Simon and Natalie, the two students highlighted in this article, are protected by the use of fake names. They were both willing to share their stories with The Mycenaean about coming out and being gay and bisexual, respectively, as high school students.
“I’m gay but I don’t wanna be pushed into a box, and I don’t wanna be a stereotype. I want to be me,” said Simon, a Leesville student.
Simon came out on April 23, 2012 to his mom.
“For absolutely no reason, I got mad. In my rage I thought it would be a good idea to walk home from school that day — and it’s really far. My mom called and picked me up, got me home, and sat me down at the dining table and asked me why I was upset. I told her there were some things I just couldn’t tell her…” said Simon. At the time, Simon knew his mother and a lot of his family was homophobic. “…and I told her there were some things I just couldn’t tell her. She then asked ‘What can’t you tell me?’ and then I just said, ‘Mom, I’m gay.’”
“The hardest part was figuring out if my mom still loved me,” said Simon. “When I came out she told me not to tell anyone in the family. It made me sad because I couldn’t share who I am with them.”
Simon is not alone in his fear; according to an article written by Ellen Friedriches on gayteens.about.com, many LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) students are afraid to come out to their parents or peers for a multitude of reasons. The most common fear, like Simon’s, is the rejection of their sexuality by their parents. Teens are also afraid of being bullied, stereotyped and losing friends.
Natalie also came out to her parents while she was very upset.
“We were playing Apples to Apples with family friends sometime during sophomore year, and my dad called someone on one of the cards a faggot, and I absolutely completely hate that word, and I asked him not to say it, and he asked me ‘What does it even matter to you?’ and then I stormed out.
“My mom, who I’m much more comfortable talking with, came into my room a couple minutes later and asked me what was going on. I just blurted it out. ‘I like boys and I like girls,’ I said.”
Natalie comes from a Christian home, and she classifies herself as a Christian, so her toughest challenge has been her relationship with God.
“We all see those crazy Christians on the internet talking about how God hates gays and all that stuff, and it’s really disheartening because I love God, and I want him to love me for who I am,” said Natalie.
Natalie’s family is open to her sexuality and doesn’t persecute her, but they don’t talk about it because it’s awkward.
“I’m happy that my family still loves me, but I can’t voice my opinion on gay rights or anything like that because I know they disagree, and I don’t want them to get mad at me. I know they’re not comfortable with it ,so the first thing they feel is anger because they don’t understand.”
Simon, as compared to Natalie, is openly gay. He doesn’t struggle with bullying and harassment in school. “I have witnessed harassment towards some of my gay friends,” said Simon.
Unfortunately, other LGBT students around the country aren’t as lucky as Simon when it comes to being pushed around because of their sexuality.
According to the GLSEN study of North Carolina, “Many students were frequently bullied, called names or harassed in school based on the their gender expression (35%) or sexual orientation (45%)”
Due to the harassment, bullying and torment coming from their peers, LGBTQ students are “more likely to engage in health-risk behaviors than other students” as written by Laura Kann, PhD in a report by CDC in 2011. This means that LGBTQ students are more likely to behave violently, use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, have poor weight management and suicidal thoughts.
Plus, many LGBTQ students surrender to suicide as their only solution to stop the bullying; gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are “8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide and 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression” compared to their peers, according to a study by PFLAGNYC.
Bullying isn’t a problem for Simon: “People at Leesville are super nice and accepting to me.”
Natalie isn’t open with her sexuality at school, even though she sees how people treat Simon and other openly gay students at school. She’s afraid of being judged and looked at differently because of who she is.
“This past year, I’ve made a lot of friends, and I don’t want them to not be my friend just because I’m bisexual. Some people say that I’m hiding who I am but really I’m protecting myself,” said Natalie. “People claim to be accepting, but I don’t believe them.”
On a brighter side, many things have brought the issue of LGBTQ acceptance to the forefront, one of them being television.
Ellen Degeneres has made significant successes in bringing to light LGBTQ issues and being a positive role model for young people. Plus her television endorsement and support of the Trevor Project give young LGBTQ people someone to look up to and strive to be.
Also ABC’s Glee, gave episodes devoted completely to exploring the issues of gay teens in high school with storyline of one of the show’s protagonists, Kurt Hummel, a flamboyantly gay high school student. This show along with many others — Skins, Degrassi, The L Word, Weeds, to start — preach pro-LGBT acceptance messages which influence all viewers by giving them an inside look on what it’s really like to be a gay.
“People are becoming more accepting, and it’s becoming more of the norm, but there’s a long way to go until gays and lesbians and transgenders are accepted in our society,” said Natalie.
Leesville is one high school in the community that is more progressive than other because of the development of the Gay-Straight Alliance, a social club which allows LGBTQ and straight students to hang out in a non-persecuting environment.
“I love GSA. I’m able to be myself with my friends that who are willing to accept me,” said Natalie.