Being Out in High School: Things Have Changed

During a presentation on the reasons for The Day of Silence, which some students at Flint Hill will choose to participate in next Friday (April 16th), several leaders of the student GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) read personal statements about their own experience being gay at Flint Hill and why observing a The Day of Silence was important to them.

Mind you, they read these statements in front of the entire student body—500 of their peers.  This was not melodramatic, not teenage angst-turned-exhibitionism.  No, their statements were purposeful, level-headed, and controlled.  They spoke frankly about both their positive and negative experiences at school.

Around me, in the sophomore bleachers, the other students sat quietly and listened, which is fairly unusual for our weekly assembly.  This small group of students commanded the attention of the entire school.  Of course, I was very proud of them for being brave, but I was even more proud of them for articulating their experience with such clarity. (Always the English teacher, I guess.)  They seemed to know who they were at an age when I couldn’t have been farther from the truth about myself.

When I was a senior in boarding school, I wasn’t merely in the closet from my friends and family, I was deeply in the closet from myself.  I sublimated my own feelings, because at a conservative all-boys school, they were dangerous feelings to have.  It wasn’t until my senior year in college that I finally admitted to myself that I was attracted to men, but it would take another 10 years to come out of the closet once and for all.

As I listened to these students read their statements, I became a little jealous, just for a moment.  I wished that I’d had such self-possession at that age, such clarity.  I’ve learned to view my years in the closet, not with regret, but as a learning experience, as a necessary journey for me, but as with so many choices, you always wonder how things could have been different had the world been a different, better place.

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