School Diversity Week launch 2019: Alex's speech

When I was 14, I realised I liked girls as well as boys. At the time, I had a very limited knowledge of LGBT+ identities, but knew enough to work out I was bisexual. It was scary, and exciting; for me, it was an important part of understanding who I am.

Coming out was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. My parents were very supportive which I’m so grateful for. When I came out to my friends, they supported and accepted me, but unfortunately some of my classmates overheard. Suddenly, everyone in my year knew I was bisexual when I’d only just come to terms with it myself. People wanted to know more, but they asked awkward questions and didn’t realise they could be really intimidating. Our school sex education lessons had only covered traditional male-female relationships, so it was a really confusing time.

Two years have passed and a lot has changed. I’ve learnt more about LGBT+ identities, inside and outside of school, and have realised that I’m not bisexual, but pansexual. Pansexuality is attraction to people regardless of their sex or gender. It shares many similarities with bisexuality, but describes a more genderblind attraction that I feel fits me better. I’m out, proud, and so, so happy. The entire experience has been frightening at every step of the way, but I can’t change who I am, and I don’t want to.

In all that time, my school, Overton Grange, has gone through a world of change. With the support of Just LIke Us, we now have our own Pride Youth Network group - Open at Overton – which is a safe space where we support each other and work towards achieving equality within our school community. Through this club, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of assemblies teaching other students about LGBT+ identities and history. We now have forms to report discrimination so homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can be properly recorded. And there are posters in every corridor supporting and celebrating LGBT icons in a variety of careers, from geography to science, maths to music. It’s a constant, visible reminder that sexuality and gender don’t define what you can do in your life, that we can all achieve what we want to, even if we are struggling right now.

Despite all the work towards inclusivity, there’s still a long way to go, which is why School Diversity Week is so important. While my experience of coming out has been largely positive, others I know have not been so fortunate. People mutter homophobic and biphobic slurs at my friend, who’s bisexual, as he walks down the hallway. Others don’t bother to mutter; they feel comfortable enough to shout it out.

To me, School Diversity Week is a chance to educate young people about the broad spectrum of sexualities and gender identifies that exist, and to help anyone who may be questioning their own sexuality. If people are taught acceptance for LGBT+ people when they are young, then hopefully we can create a society where no one has to ‘come out’, where cisgender and heterosexuality aren’t considered the only norms, and where people who can be who they are, without fear of judgement or discrimination.

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