I first came out to my best friend in second year. I was sitting in the back of a Science class with her and I wrote on a piece of paper in code and passed it over to her. I was terrified. I had no idea how she was going to react. I had asked beneath the piece of code “Do you understand?” and she replied “You’re a lesbian”. I replied yes and she didn’t mind, though I struggled to look at her throughout the conversation. I found out afterwards that when I told her that I had something important to tell her the only thing she could think was that I was pregnant.
The reason I was so scared was because of the social stigma that floated around my single-sex, catholic school in relation to the LGBTQ+ community. If you didn’t shave you were gay. If a teacher gave too much homework, that was so gay. If you, like one of my friends, posted a photo on facebook of you and your boyfriend someone might comment beneath “GGGAAAAAAYYYYYY”. Everything remotely negative or sappy was gay. Many people in the school had no problem with the LGBTQ+ community. They knew little about it but had nothing against it. They were just spreading words and phrases they’d been hearing. They didn’t think about it. Nevertheless, due to these homophobic slurs I went through secondary school terrified of other people’s opinions and never knowing how people would react when I came out. I did come out to most of my year and most were fine with it but I still felt nervous around the topic and about what people might be saying behind my back.
I left school then and went to college. In college it didn’t matter that I was gay. I made lots of friends inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community. I felt free and happy. Then my debs came along. I decided that I wanted to bring a girl. I asked my Dad about it and he said “No, don’t. Bring a fella”. This was the first time I’d ever heard my Dad use the word “fella”. I’d already invited a friend and to my surprise she said yes. I found out afterwards that my Dad only said no because he feared other people’s reactions, he feared I might get bullied. If he’d told me at the time maybe I wouldn’t have felt so oppressed. We went to the debs anyway, had some nice predrinks with white wine at a friend’s house with some family there. We posed for photos among polite chatter and then went on to the hotel. I was the only girl in my year who brought a girl to the debs. For the most part everything seemed fine until a girl from my year approached me. She pointed to my debs date and said “Who’s she?” My heart started pounding. Even though I’d left secondary school it seemed my fears hadn’t disappeared. I replied “she’s my date”. The girl said “oh” and walked over to my date and said “I really like your dress”.
I just had such fear built up in me because I didn’t know in school that nobody cared. I didn’t know that it made no difference who you were attracted to. If a group like ShoutOut had come into my school and said that it’s ok to be LGBTQ+, just a quiet nodding in response from my class would’ve taken a weight of my shoulders. I would’ve known that everything was fine and would’ve felt uplifted by the workshop that remembered that I exist. This is why I joined ShoutOut. So people like me don’t have to go through secondary school with unnecessary fear that only exists because nobody told them that everything was fine.