“Hey, it’s okay to be gay”.
That’s the defining message from Noosa teenager Sam Bouzanquet who today, along with thousands of members of the LGBTIQ community and supporters, celebrated International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).
Sam, 15, believes initiatives like IDAHOT are important in providing education and “changing hearts and minds”.
He is also grateful that his experience as a gay teen has been easier than most.
“I know I have been extremely lucky, compared to previous generations of gays,” Sam said.
“Twenty six years ago, before the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, I would have been considered mentally ill.”
Sam cites a recent large scale study of male sexuality which strongly suggests homosexuality is caused by a variation in the genome.
“It’s a similar kind of variation that decides if someone is left-handed, green-eyed or just has red hair,” he said.
“Talk about insane! Can you imagine those three groups of people being classified mentally ill because of a slightly varied genome? Of course not!”
Thankfully, Sam has never been beaten-up or “even really hassled” for being gay.
“I have a loving family who have always been supportive of me and my sexuality. I was encouraged to come out at 14 years old as I had known who I was from 9,” he said.
But Sam knows that, even now, not all gay, bisexual and transgender teens are as fortunate.
“… I know, that some teenagers are not nearly as lucky as I am.
“Some may suffer from their parents rejecting them, or trying to change them, or not loving them for who they are. While others may also be bullied, put down or even physically abused.”
For Sam, IDAHOT is a chance to show his appreciation for the LGBTIQ activism which has made his life as a young, gay man a little easier and, in turn, to try to help other gay teens less fortunate than him.
“IDAHOT is a day where the LGBTIQ community and its supporters are recognised, and we’re reminded it’s OK to be gay,” he said.
“If you’re being bullied, put down or even physically abused because of your sexuality, let me say right here and now, that is not acceptable any more.
“If you’re out there, not sure of who you are, or worried what people will think, or scared of what people might do, rest assured, you are not alone.
“As a young gay man, I believe this day is needed for all of our LGBTIQ youth.”
Sam is the co-founder of Queensland’s first recognised LGBTIQ high school group.
Picture: courtesy ABC