To the class of 64
I talk to some of you now on a relatively frequent basis, we relive old lies from our school days but there are some places, we dare not go.
The harassment stopped after a while, but my truth had been destroyed. For the next years I learnt to live a lie.
I became so very good at it!
It all seems so stupid, now; I meet some of you as an openly gay man, we laugh, trade jokes and good natured barbs.
Was it my fault, I did not push the barriers at school and been honest with you and myself?
Or; were my fears well founded and burying my identity, the best way to survive?
Would the acceptance, and joy in difference; I enjoy with some of you now, have been possible then?
I will never know the answers to these questions, but I do know my cowardice came at a greater cost to me, and those closest to me than I could have ever imagined.
There were times after holidays when we would be in the car, driving the two hours back to school when I wished for a car accident, that would have saved me from having to face my fears all over again.
Honesty to myself became an expendable commodity, even though the question of my sexuality was still unresolved; even to me.
The calm that had settled in at school; seemed to be a veneer and I lived in constant trepidation the bad times would return.
There were flickers of this happening at different times for the next couple of years; they were mild compared to first year but they brought all the old dreads to the surface and would cause me to be extra vigilant in preserving the shell of conformity, I had built around myself.
There are regrets! I wish I could have enjoyed my school years more, and; there are certainly regrets I allowed something that happened to a scared 12-year-old to determine my path through life, for many more years than it should have.
We were the products of our time and the prejudices of our parents, this was not our fault.
All the old enmities I may have felt about this time; have been eroded by the acceptance, knowledge and honesty I have learned over the years.
The harm caused by the hatred and bigotry of those years, seems so absolutely fruitless when we look back and count the cost.
The cost may have been worth it, if; these days were truly behind us.
The fight against bigotry and hatred has enjoyed many victories in my life time, but there are still vocal pockets of prejudice which causes me to reflect on my school days and the damage still being caused to the future lives of children currently searching for their own identity.