This article was written during 2002, by request, for the Intranet newsletter at Worth School, a private Benedictine school in Sussex.
I’m not here to preach, but I’d like to reflect on single-sex environments. They’re different aren’t they? There’s this tension, the feeling of something
deeply desired being not there. Girls.
Actually I’m hoping we can talk about boys.
You see there’s this other tension in the dorms, a doubt tinged with curiosity. Is so and so gay? Well don’t come near me then! But reflect, for a
moment, on the possibility that so and so is gay. How do they feel? Can you imagine it? There is no way they can possibly talk about their feelings or
even mention a big part of who they are to anyone at school when there’s such a negative vibe. They are also quite probably afraid of talking to their
family about such feelings. So and so might feel like he’s living a lie.
Imagine for a moment, that you were the only one in the school who liked girls and talking about them was taboo. It’s hard to imagine with things
like FHM and Loaded lying around, but try. Who would you talk to? Wouldn’t you feel trapped? Try to understand because everyone needs to explore
their sexuality. In fact nobody is 100% straight or gay, we’re all a mix of varying proportions and there may come a time when you want to explore
the less dominant parts, whether they are hetero- or homosexual. (You probably don’t believe me, but it’s true.)
Remember that every time you say someone plays football like a ‘poof’ or complain about a ‘gay’ essay you have to do for tomorrow you are hurting
someone who just as much a valid person as any of you.
In fact discrimination, direct (by not giving them a job because they are a certain way) or indirect (by using terms like ‘gay’ or ‘homo’ as a general
insult) is illegal. If you go to work in any company worth its salt and treat ethnic groups, disabled people or people of different sexualities in a
derogatory manner you’ll be fired so quickly your head will spin.
But why does this homosexual tension appear so strongly in single sex environments? I would argue that it’s a number of factors: Firstly teenagers
often have a fear of being different, they want to fit in with their peers. Being gay would involve being different and so many people fear expressing
this or accepting it. For some it is threatening to think someone you live in close proximity with for extended periods of time could like you in a
sexual manner. It complicates relationships and adds a new social dimension which we are unsure of how to handle. Finally it is in our teenage years
that we become sexual individuals, it is the newest part of one’s identity. But in a single sex environment the only way to express this is through
bravado and macho talk over a copy of FHM. How can a gay guy participate in this expression without threatening his peers who are only just
beginning to explore their own sexuality? It’s a tough challenge which adds to the tension.
But as mature and responsible people in a free society we have to deal with this throughout our lives. For example, when you go to universities you
will be plunged into a wonderfully diverse environment. You’ll get the Christian Union trying to get you to read the bible every waking moment of the
day. Then the Marxists and Socialist Workers’ Party will move in to sell you their newspapers as well as their opinions. Additionally there will be
campaigns by environmentalists, anti-racism activists and so on. More importantly you will probably be living with about four blokes and four girls.
Now let’s say one guy is gay and one girl is lesbian, the rest being straight. Imagine all the possible combinations for people fancying each other…
it’s a large number and hardly anyone will be attracted to the people fancying them but life has to go on. You will be living in an environment where
a bloke might fancy you, you might fancy a girl who fancies a girl who fancies a guy who fancies a guy. If you see what I mean.
Where am I going with this? Modern society is extremely diverse, we all need to work at being more understanding participants. The key is keeping
an open mind, not just to sexuality, but to everything.