Comment: Coming out as gay at a Catholic high school

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners. reader Andrew Doughty writes about what it’s like to be a gay teenager in a British Catholic school in 2012.

I’m sure we’ve all the heard the words ‘Faggot’, ‘Queer’, ‘Dyke’ and many other, ‘pleasant’ terms thrown around at some point in our lives. In a high school setting this could seriously knock a LGBT teen down in confidence, alongside lack of education and general knowledge of all things LGBT, I want to ask, is high school really all that bad for a LGBT teen and are things really ‘getting better’?

I remember sitting at my computer desk four years ago as a twelve year old, questioning why I had so much homework, why I was the only one in my friendship group who didn’t have pictures of half naked females on my phone (which of course, as a twelve year old I never used.) But what concerned me more, was why did I feel so uneasy around some of the guys at school, originally I just assumed I was nervous and conscious of my weight, but then of course I realised, I was gay.

Of course, as a twelve year old boy this was the worst thing possible; my friends would hate me, I was doomed to contract AIDs and I was of course, going to become the talk of the school if anyone found out, I would be the queer boy who’s family would surely hate him. Initially, in my fear and naivety, the 12 year old me thought it was only a phase, I was a good person, an academic boy who was a bit chubby, but happy enough; and undoubtedly, that meant I couldn’t be gay, right?

Upon entering my third academic year at school I eventually came to terms with my sexuality, but lacked the confidence to come out. I had dropped most of my fears, I knew that AIDs wasn’t just an ‘LGBT-only’ condition. Still, I was a little in the dark about things; going to a Catholic school meant that sex and relationships were hardly discussed, unless the word ‘Family’ was being rammed down your throat. I had absolutely no chance learning about LGBT relationships.

After comfort eating my way from September onwards I found myself constantly stressed, I hated school and to be quite honest I just wanted to stay at home all the time. At this point I had told around seven of my friends. Many more knew of course, both by suspicion and I later found out one of my friends had told others; but forgive and forget. I finally came out March 14, the third year into high school aged 14.

I was knocked with confusion, why did the people who had previously called me a ‘Fag’ and insisted I come out suddenly start to respect me? From this moment, life seemed to lift up. My mood swings became a lot less frequent and the friends I fell out with started to be pretty civil with me.

Writing this nearly two years on, I’m now deputy-head boy of my school and life seems to be the complete opposite of how I imagined being out of the closet like, at the age of twelve. I’ve had no problems with my sexuality.

But I have wondered on the odd occasion, why does there seem to be a witch-hunt with people my age about their suspected LGBT peers and why have schools done next to nothing to educate people about sexuality?

Whenever I attend parties, it’s very much a usual occurrence for a number of my slightly drunken friends (and friends of friends) to come along and engage in the: ”So, how did you know you was gay?” or ”How do two men have sex Andrew?” conversations. Which of course, were irritating at first but then it dawned on me…How can people accept me, how can they accept anyone LGBT if they don’t understand them and why they love the people they do, or be the person they want to be.

To be blunt, more needs to be done to make people more accepting. High schools will only become more tolerant, when people my age are in the know. How can the average person possibly be accepting of someone when all their life they’ve never been told, that being gay is just as acceptable as being heterosexual, that being transgender is normal; that having all these thoughts and feelings, that you have when you’re entering puberty, are all normal.

I’d hardly say high school is a safe haven just yet for LGBT teens. Hateful comments seem to be less common place, but casual homophobic slurs are ever present. Today alone I counted as I went about my school life. The word ‘Faggot’ was used twice, once in PE when someone in my class used the term ‘Faggot pass’ and then later in the week, a lower-school pupil called his friend a faggot for not lending him some money.

”It’s only casual.” You may say, but I have friends who, because of stuff they hear around and out of school are fearful of coming out and for what? Casual homophobic comments.

Things look brighter for LGBT teens, I feel like I’ve got first hand experience of that. But much more needs to be done before things are as they should be. I certainly feel it’s achievable. But we’ll have to see what the future brings, but I’m sure wherever it goes – it will be more accepting and equal.

Andrew tweets at @MrAndrewDougty