By Grady Connell via Today FM
Growing up gay in a rural school is hard.
People pick on you, call you names, ask you intrusive questions about your sexuality, your life, and just any day-to-day occurrence they think they can be part of.
This is personal information that they shouldn’t be asking anyone regardless of their sexuality or gender.
I recently watched the Netflix show Heartstopper; an LGBT drama/coming of age show.
I don’t know really what to describe it as - it was wholesome, but it was also a reminder of my high school experience in parts.
The premise of the show follows Charlie and Nick, two young students who are making their way through high school and experiencing the various things that you do going through high school.
The main character is Charlie, who has come out at school in the previous year and experienced bullying, and is now in a secret relationship with another student who is exploring their sexual identity.
Then there is Nick who is on the rugby team - he’s your traditional blokey bloke who falls for Charlie after being introduced to him during school one day, but of course, everyone sees Nick as the straight guy who couldn’t possibly be gay.
Obviously, spoiler alert surprise-surprise; Nick is bisexual, which is revealed later, but as the show goes on it explores the experiences that I know I experienced after coming out as gay in high school.
Like Charlie, I was bullied after coming out as gay by the straight kids on the rugby team and just literally anyone who thought being gay was funny or different or that they could get a laugh out of.
High school was hard.
While I’m not going to go too deep into the bullying I experienced as I would rather not re-live that, I was called names, I was tormented, I was pushed, shoved, and anything under the sun kind of came my way.
Sometimes I picked myself up dusted myself off and got on with my day, other times I took off home and was upset and sad, sometimes just very very hurt and didn’t know what to do and didn’t know when it would end.
These experiences partially shaped who I’ve become today, but growing up they hurt big time.
Some teachers at the school tried to support me, the senior staff at the school tried to support me - the issue wasn’t about support.
For me, it was changing behaviours in the school and educating others in school about people being queer.
People should be free to be queer if that’s how they identify, people should be free to be straight if that’s how they identify.
Bullying someone because of their sexuality, gender identity or any other part of themselves is horrendous.
It shouldn’t be tolerated in any shape or form.
I left school with horrible memories as a place I never wanted to go back to.
It's a place that upsets me and a place I wish I could change.
While changes didn't happen during my time, I hope my coming out has helped other queer students and their own coming out journey in the years after me and they're now able to identify as they wish.
While I was bullied and tormented and hurt, thinking back on it now made me realise that I may have been a catalyst for change, maybe not in a massive way but in a tiny way.
By me being me unapologetically, I may have set a new president for the school, a school that understands, a student body that understands, and students that understand.
Bullying exists still, there’s no doubt about that, but to bully someone for the agenda or their sexuality… or anything at all, should not be tolerated.
Grady Connell is a Digital Content Producer at Today FM