In the News: A country boy’s story about coming out: self-harm, suicide and Safe Schools

I didn’t even know what “gay” was until I was harassed for having it. Gay boy. Dirty sanchez. Fancy pants. Faggot. Gay, I soon learnt, was undesirable.

My family lived in a town called Waaia, a hamlet near Shepparton, which in 2015 had the lowest average annual income in Victoria (just $27,627). Each weekday, I would travel by bus to and from the larger town of Numurkah to attend a public secondary college.

I was different. Not only was this made clear to me in derogatory terms, but I also knew I was different – in the way I spoke, the way I held my body. These demarcated me. During those years, I didn’t understand why my eyes would move to the shower block at the gym and I was too afraid to ask. And so, before each PE class, I changed in a toilet cubicle, dodging loo paper, puddles of urine and, once, a condom.

The only difference between me and a person who identifies as heterosexual is the people each of us sleeps with

Ten years later, homophobia is still common in Australia. I didn’t feel safe enough to come out until after I’d left rural Victoria, yet to this day I continue to encounter scorn – in the media, from our federal government, on the street – because my eyes are drawn to men.

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