"When I was younger, I never knew that being LGBT+ was possible"

When I was younger, I never knew that being LGBT+ was possible. I grew up hating skirts, loving music and anything sporty (well, anything except cross-country running). I’ve attended four different schools, and none of them told me about who LGBT+ people are.

I was often confused when crushes were brought up and I didn’t understand why all the girls seemed to like the boys, and vice versa.

When we were split up into boys and girls for class activities, it felt strange to me, but I didn’t question it too much as it was just what the teachers told us to do. I tried to “follow the rules” as much as possible, both socially and academically.

I then moved to an all-girls school at the age of 13, where things started to get even more confusing. The school was often stigmatised by students from other schools that we were “all lesbians”, which caused my fellow pupils to actively shun anything related to girls liking other girls. It was also here that I was also taught how a girl should act, from being good at gossiping to enjoying dressing up for the boys.

I hadn’t spoken to another boy for about 3 years excluding my family due to the rigour of the school’s rules, so I assumed that I just hadn’t had the chance to meet the right one yet. Everything would just fall into place at my next school, supposedly.

In a sense, that’s just what it did. The mixed sixth form helped me realise my identity as it exposed me to a whole new range of experiences and ideas. I met new people and made closer friends than ever before. It was here that I finally felt comfortable coming out as bisexual, where I could openly talk about my feelings and worries.

The school was not perfect, however. There were still large groups of students who were judgemental of certain behaviours, with some making jokes about wearing the “wrong” type of clothing or actively bullying those with “unusual” personalities. Because of this, I still felt somewhat isolated from peers, which I eventually recognised as an indicator of me being transgender.

Due to fear of negative reactions from my fellow pupils, I decided to wait until university to come out completely, where I thought I could start a whole new life and identity. University has greatly affected my outlook on life for the better – I have only surrounded myself with people I trust, who respect me and have my back. I can bring my whole self to gatherings, and have the confidence to stand up for myself and other transgender people if anything goes wrong.

If there was one piece of advice I wish I’d heard at school, it would be that you shouldn’t feel you have to follow the rules of what everyone else says. You can wear what you want, do what you want – be you, not what others want you to be.

Finley is a Just Like Us Ambassador from Oxford.

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