Matthew (Mt Albert Grammar School)

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I attended Mount Albert Grammar from 2007 – 2011. There were several reasons I didn’t come out at high school, some MAGS related, some not. However, two school-related reasons for why I didn’t come out were the school culture, and my desire to become a prefect.

From my early days at school I felt that being gay was not welcomed. There was a conservative trend that celebrated a certain image. Sporty, masculine students were always praised. They were the leaders who always spoke at assemblies and got most of the awards. These students had significant status at school – they were the ones used in photoshoots, on all the advertising, were the ‘cool’ kids and known by everyone (both teachers and students).

In contrast, homosexuality was never mentioned at school. ‘Gay’ and ‘Faggot’ were staples in the vocabulary of the boys as an insult for anyone doing anything vaguely annoying, the use of which was never once condemned by teachers as far as I saw. For most of my school years, there were no out LGBTQ students at our school, despite having a roll list of well over 2300 students. That was until my friend came out (to my surprise I should add). He was then subjected to homophobic comments, or others would fear that he might make a pass on him as if he was a sexual predator. I believe that this was because of the school’s strong pro-masculine atmosphere.

This culture definitely made me very paranoid. It really shook my confidence in early years and I felt like I could not completely relax at school, which made it hard to make new friends.

As I became more senior, I decided that I wanted to become a prefect. Yet, I was convinced that because of this culture I would not be made a prefect if people knew I was gay, so I decided I would not address my sexuality until after school. From then I worked tirelessly to achieve my goal. I joined and led many different groups. This provided a helpful distraction to the culture and my sexuality issues.

At the end of year 12 I was ecstatic to find out I was made prefect. At first I relished feeling that I was someone important at school. But 6 months down the track I was burnt out, on the verge of a breakdown. I personally took on too much. But I also felt that my sexuality was getting more scrutinised and I risked being exposed. Odd comments were made and some friends shared my secret with others which really terrified me.

The tipping point was when I received a letter in October that I wrote myself at the start of year 13 for peer support. My letter was that I had to address being gay. I remember just feeling a new level of sadness when I received it. I realised that I was still stewing in the same pool of secrecy, paranoia and self-loathing at the end of my high school years that I had at the start. This was quite a low time for me personally and by this stage I couldn’t wait to leave MAGS. I stopped going to some classes, or even school entirely because I just didn’t want to deal with the culture that I felt contributed to me feeling this way.

Ironically, a month later I was given the award for the student who best exemplifies the MAGS Spirit. My involvement in many groups and school initiatives, presence at school events and my ability to connect with my peers was recognised as best exemplifying the ‘MAGS way’. Had I not been so driven to become a prefect I don’t think I would have taken part in the opportunities at school. As a junior I didn’t join anything because I didn’t think I would be the ‘right fit’ and didn’t feel at place at MAGS. However, I think having given myself a goal and having found others who didn’t comply with the MAGS archetype made me feel more comfortable at school. This allowed me to establish myself as a student leader. But this goal also came at the cost of me suppressing my identity; which looking back now, I’m unclear if this was the best thing to do.

I think having some form of compulsory sexual education courses would be great so that these kids understand that sexuality is a spectrum. Also perhaps a teacher + student led group that provides support and awareness for this demographic so that at least there is help when people need it, but also sends out a message to students that says ‘Hey, we know you’re out there, and we recognise and support you’. For those afraid to speak out, at least knowing something is out there can reduce those fears substantially. And given the difficult time high school is already, one less thing to worry about is a success in my mind.
Matthew studied at MAGS from 2007 - 2011. During his time at MAGS, he was in the top stream and three time Scholar Lion recipient. Matthew was a Prefect as well as Leader of SADD, Peer Support Leader and Auckland Champion in Debating and Canoe Polo for 2010 and 2011. He is currently at the University of Auckland studying a BA/LLB(Hons). At University he was the Editor of Craccum in 2015 and Director of Rainbow Law for 2015 and 2016. Outside of uni, he dabbles in film, reading and obsessing over his dog Lexi.
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One thought on “Matthew (Mt Albert Grammar School)

  1. There is a LGBTQA+ support group at MAGS! I’m one of the leaders of it. We where a bit underground last year as the club had only started up, but this year we do plan to be out there and advertise ourselves. The group is called SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Acceptance) and replaces SASS a group that ran around 2013-2014 but died out because all the year 13 left. SAGA wont be faced with this problem as we have year 10 members and I’m hoping that while being a peer-support leader (AKA Queer-support) I can alert year 9 of our group. Probably our biggest challenge this year is to make the club MAGS official ™

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