SOpic_2013We’ve been hearing a tonne of rhetoric from Julia Gillard and her emphatic pledge for Gonski educational reforms and teacher-training overhauls benefiting generations to come.

But what of our GLBTI young people and their endurance test to survive six years of a torturous high school system? One that fails to accommodate sexually diverse peoples and acts as a breeding ground for division (sans the mathematical kind), hatred and tangible violence?

I was unfortunate enough to attend a public school for the majority of my secondary schooling years (as recently as 2005) and I witnessed rampant homophobia from students, teachers and even parents. I wasn’t even out yet I still found it overwhelming, and as a result of my decision to hide my true sexuality I had to swallow the ‘straight’ pill and romantically liaise with the opposite sex, or risk rumour-mongering and gossip relating to my sexuality.

I had some friends who were openly gay and lived in fear of being bashed on a daily basis – and that is no over-exaggeration. Fights routinely broke out between groups of teen thugs, noses were broken and cheekbones gashed, homosexuality was viewed as a plague deadlier than the fire of a thousand suns and those harbouring it deserved punishment.

Our young people are heaped into year levels and forced to co-exist with hundreds of others in a melting pot of inexperience and intolerance leading to harassment, sexual vilification and gay-bashings.

Gonski doesn’t address the ingrained style of sitting in classrooms with thugs, so why can’t we have more diverse schooling structures plus increased promotion of home-schooling options like Distance Education Australia?

Perhaps in the near future we’ll see the birth of schools that offer a true alternative to our current blight of secondary schooling. We need to open up the education system and pry the pincers of homophobia from its iron-grip on our young people.

The victims of these attacks and the institution of Australian schools are the GLBTI people who emerge as wounded adults, and while some people graduate with only minor psychological blemishes, others develop stress-disorders or worse – they don’t make it out alive.

Suicide Prevention Australia conservatively estimates that 30% of GLBTI teenagers will attempt suicide – yet they’re the openly-gay teens we know about, so what of those young people taking their gay secret to the grave?

They aren’t included in our annual statistics, they weren’t a part of our GLBTI fabric, they’ve sadly fallen on their swords never finding their voice – and in large part our barbaric schooling system is to blame.

As for those of us who are by-products of this insidious education system, dealing with difficulties of varying natures, how much of our modern-day despair can be traced back to the good old schooling days?

We don’t talk about it enough as a community, we brush it under the carpet and focus on the future, and that works for some people. But we’re still an oppressed minority there are still bullies out there who are trying to hold us down and eradicate our belief system.

We’re a pack of freedom fighters enlightening society one victory at a time – but perhaps some of us can only look to the future if the lessons of the past are rectified for future GLBTI generations.


Robert Edward Smith is a Melbourne-based writer and equality enthusiast.




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