If I had the opportunity to go back and go through high school all over again, the first thing I’d change is how open I was about my sexuality. Having seen so many depictions on film and TV, in which the token gay kid at school was subject to relentless harassment and bullying, I was always terrified that if I came out at school, I’d ultimately suffer the same fate. Perhaps even more terrifying was the prospect of being known as ‘the gay guy’ in my year. When you already stand out from the crowd as much as I do (literally at 6”5), the last thing you want to do is give people another reason to talk about you behind your back. As someone who spends large portions of his day even now thinking about what others think about him, I wasted hours contemplating how others would react if I told them I was gay - whether I would I lose friends, whether people would treat me differently, and (especially difficult for me) whether my male friends would think I was ‘into’ them. I couldn’t confidently answer any these questions with a ‘no’, so I didn’t properly come out until well after my final year of school.
However, I’ve since learned that a large number of people in my year thought/knew I was gay regardless, which has led me to the conclusion that I would have been treated pretty much the exact same way if I had chosen to make my sexuality public – a somewhat frustrating realisation, given the amount of time spent agonizing over the matter. Perhaps I was just exceptionally lucky, but when I eventually started telling those I loved, I didn’t get one bad reaction, and have basically the exact same relationship with all of my friends - including my male ones.
I also recognize I was extremely fortunate in that the one thing I always had was a strong sense of belonging at school. Perhaps at other schools, male involvement in the performing arts is somewhat frowned upon. But I can happily say that at my school, being in school shows was never something that was considered uncool. Guys were celebrated for their involvement just as much as they were for their sporting achievements.
Looking at my experience at school, I know I didn’t have it anywhere near as bad as many others in the LGBTQ community. I was still riddled with insecurity and uncertainty about my sexuality, but the supportive and inclusive environment that my school provided for me helped me with coming to terms with who I was.
I guess ultimately, the point I’m really trying to make is that as a gay person, there was nothing more important than wanting to feel normal, and knowing that I wouldn’t be judged or known solely for my sexual orientation. In that sense, I think it's so crucial for schools, and the students and staff within them, to create environments in which gay people can be confident that, should they choose to come out, they will be supported, loved and respected. If more of that was to happen, I think you’d see more and more people feeling increasingly comfortable with coming out at school, which would prevent years of prolonging telling friends because of concerns around how they’d react.