Coming Out is "in" at School This Year.

Page:   1 2

Joined in 2010
April 25, 2010, 17:51

From today’s Age online:

Coming out is ‘in’ at school


April 25, 2010

”COMING out” at high school can be traumatic.

But for the guys at Melbourne High it’s like, whatever.

Not only is it OK to be gay or bisexual at the school, there’s a club you can join – SOFA, or Same-sex-attracted, Other, Friends of Alliance.

It’s one of about six ”gay-straight alliances” in Melbourne schools that have formed recently to support same-sex-attracted students.

SOFA is open to all students, regardless of their sexuality, and has 15 members, from years 9 to 12. It has movie nights and outings, and meets weekly in a classroom to chat about … well, stuff.

Who’s dumped who, who’s going out with who, and who’s come out to who.

They’re a motley bunch – some jocks, some ”drama-heads”, some squares. Some prefer either guys or girls, some like both, but all agree that the best thing about the group is it’s a safe place to chat without being labelled.

Founder Dylan ”Izzi” Williams starts the ball rolling at a recent meeting. ”OK, so, Jordan and I went to see Lady Gaga,” he says, flicking his punky side-swept hair out of his eyes and casting a look of mock seriousness around the circle. ”Best night of our lives. Try topping that.”

The well-built boy with the more sensible haircut sitting next to him pipes up. ”I recently came out to my older brother, his girlfriend and all my cousins.”

”Yo!” says one boy, as the others applaud.

”Except, it was a bit weird,” he continues, his voice quavering. ”Like, they reacted. As good as it felt at the time, now it doesn’t feel so great because I think about my parents and how I’m going to tell them, and I can’t protect myself by pretending they already know. So … life’s gotten harder.”

Coming out, the boys agree, isn’t easy, but they have each other to talk to. And most of their peers accept who they are.

Izzi says there will always be a degree of chauvinism and homophobia in an all-boys school.

But the existence of SOFA, and the school’s unwavering support, has made being gay a non-issue.

When Izzi and Jordan called the group’s first meeting at assembly two years ago, the audience was dumbstruck.

”There was no heckling or snickering,” says welfare co-ordinator Jenny Mill. ”I think the boys were shocked into silence, not because of the gay thing but because of how brave they were.”

Posters advertising group meetings were torn down in the first few weeks and the jocks started using ”SOFA” as a derogatory byword for ”gay”.

Two years later, most boys couldn’t care less. ”I asked in class today if anyone knew when the SOFA meeting was,” said group member Harry. ”It’s just like asking when footy training is on.”

Other schools are not as tolerant. Izzi spent three years at a public, co-ed high school in the bayside area before moving to the selective Melbourne High. ”I had people threatening to stab me … verbal abuse in the bathrooms,” he said.

Homophobia is still entrenched in school cultures, experts say. ”We’ve had teachers who say, ‘There’s no bloody poofs in my rugby team’,” says Rachael Ward, of the Rainbow Network, for people working with same-sex-attracted youth.

She says an increase in homophobic bullying has been blamed on more students coming out in high school. But it is no excuse for complacency.

”Young people are coming out earlier and it’s more on the agenda, but we need mandated support at all schools, not just the progressive, inner-city ones.”

Northcote High School and Princes Hill Secondary College, in Melbourne’s inner-north, are two such ”progressive” schools with gay-straight alliances.

But the concept is spreading. The private Methodist Ladies College in Kew has a gay-straight alliance and Sacred Heart College in Kyneton has a ”Celebrating Diversity” group that includes same-sex-attracted students.

”While there are challenges within the official teachings of the [Catholic] Church, as a Mercy College, we agree that all students should be safe and that Christ’s message of salvation is for all,” says acting principal Brian Reed.

Other schools support students covertly. ”If you write about the group … other students are going to try and find out who’s in it,” said one principal.

For many of the SOFA boys, worrying about people ”finding out” is no longer a concern, and discussion flows from Gaga to gender stereotypes – a topic that prompts the group to try on their best ”man voices”.

”What do I say?” whines Izzi.

”Say I’m a big gay diva!” says Jordan. Izzi raises an eyebrow saucily. Then, dropping his voice to a bass grunt, ”My name’s Bruce. I like football.”

Chuckles all around.

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
April 25, 2010, 18:01

hehe That’s good to hear, mrg. That these groups exist in schools and it’s becoming more of a non issue.

Sounds a but like the Glee club for anyone like me who enjoys watching Glee! 😀

Joined in 2010
April 25, 2010, 19:03

Brilliant start… Absolutely brilliant!

Chapter Leader
Joined in 2008
April 25, 2010, 22:56

Funny, I was just past Melbourne Boys High in the tram on Friday afternoon and a number of students from there got on.

Still mostly too well-dressed (school uniform) for a government school ! But has a long reputation as Melbourne’s top government high school.

Only a year or three back, there was a bit of a hullabaloo about a somewhat sexy DNA (gay mag) picture shoot on the school’s sports ground (with the distinctive main buildings in background). As I recall, the school’s response was they probably wouldn’t have allowed it if they known the real nature of the shoot. How times change . . . and relatively quickly. (Maybe they’ve had a new Principal ??)

Bit less of a surprize for Northcote H.S. and Princes Hill S.C. given their catchment area. (Higher proprtion of well-educated, left-wing parents.)

Shows change does and can come – but slowly. Gives us hope for ongoing change in all areas, and motivation to continue to work for such change. Slowly slowly, catchee monkey !

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
April 26, 2010, 08:17

Hi forestgrey

Well a sexy photo shoot for a gay mag is one thing and a support group quite another! I can understand them being concerned about the former at any time.

And yes, re the areas mentioned, Northcote is a gay mecca afterall, esp for lesbians.

It does feel like things move too slowly although I suppose at least they are moving.

Joined in 2008
April 26, 2010, 11:03

Good to hear that some secondary schools are becoming supportive of LGBT people coming out …

I noticed the writer used the term same-sex attracted, rather than same-sex orientated …

I think this is one area that we should be educating the media about, given our knowledge about, and experience in, ex-gay programs and other associated issues …

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
May 5, 2010, 15:18

Sign of the times perhaps…?????

Youth Coordinator
Joined in 2008
May 10, 2010, 17:41

This is fantastic to hear!!

I wish they had a GSA when I was in school.

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
May 10, 2010, 20:28

I wish I could state what I wished I had at high school…..but it would date me too much. OK…….I wish we had a car and not have to ride a horse…..hehe.

Joined in 2010
May 10, 2010, 23:48

Good grief man! Are you that old?

Sorry let me say that again:



Page:   1 2
WP Forum Server by ForumPress | LucidCrew
Version: 99.9; Page loaded in: 0.114 seconds.