like girls", and that felt very weird to me, I just wanted to be friends with girls and watch Power Puff Girls on repeat.
Sexuality was never explored or addressed but (hetero-) sexual education was, and taking part was extremely.... uncomfortable. One day, a teacher told a student that someone in my year group was gay, and the message spread like wildfire. If someone mentioned your name with the rumour, you were in danger, people would hate you, hurl insults and threaten you.
I'm a big softy, but I began to assimilate into a "straight" culture and act like all of the other boys so that I could avoid being anymore outcast. My friendly smile turned into a head nod. The bounce in my step turned into a lazy slump.
My love for Rihanna turned into comments about how she looked. I even began bragging about my love of basketball... right until I actually had to play. In the end nobody 'came out' as any sexual identity besides straight, it was all rumours and nothing went far enough where lives were threatened, which is unfortunately fortunate compared to what happens in other places around the world. However, there's a reason why every queer person I've ever met has suffered with at least one mental health issue in their life. We need more education and history for queer identities at a younger age. When we think we might be anything different than the heteronormative character built by society, we need someone there to speak to, so that we can figure things out. If I had the knowledge about different identities, or the support of peers & the school, I could have been equipped to take down bullies, or at least, try and stand up and make a difference.
I'm thankful to online communities built on sites like Tumblr and Youtube that are able to educate and encourage young people to live their truth.
Years later it turned out there wasn't one gay student in my year group... but multiple. As Darienne Lake said: "I'm not a strong believer in 'it gets better', I'm a believer in you get better." I only began to realise and understand that I was gay in college. Even though it pushed me further and deeper into my mental health issues, it allowed me to explore who I actually am, or as I call it, my Britney 2.0 phase. Where I got to re-invent myself, learn about important issues, support people from different backgrounds (particularly queer) and then even... I got to watch shows like Will And Grace without quickly turning over when I hear a footstep.
Written by Bradley Morrison.
Posted on Spirit Day, an annual LGBTQ awareness day observed on the third Thursday in October, to support LGBTQ youth and against bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month, as well as to honour LGBTQ victims of suicide.