UPDATED 12/1/16: Looking back at my time at Grammar I feel I got off relatively easily compared to others. I spent the first few years of my Grammar life simply watching in the background, trying to find a place I fit in with a group of people I felt like would accept me. During the time I was in the shadows I saw a lot. I feel as if each year’s set of students came with their own set of issues.
I can picture one memory as clear as day – a student, one or two years my senior walking down mountain road, barely even left the school grounds when he was ambushed by a group of 4 boys. This student was pushed around violently, items knocked from his clutch, ignorant and abusive slurs bellowed at him from every angle… He was being bullied by kids who thought that they had every right to uphold him to a certain level of ‘masculinity’. Watching this from a distance as a fourth former in the car with my father I remember being urged to keep my sexuality a secret so that I would not become the next subject of such bullying. I wish I had spoken up for the student being bullied at the time, but I was scared.
I began carefully coming out at 14 (year 10) 6 months after moving to New Zealand from England. As I began moving through the years I would slowly begin dropping hints to people that I was gay so that I could see how they would react before I would confirm it. Eventually I found an amazing set of friends, some of which held similar values and also found solace in confiding in me.
Through year 10/11 I even devised a code word system with a friend whenever we were talking about guys in public, feeling the need to filter every word that came out of my mouth so as to not bring attention to myself.
It wasn’t until late year 12 when I was finally asked, “are you gay?” rather than just being called a “homo” or “faggot” which was the first time I had actually denied my sexuality rather than just changing the subject. This had an emotional toll on me to the point that I thought that hiding it anymore would only cause more harm than good.
In my final full year of grammar as an openly gay student, I was happier being myself and being out, but the homophobic and heteronormative biases everywhere became even more apparent. From the groups of students/club members/sports team members you would avoid, to the teachers who proclaimed that if you weren’t man enough to attend Grammar then there was always plenty of other schools looking for “sissies” or “anyone who can’t man up”, holding up a letter of expulsion as a way of turning you from a current student to an “old boy”.
As the end of my school year drew closer the year 13 ball began approaching. I was in a relationship at the time and so naturally I wanted to bring my partner to the ball as my date. I thought that seeing as I had not heard of anybody trying this before I should just confirm that this was fine. What began as seeking confirmation turned into a quest. I was sent on long-winded mission in order to speak to various different staff members across the whole staffing team in order to get “cleared to bring a male as a partner to the ball”. Whilst I did, eventually, receive such “clearance” it should not have been such an ordeal. In the end I actually ended up bringing a dear (female) friend with me to the ball for a variety of reasons. In 2012, students at Grammar were unable to attend if they weren’t accompanied by a female to the ball. Whilst I am so proud that I pushed for same sex partners to be allowed to attend the ball together, I have not heard of anybody being actively notified that they may bring a male partner if they so wish, so this would be a great step forward in supporting LGBTQIA students – actively telling the student body that they may bring a female or male partner to the ball.
However I did find great comfort in an amazing set of friends who cared not for what I was instead cared for who I was, but also found an open ear in a few truly fantastic teachers who were genuinely part of the reason I turned out to be the proud, openly gay and fabulous man I am today.
If there was one thing I could tell myself back in my early days at Grammar it would be: People are always going to find a reason to hate you, instead give them a reason to love you for who you are and if they can’t hack it then they have no business being given a second thought.
Jordan is a 21 year old student studying Psychology and Physiology under a Science degree at the University of Auckland. He is about to begin his third year learning New Zealand Sign Language extracurricular and is also very keen about looking into retraining as a Sign Language Interpreter in New Zealand.