I didn’t personally struggle with homophobia at Grammar. In 5th form, I got involved with the production some guys did with EGGS down the road, and joined the choir, which eventually became the barbershop chorus, Grammacoustix. My aunt taught me how to knit, and I used to make beanies for girlfriends I had made by being in production. They seemed to really like the gifts. It didn’t bother me that other Grammar boys used to consider me gay for these things, because it was insignificant sacrifice for feeling like a huge hit at production after school.
I used to use the word ‘gay’ fairly often. I felt my mates understood it meant I didn’t like something, and I didn’t ever really think of it as homophobic. It was just another word we used–‘mean’, ‘sweet as’, ‘gay’. Homosexuality seemed funny, because it was so obscure. Like sex, or death. It happened in books, movies and imagination. We joked at lunchtime that Ben had had sex with Alice last week. We were jealous that Alice liked Ben. We joked that Oliver was gay (for the record these are completely random names). We didn’t understand why he was the way he was. He didn’t make sense to us. We all felt insecure about something, and it was easy to throw the word ‘gay’ or ‘faggot’ at someone, to take the attention from ourselves. Sometimes we just bandied the words about because we didn’t know what else to say.
In the past, the resources for men discovering their sexuality at Grammar have often been lost in heteronormative rhetoric. The Grammar way is to thrive in a culture of achievement, and to carry oneself with pride. I’m not particularly proud that many of my classmates felt ashamed to be a portion of themselves at school. I am wholly grateful for the opportunities Grammar granted me, in particular for what felt to me like an environment that supported and encouraged my self-discoveries. It’s upsetting to think that, had I explored my sexuality differently, I may not have felt as comfortable.
Homophobic culture at Grammar isn’t an academic issue. We won’t get given a grade as proof of how inclusive or exclusive we are. We can’t cram formulas on how not to be a bigot the night before, to forget the details a couple of days later. Homophobia isn’t something that can be solved quickly, in the way we solve maths. We can’t make an announcement in assembly that homophobia is now a capital crime in the same way that throwing fruit at lunchtime is. Most young men will always be tormented by sexuality in one way or another (sometimes I can’t sleep for the thought of someone). It would make me proud to have graduated from a school where students feel respected as all types of men.
The atmospheric homophobia at Grammar is not often the result of directed and purposeful hate speech. It’s usually the result of a lack of awareness around how words like ‘faggot’ and ‘gay’ signify for those who feel them closer to heart. Everyone is dealing with their own insecurities (especially between the ages of 12 and 18) and it is simple kindness to be aware of how your language effects those around you. There is no way to discover the direct impact of every word on everyone, but when someone speaks up, we ought to listen. This movement is a clear indication that our light-hearted banter is burrowing into the confidence and self-expression of our friends. This is more than reason enough for me to reconsider the way I use that language, and think about the ways I can support my friends, rather than making them feel as though they ought to be someone else.
Lachlan graduated as Senior Prefect in 2012 and is now studying Computer Science at Princeton University in the United States. He is currently working as a web and iOS developer for the Paideia Institute in Rome while on a gap year adventure, spending his free time reading books and writing music.