5 Ways Catholic School Failed Me


Representations of gay people and the queer experience in the media have been a hot topic recently. So hot you could say that they’ve been flaming, but I won’t because I know that joke isn’t very funny. With The Walking Dead (kind of), Glee, How to Get Away with Murder, Looking, Modern Family (*rolls eyes*) and #JONNOR, there are positive and healthy (though, very white) queer people and relationships gracing our television screens than ever before.

But seeing these positive images on TV is bittersweet for me. On the one hand, it’s exciting to see the archetypal narratives for queer people being re-written. There are two types of queer narrative: the first is that we all have to struggle and become victims before we reach a point of heroic and superhuman self-actualisation and live proudly as who we are. The second is that we kill ourselves. 

Seeing these upbeat images is sweet in the sense that it will mean that queer people may be less inclined to adhere to these narratives in their own lives. They’ll be less inclined to see themselves as a victim, and the perpetrators of abuse may be less inclined to make them into one. They’ll get to live. That’s pretty fabulous. Seeing these images is bitter, though, because I didn’t get them. I had to suffer! Do you know what I was doing at thirteen? I was looking at straight porn and having a shit time wondering why my dick wasn’t getting hard and why vaginas made me feel like crying. Fuck you.

Representation is a funny thing, in the sense that it’s important because it doesn’t make us feel so alone, and allows us to understand who we are and how we can function in circumstances that aren’t immediately our own. It provides hope, a lot of the time. But key to representation is depicting an entire experience, and not a sanitised one. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about how we romanticise the queer experience and the queer struggle and how, while these positive images and ideas are good, they feel a little inauthentic. So I want to de-romanticise the hardest time in my queer life so far: High School. 

1.     Partner
I came out in year 12 and once all of the teachers got wind of it, every time I was in a room or class they made sure to be super politically correct and qualify any remotely romantic statement they made by shouting, ‘or partner, SAME SEX PARTNER’ at me and smiling. 

Now, I’m going to tell you a secret: You can say boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife all you want and literally no one cares. You saying, ‘partner’ doesn’t (and it didn’t) change the fact that we still can’t get married. You saying partner means literally nothing. It meant nothing then.

 You’re not getting a gold star from me, fuck off. 

2.    Religious Education

R.E was a compulsory part of my education until year 12, where apparently our futures started mattering and we were able to stop ‘exploring our faith’. The problem with the subject (or the most glaring problem out of the thousands I’m probably repressing) was that we didn’t learn about religion or Catholicism at all. We learnt about social issues, mental health and sex.

It meant that any conversations about homosexuality were followed by gasps and the ultra-conservative fuckwit teacher automatically mentioning sin, hell, or talking about his wife immediately after. I remember we had to do independent research assignments one year on an approved topic. We went around the room and someone said, ‘Homosexuality: Right of Wrong?’ as their topic.

The teacher clapped and said, ‘oh, that’ll be interesting’.

3.    Formal

In Year 11, we had school formal. It was also the first year that girls were allowed to transfer into our grade from other schools. Years 11 and 12 were co-ed. Come formal time, a lot of the girls were still new and everyone was still getting to know each other. When it came time to get dates, a lot of girls wanted to bring female friends from their old school to the event.

Apparently this was all a little too ‘Ellen’ for Catholic school. 

In order to bring someone of the same gender to the dance, the school required girls, or boys, to come out and identify themselves publicly as a homosexual to the school because apparently formal was an acronym for 

Manly girls
Less than garbage

And apparently we were all attending fucking Auschwitz, for Christ fucking sake.  

4.    Change Rooms
At my school we had communal change rooms. Proper college-movie, football style change rooms with no cubicles or privacy. It led to the creation of two polar opposites types of men: one with and one without a sense of decorum and shame. I never got called a faggot, got groped by my classmates or felt more uncomfortable than I did in the change rooms before or after P.E, I never had more anxiety about getting a very obvious erection than I did while I was getting changed and more aware that I was different, that I was a total and definite other than I did while I was rummaging through my bag looking for my left sneaker. 

It wasn’t all-bad, though. I actually also really loved the change room, because- often- the biggest dickbags at school were also the ones who were the best at sports and, coincidentally, the hottest. So I got to get my freak on, too. It was a weird space to exist in and led to the creation of, what I have called, ‘Retributive Ogling’ whereby you take mental pictures of a hot homophobe and masturbate over them later. 

(Schoolmates (lol, I say mates... I don’t mean it) inevitably reading this, you and I did some filthy things in those change rooms.).

5.    Tech

There was compulsory woodwork, metal work and tech subjects and the only thing that I got out of it was about three years worth of puns about wood, about ninety chipped nails and legitimately nothing the FUCK else. 

It’s hard to be positive about all of the shit that queer people have to deal with, and while hope is good (and necessary), so is empathy. I’ve come to the conclusion that we, as a community, need to be less positive about nour narratives. Positive energy is all about making the people who make us feel terrible about ourselves feel okay about the shitty things they’ve done to us. I’m not about that, and I don’t think I ever will be. We should be getting the real thing, because Catholic school sucked for me and I’m pretty sure it fucking sucks for a lot of other people right now.