A gay student in Sydney, Australia brought his Catholic school classmates, teachers, and parents to their feet when he came out at to a packed room during an assembly.
“I have been working towards this speech for four years,” Finn Stannard, a senior at the prestigious St Ignatius’ College, Riverview, revealed.
This is the moment a gay student at one of Sydney’s most elite Catholic schools – that boasts former prime minister Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce among its alumni – stood up in a packed assembly hall of more than 1,500 students and came out pic.twitter.com/NyZxffFBmr
— SBS News (@SBSNews) November 26, 2018
He then told the 1,500-plus crowd that he was gay, and what it was like realizing his true self, amid hearing anti-gay jokes and rumors in the hallways. He shared his struggle to be open with his family, and to reach out for support despite societal pressures for men to ignore their issues and hope they go away.
But Stannard realized over time he couldn’t keep “hiding behind the mask” he’d made for himself and spoke to school counselors to help the process of coming to terms with his true self, and how he could be visible to make sure other LGBTQ students would have an easier time.
“I think that’s really the biggest reason I made sure I got up onto that stage and gave the speech,” he told SBS News. “I don’t think anybody should have to go through the feeling of loss that I felt like I’d gone through.”
“Once I started to accept who I was and realized that I couldn’t do it all alone, I found my life getting a lot brighter,” he told the room. “I’ve become a lot happier at school, I’ve met new people and come to understand who my real friends are. All of this seemed impossible to the boy I was a mere 12 months ago.”
Australia voted in favor of marriage equality this year, and a subsequent effort to allow religious schools to block LGBTQ students has been thwarted.
“When the results of the plebiscite came out, that’s when I knew that I could do the speech and it would be alright in the end,” Stannard, who plans to become a teacher, said.
He reports having been approached by other students who have been struggling with their sexuality since coming out, and recently took his boyfriend to the school formal.
“I think the best part was seeing all these other people with their dates and not feeling any different,” he said.