The struggle to breathe: why coming out was a challenge
By Shane Brothwood
In secondary school the phrase LGBT eluded me but the one word I did hear regularly was ‘gay’.
Unfortunately the use of the word during my teen years was far from positive.
In fact it was a plain insult with phrases like: “You’re gay” and “That’s gay”.
The extremely offensive word faggot also came into the equation.
In some ways hiding my bisexuality was the worst thing imaginable. I was denying one side of my identity the chance to grow.
However, I’m actually glad I that I waited until college to come out because when I finally told one of my best friends, I a new found freedom.
I could explore new relationships, and I could be the person I always wanted to be.
Soon I was telling everyone and receiving hugs, instead of the rejection I had expected.
After 18 years, I could finally breathe. But why had I waited so long?
Well, I had seen first-hand the bullying that occurred as result of being perceived as gay.
I remember one kid who never stated his sexual orientation, but was labelled gay anyway, and slagged horribly for it.
When I saw the torture this kid had to endure day in and day out, I knew revealing my true self in secondary school was out of the question.
For the last two years of secondary school, I kept quiet, and dived into my studies.
Nobody suspected or thought for a moment that I might be anything other than straight.
So when I heard homophobic remarks uttered, I stood idly by and did nothing. I didn’t want to be ridiculed or have my sexual orientation uncovered and blasted over social media.
Defending someone would have cost me a lot. I didn’t know whether my classmates would ever speak to me again.
It was strange that a school that was very accommodating towards different nationalities, couldn’t muster up the same support for LGBT individuals.
The problem perhaps stemmed from the system. I still find it bizarre to this day, that the school never took time to educate us on the multiple sexual identities out there.
As far as most of us were concerned normal meant following a strict diet of heterosexuality.
For example, every week, in sixth year, we had motivational speakers in, ranging from an ex-criminal to religious speakers, yet not once was there an LGBT individual.
It shows that despite the leaps and bounds made for the sake of equality that some traditions remain firmly locked in place.
I sincerely hope that since I left in 2012, that my old school has made changes.
Fortunately after leaving secondary there’s the move to college. This is, I feel, the best time to express your sexuality.
There’s no better place. People have matured and they become more open minded.
If you want to come out and still feel uncomfortable disclosing, most third level institutions have LGBT societies, and these are places where judgement simply does not exist.
Bottling up your identity should not be an option. Identity is key to who you are, and where you want to go in life.
Schools should have an obligation to teach children from an early age about the numerous different sexualities, and the acceptance of LGBT individuals. This would help the fight against bullying, improve mental health and create a positive learning environment for all.
To the current generation struggling with coming out, I hope you have the ability to express your sexual orientation.
I hope your friends are true friends, and will not turn their backs on you. If you are straight and reading the article; support your friends. My friends did, and now I’m smiling.