Home' LOTL : Mardi Gras Contents BY OLIVIA NOTO
Most people take for granted that people see you, really see you,
when you walk through the school gates. But for some students,
feeling invisible can be the norm.
That was how I felt in school. I was terrified about coming out and
the possible reaction from my classmates, teachers and family.
Witnessing the bullying that other gay kids (or kids perceived as gay)
in my school endured made me all the more determined to keep this
secret to myself. I went to great pains to act straight throughout high
school, following the trends of my female friends, covering all my
books with the latest male stars, and nodding quietly as they checked
out the latest cute boy.
In a nutshell - I didn’t feel safe to be myself at school.
It wasn’t until I was 18 and formal classes had ended that I finally
had the courage to tell a few of my closest friends. Their supportive
response felt like a huge weight had been lifted, and finally the ball of
anxiety that was a constant feature in my stomach began to fade.
A similar delay in disclosing my sexuality occurred when I found
myself back in the classroom as a high school teacher five years
later. But that didn’t stop me from challenging homophobic and
transphobic behaviour when it occurred, taking every opportunity
to use it as a ‘teachable moment’ to unpack, discuss and explore
some of the underlying assumptions and misunderstandings from my
students, and even colleagues.
Schools are heteronormative places. Gendered toilets, gendered
uniforms, a ‘girls line’ and a ‘boys line’, boys sports teams and girls
sports teams, not to mention the constant chatter about girls liking
boys and boys liking girls, and people assuming you’re straight unless
you inform them otherwise.
In my schooling experience, both as a student, and as a teacher
across all sectors (government, Catholic and independent in NSW
and Victoria), there were minimal positive references to the lives of
LGBTI people in the classroom, let alone the playground. At a time
when belonging and fitting in is all too important for students, school
is tough for many LGBTI youth. I often felt anxious and confused. Was
I allowed to feel these feelings? Did anyone else feel this way? Who
could I talk to without fear of being ‘outed’? It often kept me up at
Fast forward 14 years, and I work for a program that strives to put
an end to students feeling like they need to hide who they are to
feel safe at school. A year in, I ’m still pinching myself that I work
for a program that is so well supported, in such high demand
and, most excitingly, is about to launch a teaching resource
that explores same sex attraction, gender diversity and intersex
topics called All Of Us, that has been funded by the Australian
Now students and teachers alike have an opportunity to learn from
the experiences of LGBTI youth through short videos, and access
learning activities to support more inclusive school communities.
It is so inspiring to hear how young people today are creating the
change they want to see in the world. Thanks to greater awareness
and understanding of LGBTI topics, people like the seven young
people whose stories feature as part of the All Of Us package
can tell us how we can all play a role in creating safer and more
inclusive school environments for our same sex attracted, intersex
and gender diverse students, friends, teachers and families.
All Of Us provides a teacher-friendly tool kit that will make schools
better not just for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse
students, but for their friends, teachers and families, too. And when
schools are safe and inclusive for everyone, we all benefit.
Download your copy today at http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org.
All Of Us has been jointly developed by Safe Schools Coalition
Australia and Minus18.
ALL OF US
WILL MAKE A
COMMUNITY | LGBT YOUTH
24 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
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