When 17-year-old, Tyler Johnson was selected by his Syracuse, New York school’s newspaper Knight Insight to be highlighted in its Senior Spotlight series, he was not shy about his experiences.

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In a TikTok he said he wrote, “The biggest challenge I faced was growing up gay and coming out. I had to learn how to become comfortable in my own skin and how to stay strong through bullying and all the negative experiences I had while trying to navigate through life.”

@_tylerrayjohnson_

so my school is homophobic 😛 #gay #gayteen #highschool #foryoupage #fypシ #discriminacion

♬ original sound – Tyler 🏳️‍🌈

‘You Can’t Say You’re Gay’

He told The Advocate he did not expect Mike O’Brien, the principal of Tully High School, to call him into his office and tell him to “re-write his story: specifically, the part about the challenges he’s faced, the part where he’s gay.” Johnson said O’Brien told him, “You can’t say you’re gay or that overcoming bullying is your accomplishment.”

When Johnson questioned this, O’Brien responded saying that it was nothing personal and it was only due to school policy.  Johnson told the principal that he would rather the school paper not print the article at all, rather than make any changes.

The principal refused to back down when Johnson’s mother called for an explanation, repeating that he could not go against formal district policy.

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Johnson Frustrated By Incident

Despite the response from the Tully community, being immediate, overwhelming, and supportive, the homophobic encounter resulted in severe anxiety, Johnson told The Advocate.

Johnson said he was frustrated with the entire incident: “You think we’re, you know, making progress and then something like that happens and you realize we’re not as far as we think we are.”

According to the latest 2021 survey from The Trevor Project, states that 42 percent of LGBTQI youth, aged 12-17, seriously considered suicide.

According to LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, in 2021, 59.1% of LGBTIQ young people aged 16 to 17 reported experiencing suicidal ideation in the past 12 months compared to 11.2% in the general population

In Australia, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s department has not only confirmed religious schools’ right to fire teachers for their views on sexuality under the Federal Government’s revised Religious Discrimination Bill but also left the door open to changes to the separate Sex Discrimination Act aimed at safeguarding LGBTQI students.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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