Letters from gay Australian students: How our schools tried to ‘fix’ us
THESE are the letters that will sicken any fair-minded Australian to their core.
Gay Australians have opened up about the discrimination they faced from teachers, staff and peers at school in a series of heartfelt letters.
Today we publish two of these letters.
The letters were originally shared with Independent NSW State MP Alex Greenwich. They are honest, raw, heartfelt and shockingly revealing of the entrenched discrimination and homophobia which still exists in many schools.
Mr Greenwich is lobbying for the NSW State Government to change its Anti Discrimination Act so private and independent schools cannot expel students on the basis of their sexuality.
“A number of students reached out and were brave enough to share their stories,” he said, adding that gay and lesbian children faced discrimination across the country. “A number were anonymous as they were threatened with expulsion if they talked.”
Ros Philips, from Christian group FamilyVoice Australia, said Mr Greenwich’s proposed change was “Orwellian” and threatened “freedom of speech, association and religion”.
Back in 2007 while I was in Year 12, I was in Girlfriend magazine with a coming out story and because of that I was asked with my partner to make an appearance on Sunrise.
Because of these media appearances, students and teachers at my school found out I was gay. This didn’t go down well.
It was six weeks before my HSC and they set a meeting with me and my mother to talk to them about the “issue” of my sexuality. I was called up to the office, in tears, with two teachers, the assistant principal and my mother.
We were up there for over an hour talking about what I had done, why I did it and who I was.
After this meeting the conclusion was that they would take it to the school board to see what will be done and whether or not I would be expelled. I was stressed out not knowing what would happen.
A week later I had another meeting with them which ended in the school saying I could stay in school – on these conditions:
1. I could not mention or talk about my sexuality at school to anyone.
2. My partner Rick was to have nothing to do with the school or functions.
3. I had to see a counsellor weekly until I left school.
I didn’t agree with this but with only six weeks left I had to suck it up and deal with it. It left me feeling very angry and stressed.
I contemplated leaving the school and seeing the counsellor was the hardest part. Knowing who I was, and having the school make me try to “fix” myself wasn’t easy. Growing up with a very supportive family, I didn’t think I needed to be “fixed”.
Even in our Bible Studies class I recall hearing ‘if you are a homosexual you are going to hell’.
I did have two teachers who were very supportive through my situation and I thank them for that as it helped me get through my last weeks of school.
Then the school formal was another issue all together as I wanted Rick to be there. My date card was rejected because another male’s name was on the card. They did not allow same sex partners to attend the formal.
It took a lot of planning to get Rick there. He ended up going as a date with one of my good friends and I took a friend of mine from outside of school.
When teachers found this out I was hounded with questions and assumptions like “he’s not 30 or something is he?” Or “you won’t make out with him on the dancefloor” at the actual formal?
We did sit next to each other, but we were clearly looked down upon. We did not dance together or be affectionate towards each other because it was very uncomfortable.
I thought that I had dealt with this but when the school said that they “find it offensive for people to even suggest they discriminate against students” it made me stop and think because I was discriminated against and I found it “offensive” for them to say
I’ve been gay for as long as I can remember.
I’ve had good male and female role models, I come from a decent family, and most people would say I am a good role model to others (now).
When I was 14, my parents and I moved to regional Queensland for a new start. In high school, I was the textbook ‘gifted underachiever’. I acted out in school because I was disengaged, unchallenged and couldn’t relate well to the purpose of such a ‘sausage machine model’ of education (one that churns out lots of copies of the same thing).
We moved to the area for a new start in my father’s business and in my education. I was enrolled at a Christian school and I settled in happily in the first few months. But in Year 10 things went downhill.
I started to acknowledge and accept my own ‘gay’ feelings that I’d always had and experimented with another girl. It was outside of school hours, outside of school property, in the privacy of my family home.
Because I trusted one of my teachers I sat her down and told her about my feelings. But rather than help me, she told the principal … a lie about how she’d seen me engaged in a sexual act with a girl on the bus.
I was absolutely indignant and so hurt. In the end I was asked to leave the school because after they outed me to my parents my parents supported me and not their homophobia. Apparently, our ‘values’ didn’t align with their ‘values’.
So it came to be – I ended up in public school.
The letters were first sent to Alex Greenwich, right, the independent MP for Sydney.
After that, I tried to convert myself to heterosexuality by going to church and praying about it. Of course, nothing happened. It’s like holding your breath to change your eye colour. Even if you really want it to happen, it won’t. I was gay.
In such frustration and anger, I started cutting myself, binge drinking and taking risks. Later on, I started taking drugs. At the end of Year 11, I had had enough of my feelings and having to hide my true self. I thought nobody would ever accept me. Not long after that, I tried to take my own life.
My parents saw what nobody should ever have to see – their 16-year-old daughter unconscious on her bedroom floor with a pile of empty pill bottles on the shelf.
After I finished high school I moved back to Brisbane. It was much more accepting and I was free of school. Because I’d suffered so much in Years 11 and 12, I didn’t bother going to uni.
After two years of working awful jobs, I finally pulled myself together and went. I am now in the final semester of my teaching program, working with a great school, getting marks within the top 15 per cent of my cohort, and blitzing life with the new-found confidence of having people around me who accept and love me.
I get treated with dignity and respect at work, university and at home. It’s amazing what a difference it makes.
So why, then, should any school have the right to expel gay students? A student generally doesn’t decide which school they go to and they certainly don’t decide to be gay.
What a student does outside of school or in their personal life is no business of the school.
It’s like expelling a student because you’ve heard a rumour that they are having sex out of marriage. Or if they get pregnant – imagine if someone was expelled from a school for being pregnant and told their bastard child is going to hell, as well as ten generations of their children (as it says in the Bible). Imagine the uproar then.
But because it’s gay students, it’s okay. Well, no it is not.
It’s time for a change.
— Beci Jay