When James Robinson set his St Kevin’s blazer alight at his alma mater last month, I was once again reminded of my own high school years back in the early 2010s.

 

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As far as a gay kid’s experience in an all-boys Catholic school goes, mine probably was not as bad as others. Even though I had to pretend to be someone else and spent most hours hating myself and wishing I could change my sexuality, I had a solid group of friends, got along with most of the teachers, maintained good grades, and was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, like tennis and debating.

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On the surface, it seems like I had a pleasant high school experience. If I dig a little deeper, however, I often find a lot of repressed trauma stowed away. Even though I did not directly experience homophobic bullying, I still had to interact with teachers and students who would openly say that being any part of the LGBTQI community was a disgusting life choice. Whenever I heard someone use homophobic slurs, I had to ignore it or risk drawing unwanted attention. Whenever someone shared a religious or political belief about gay people not deserving equal rights, I had to simply nod my head or “agree to disagree” to sidestep a yelling match.

It was not just the insults that made high school difficult; it was also the censorship the school put on LGBTQI people. Never learning about notable queer figures in history class or studying books with queer characters in English class gave the impression that gay people either did not exist or had not achieved anything notable. Not allowing teachers who were gay to talk openly about their lives made students like myself feel like we had no one to talk to about what we were feeling. Instead, I had to wait six years before I found myself in an environment with people I could trust in order to explore my sexuality, which is just not fair.

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Why do queer kids have to suffer the most horrendous things, like physical assault or be diagnosed with depression, for their trauma to be validated? Why do queer kids have to scream, yell, or in James’s case, break into the school and commit arson, in order to get the school to pay attention? Why are these questions only brought up when a queer current or former student speaks up? When are things going to change?

 

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