I remember year 10 – it was 1990, a whole other century ago, and it might well have been given where we have progressed to since then. I saw something by Michael Caton the other day, where he said that when he graduated high school he didn’t even know of the existence of homosexuality, let alone its meaning. Thinking back, I was probably similarly ignorant – the world had progressed, for sure, but the community and acceptance that exists these days is so wonderfully advanced, that for people like my son, connecting with support and a community has relegated so many of the struggles that people faced in the past to the dustbin of history. Thank goodness. That isn’t to say that different struggles don’t exist now to replace the ones of the past, but I know that for Squidlet, finding a community and being an active part of it, to whatever degree his is comfortable, has made an amazing difference on his mental health, on his confidence, and on his ability to see a pathway ahead that leads to a positive future. Recently there was an example of this that left me so happily stunned, and was SO contrary to what life was like when I was a kid, that afterwards I had to take a moment in the car to let the happiness that I felt myself flow through me. I know that all sounds a bit sensitive and whatnot but hell, it was a damn good moment people!
You see my son attended his first “formal”, or given he’s half American, a “prom”! But it wasn’t through school, or even with his graduating class, instead it was held by the Canberra PFLAG group to give young LGBTQI kids an opportunity to celebrate the milestone of transitioning through education in a comfortable, welcoming space, where they could just be themselves, and with a Halloween theme, there was plenty of scope there to dress just how you wanted to … no pressure for crazily expensive dresses or suits, no expectations thrust at you, just a great opportunity to have a fun time. Apparently the highlights included a food van, Goodberry’s and an excellent music selection. But for this old man, seeing my son walking in to the Ainslie Arts Centre with a mate of his from school, cheered by PFLAG reps (every attendee had pretty consistent mortification) as they walked up the steps … well, it sure was a moment. Squidlet will be changing schools next year, heading off to a College here in Canberra that he, and his mother and I are really excited about. But in the meantime he is able to participate in the traditions of educational transition in a unique way, which celebrate who he has become, in ways that speak to his journey, and to the community that provides those moments and holds open those doors for him, well, I couldn’t be thankful enough.