At the age of 13 I left my cookie-cutter suburb west of the GTA in hopes of finding a high school that would support my passion for the performing arts. I ended up at the Etobicoke School of the Arts in Toronto.
I’d like to say that I left the suburbs to pursue my passion for the performing arts, but that’s only half of the truth. It sucks to grow up in a place where you’re expected to pick up a pair of skates and put down your ballet shoes. It also sucks to pretend to like playing spin the bottle with a circle that isn’t all boys.
Going to a performing arts school in a distant land called Toronto was a way for me to say, “Screw you, narrow-minded kids of the playground. I’m going to make something out of myself and you’re all going to work at Harvey’s down the street.”
When I got accepted to the school as a drama major, I was in Glee. No, I don’t mean I was “gleeful” or happy; I figuratively entered the high school of the television show Glee. Walking down the hall, I’d pass people carrying tubas, dance majors all fitted in Luluemon and art majors reeking of pot. I was in homo heaven. I went from pretending to be something I’m not to being hit on by 12th-graders. I was pleased, to say the least. But this newfound diversity went beyond the hallways – I was also surrounded by a diverse group of teachers.
Once you accept that you’re gay, the next step is figuring out the rest of your life. Sounds easy, eh? Well, for me, the biggest question was to decide whether I should follow the example of my straight peers and start coupling up. I initially rejected this monogamistic ideal, identifying it as a symbol of heterosexual repression. But after thinking about it, I realized that hey, maybe having a long-term relationship would be nice for me too.
This is where my artsy-fartsy high school comes in. I feel that having several openly gay high school teachers helped me figure out where I fit into this topsy-turvy world. People in the media and pop culture always allude to the idea that having a role model can magically give you something concrete to work towards. I used to think that the concept of having a gay role model was hogwash. Now, I’m not so sure. By having my gay high school teachers refer to their partners, their kids, their families, I was able to create this tangible concept of a monogamous relationship.
If you’re different, in any way shape or form, it’s not silly to look to a role model for guidance. There is power in seeing others live the life that you want to live, and I think that everyone should draw on that.
By: Kieran Healey