January 2003
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High School Drama: The Struggle for Acceptance
By Stuart B., Fredericton High School, Fredericton, NB

Fredericton High School hasn't changed. There's still the "jocks", the bullies, the popular pretty people, and the people who want to be just like them, and there's still the kid who everyone seems to be able to pick out of a crowd, to say something to them, laugh and walk away.

My high school career has been much like that of the kid everyone has something to say about, but never says anything. I was one of those popular people at one point in my life but that all changed the day I said the words "I'm gay". At that point then and there the news about my sexuality seemed to travel through the halls like a wild fire. Within days everyone seemed to know and I wished I was dead. Everyone was talking about it, looking at me. I hated life.

Many teenagers go through a phase in their lives when all they want is to be invisible or even dead. Gay teens they strive to be accepted in a society that just won't accept them. I hated waking-up in the morning knowing I would have to go back to school and walk around like everything was great, listen to everyone talk, turn as I walked in a class, day after day, but as time went on it got easier or I just got used to it.

Like most new things, finding out someone is gay is shocking in some cases, and takes some time to get used to. I guess I had taken a big step when I came out at school. I remember thinking I was alone and that no one else in the school was gay. Emerson Calhoun a 1995 graduate said he didn't come out in high school because people were always calling him gay and it came down to not wanting them to be right. "Coming out was hard" said Katie G. a grade twelve student at Fredericton High School "I felt quite judged" she said.

One would think that with the rising amount of acceptance towards homosexuals and the rising number of teens coming out in high school that there would be some type of support group, especially at a school the size of Fredericton High. Mary Radford a guidance counsellor at Fredericton High said "A couple of years ago we tried to have a group against discrimination in general, but after a while it died down".

As time went on it was as if a blanket was pulled off my eyes, I had found that there were many gay students at school just like me. Many students would say that there are very few if any gay students in attendance at Fredericton High, because you never see them. People seem to think that if you are gay you wear a sign or something or that you are gay the way the media has portrayed gays to be. Flamboyant. Outspoken. Feminine.

Dating has never been an easy thing for me. With the lack of openly gay students in my age group I started hanging out with people much older then me. I've probably been exposed to a lot of things that a 17-year old shouldn't be exposed to. Although most of my gay friends are older I still need them. They make me feel accepted for who I am. When I'm with them it's okay to be gay. At school I feel as though I have to conform to the standards that are set for me.

Even though coming out in high school was a very trying time for me I think the hardest part was coming out to my mother. I was so worried that she wouldn't accept me for who I was but still I felt it was something I needed to do. "They (gay teens) feel like they are going to explode. It causes a lot of stress until they tell someone," said Mrs. Radford. When I finally got the courage to tell my mother all she could say was "are you sure", "would you like to talk to someone about it" as though the fact that I was gay was wrong or unacceptable. I felt as though she was looking at me the way people at school did. I felt betrayed. It took her some time, but she came around to accepting me, not the fact that I was gay, but me. Katie G. said "It felt good to know I'd be accepted at home." For some the families they come from are very accepting and supportive making it much easier to tell them, but for some it is anything but easy. Mr. Calhoun said it took his mother about a month before she even talked to him about it. "She cried a lot" said Mr. Calhoun. "It's also because I come from a very religious family" Mr. Calhoun added.

One of the many things which adds to the lack of acceptance are people who have a religious view that goes against the acknowledgement of homosexuals and their rights as humans. They tend to support their views with quotes from the Bible, claiming that homosexuals are going to hell because of the "choices" they have made. Joe a grade eleven student at Fredericton High School said "they want to do what they chose to do" followed by "too many people say it's not their fault" claiming that the fact homosexuals exist is because they chose to. He also said that homosexuality is the reason we have diseases. Joe is not the only one with this view that homosexuals chose to be gay, a large percentage of people who really have the knowledge to back up what they are saying think that homosexuals chose to be gay. Even though my sexuality has become a large part of my life the fact of the matter is if I could be "cured" I would.

There are so many misconceptions which surround homosexuality and one of the biggest ones seems to be that you can be cured of your sexuality, that it is a disease or a disorder and can be willed away. To many these misconceptions are humorous. "It'd be funny if they were all true" said Katie G.

Society tends to reject what they don't understand and accept that which enters their heads through the media. The media plasters their ads with homoerotism. Pictures of half naked men which most males would kill to look like. Women in bras holding each other. Everyday as people flip through magazines, turn on their televisions, or look up at a billboard they are bombarded with these images. Men buy expensive clothing by Prada and D&G designed by gay men portraying what they want to see men in.

Acceptance is something many gay teens struggle for throughout their high school lives and although it has come a long way in the last decade it still has a lot further to come. Schools have been popping up in the United States, which are exclusive to gay teens. A place to go to school and not worry about the ridicule they would have to face being a minority in a public school.

Gay or straight acceptance, a sense of belonging, it's something we all desire – even need.

"I am who I am, I like who I like"


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