A MELBOURNE Grammar student has come out in front of his entire school at a recent assembly, and highlighted the years of struggle he faced trying to accept his sexuality.
17-year-old Rich Bartlett took to the podium at his school’s recent assembly to proudly acknowledge his queer sexuality and to champion the importance of visibility.
“I remember the first time someone asked me why I talked the way I did, I suddenly became very conscious,” he said.
“Actions that I’d previously taken for granted like walking, something we normally do without hesitation, were on my mind every second of the day.
“It was an exhausting process that I kept up in years seven, eight, and nine. I did this because I never wanted to be associated with being gay.
“I was ashamed of my sexuality and would have done anything to change it.”
Despite this, Bartlett said learning more about LGBTI history and the history of oppression in our community instilled in him a need to be a part of the community.
“To those in the community who don’t have a safe place to be their true selves, I see it as my obligation to be visible and to own my identity unapologetically,” he said.
“I tell people I’m gay because I cannot get married in any state or territory in Australia. I tell people I’m gay because 1 in 14 trans people will be murdered. I tell people I’m gay because to not do so would render a disservice to who I am.”
Equality advocate and Victoria’s 2017 Young Australian of the Year, Jason Ball, said Bartlett coming out was a powerful way to challenge homophobia.
“People who know someone who is gay on a personal level are much less likely to hold misunderstood, stereotypical, or discriminatory views towards gay people,” he said.
“Coming out can transform the attitudes of people around us, whether at school, at work, or within the sporting world.
“I have no doubt thanks to Rich’s bravery many hearts and minds from Melbourne grammar have been changed this past week.”
Ball added that he felt overwhelmingly proud listening to Bartlett’s speech.
“It’s a bloody brave thing to do to come out to your whole school, especially at a conservative all-boys school like Melbourne Grammar,” he said.
“Every person who has the courage to come out makes it that little bit easier for the next.
“Young people today are the most accepting generation in history and while many out of touch politicians continue to attack Safe Schools, our young people are simply taking up the fight against homophobia with their own hands and are making a huge difference.”