Classes don’t resume until after Labour Day, and that obviously doesn’t directly affect me any more, but the first of September has a Labour Day feel to it and I can’t help thinking about how privately frightening the first day back always seemed. I say ‘privately’ because I had this 1960s idea that my parents would not believe how our family friend – my head teacher and principal wannabe Mr. Glenn – scared the living shit out of me with his adult-on-child bullying of me.
It wasn’t much better in high school when bus rides of half an hour or more featured my being teased for everything from my interest in music and the arts to just being the silent type within easy reach of the testosterone-fueled gang at the back.
I worked very hard to suppress my sexual confusion, denying my friendship with an equally timid gay friend when it suited me. That attempt at self-preservation at what may have been at the expense of his sense of well-being still bothers me. It just seemed like a case of every-fag-for-himself, all three of us.
Still in all I think it was Mr. Glenn’s terror in what were, after all, my formative years in school which caused me such difficulty in applying myself to studying. It’s not that I didn’t do well, very well by the time I graduated high school with two prizes, but I regret not being able to apply myself even better. Study consisted of eyes glazing over as I turned the pages of text books, then getting a high 70 or low 80 grade. (Work-horses hated me for that, I’m sure.)
Nowadays, thankfully, school boards have resources in place to at least try to address difficulties such as those I experienced. Mr. Glenn’s job wouldn’t have lasted – neither as head teacher or principal – because I’m sure I wasn’t his only whipping boy. I might have even pressed charges against him.
There’s a well-advertised Kids Help Phone here in Canada where, as the name suggests, kids can talk to counselors about things they might not feel comfortable bringing up at the family dinner table.
There’s even a school for lgbtq kids, and youth who dropped out as kids, at least here in Toronto. While I’m sure school teachers and counselors in most places are somewhat better equipped than they were in the 60s and 70s resources like the Triangle Program are still the exception rather than the rule.
My wish for lgbtq youth, and anyone else who is at risk of bullying and heading back to school, is that your biggest worry will be what to wear – which ought not be a worry at all.