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Pushing the Edge

Break the Silence

Challenge the silence

This is a raw account of silence within school. A silence born out of fear and despair. A silence that we have the power to challenge as educators.

I remember coming to consciousness – lying in corridor next to the lockers. 

I slowly look up as student after student steps over me – not one person stops.

At that moment, I know my place in this school.

I feel like I’m nothing.

I feel like I count for nothing.

And that’s my life.

 

I ride my bike down the path – toward the bike shelter.

I know he’ll be there. He always is.

The unrelenting sense of foreboding, the anticipated torment – I still feel it today like it’s yesterday. 

 

I walk along the breezeway –

Students lining both sides spit out abuse as I pass….

 

How to write?

What to write – when there’s a seemingly unending swirling storm within me and around me.

When I can’t make sense of this world I’m part of.

When I can’t see a way through.

Constructing a coherent sentence – seems beyond me.

Sharing myself seems too much a risk.

 

I walk towards the changing rooms, my heart-rate quickening, nausea rising within me. 

I knew the abuse that lay ahead – outside of earshot of any teacher.

If I could escape I would. But where would I go?

Where was the world for people like me?

 

I stand in line, for the picking of teams.

I knew the smirks, sneers and humiliation that’d be coming.  

And that wait to be picked – to be deemed worthy always seemed to stretch for an eternity.

And we hadn’t even gotten out onto the field. 

 

The bell rings for recess – peak danger time.

I go to the one place that I always go at break-time – the library. 

I read, read, read….blocking out the hurt, the despair, speaking to no-one.

For that moment, I’m somewhat at peace – in other worlds.

It’s an uneasy peace though …for there’s no-one like me in the books that I devour.

No books explain why I feel the way I do – explain why I’m all alone. 

I steel myself as the bell rings to return to class…

 

How to speak – what to say.

How do I put in words what’s going on for me – when I can’t see any signals of acceptance around me?

So I don’t.

I shut up.

I keep quiet, barely speaking through my secondary school years.

I keep me deeply hidden within.

And I keep me hidden for many, many years to come….

Never daring to tell anyone. 

 

Late in my twenties, I push back against the silence – my silence.

I dare to assemble and speak the words that announce me – as I am – in that moment. 

How many times have I stepped this close to the doorway – only to step back?

How many times have I circled the block, daring myself to walk through that door?

How many times have I rehearsed what I’m going to say?

 

I was waiting for a sign that I’d be okay, once I walked through the doors.

I was waiting for you to show me that ‘I mattered’.

I was waiting for you to show me that ‘who I was’ mattered. To know that my experiences and my life counted for something.

I was waiting for you to take a stand against the unrelenting violence towards kids like me. 

I was waiting for you to challenge the deafening silence about kids like me.  

To show me that I wasn’t alone. 

I was waiting for you to utter the words – that I had no comprehension of. 

And as I waited and waited, I steeled myself amidst the tears, heartache and sense of hopelessness. 

I would never back down nor take a step backward. 

I would not lose me – whoever that was – for the ‘peace’ of acceptance. 

There was a fierce determination there – that hadn’t been beaten out of me. 

Something deep within me knew this wasn’t it – although it wasn’t very confident or practised in announcing itself to me. 

 

I had to get away. I had to escape.

And so I did many years later – on a journey to a world where queer diversity was loud and proud, and definitely not taking a backstep.

Here’s where my journey of healing and regeneration started –

As I dared to reach out and connect with others like me.

As I read and studied about others like me.

As I partied and revelled with others like me – my community. 

Life was complicated, messy, and unrelentingly diverse here. And there was a place for people like me.  

And that silence that was my companion through the school years…was no longer so compelling. 

So:

  • How will you break the everyday silence surrounding same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people in schools and educational institutions – 
    • in conversations, in curriculum, in resources, and school-wide practices?
    • in educational conferences, and online forums like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn?
  • How will you show same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people that they matter – that there are opportunities for them in life?
  • How will you support young people who are working to make school safer for all students?
  • How will you amplify and support the voices of GLBTI people online – sharing their work, their ideas, their calls for support?
  • How will you recognize the intersections of identity – drawing attention to the connections between sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, belief systems, disabilities  and other aspects of difference?

Ultimately, there is a cost to silence…..

  • School is still the most unsafe place for same-sex attracted and gender diverse young people. 

You can do something. You can make a difference. 

GLBTI Resources - Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran

Break the Silence Resources:

No matter how powerless you feel. No matter how hopeless it may seem – you are not alone, you matter, and you have worth.

Know that many others are working for change and want to connect with you.

I have compiled educational resources relating to working with GLBTI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) young people. There’s plenty of tips and insights as well.

If you’re GLBTI yourself, I’ve also included links to support organizations. So check them out.  

Naming Matters – Break the Silence

Here’s why we need to name sexuality and gender identity when discussing diversity or difference – Read my post.

Why we must name sexualityTweetback

I’ve been incredibly overwhelmed by the feedback to this post. Thank you so much everyone.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Gayle Taylor

    Greg Thank you for this post. For all of us who know and love it is indeed a sad indictment of our humaness. I was saddened to read the students comments as my daughter also was bullied way back in the 70s when we lived alternatively. Sad, very sad.

    • Greg Curran

      Your support means a lot Gayle. Speaking up and supporting each other across difference is so vital – as is reaching out and seeking to understand those who are different to us. Although I feel discouraged at times, I’m also tremendously heartened by those working for change – across points of difference. Thank you.