Teen speaks out about school-yard bullying
"ALL I ever wanted was to be treated the same as everyone else."
Those are the powerful words of a brave 15-year-old, who says he has faced ridicule, bullying, segregation and physical abuse since coming out as gay in his first year of high school.
The Central Queensland teenager has bravely spoken out as the Daily Mercury highlights the urgent need for better access to mental health services for youth in the regions.
It comes after years of what Kyle Andrews describes as "hate and disrespect" from peers and what he feels is a lack of support or action from his schooling body.
Kyle said while his school insists on its anti-bullying stance, "there's a lot of talk and no action".
"I feel completely alone, every single day I'm called names like fag, poof, homo, faggot, I can't go to my next class without being shoulder-barged, all because I'm gay," he said.
"I've lost so many friends because I'm not welcome to sit in certain groups any more because 'they feel weird around me'. I've been spat on, my bike has been vandalised, I've had burnt rubber pressed on me.
"And while some of the teachers are really supportive of me there are others that only make it worse."
Kyle said he has previously been made to wait outside the bathroom under teachers' instruction, while other boys changed or showered, 'for his own safety' and because he 'makes the other boys feel uncomfortable'.
"I had to wait outside at night for over an hour until the other 40 boys showered before I was allowed to go in myself," he said.
"I've had enough now, I'm the only one standing up for me and my rights, and that's not okay."
It was actually Kyle's mum, Jane, who took to Facebook to try and garner some help or support for her son.
"I picked him up from school the other day and he was sitting by himself at this tree. I was expecting him to be hanging out with other students," she said.
"I said, 'what are you doing, where are all your friends?' He just looked at me and said, 'what friends, mum?' That was my undoing.
"I just want him to be treated like a person, not an outcast. It's terrible, he's a good kid, he doesn't deserve this."
Kyle said he is aware of other LGBTIQ students who attend the school, having spoken to him about it, but who have never come out in fear of being treated the way he is each day.
He hopes by speaking out it will make things easier "for the next person".
"I don't want another person to ever go through what I have been through, because it hurts."
They say they have approached the school about the issues on many occasions.
The teen has asked for help, harsher repercussions for the bullies, education about LGBTIQ people for his peers, and simply support but said he was met with a dismal response.
Now with his sights set firmly on change and action, Kyle has come up with a list of ideas that he feels would help resolve the issue.
"Some of the suggestions I've come up with are to form a gay-straight alliance club at the school, a public speaker to come and talk about LGBTIQ rights, harsher punishments for homophobia.
"I want to be able to celebrate that day of fighting against homophobia and names like queer, gay, poof and fag to be reprimanded as soon as they are said, not just let slide.
"And if they can't do these things then I won't be staying there any more, I can't take going to that school and battling this every day."
According to the Department of Education and Training, all Queensland state schoolstake a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.
"All schools strive to ensure they provide safe and supportive places to learn for everyone in the school community; violence, bullying and harassment are not tolerated in any form," a spokesman for the department said.
"Schools use a variety of resources, programs and initiatives to address unwanted behaviours and provide support for students, including guidance officers, school chaplains, youth support workers, community education counsellor, the school-based nurse, teachers and teacher aides."
Despite specific questioning from the Daily Mercury, the Department of Education did not state how the the school in question had responded to Kyle's own incident.
"Details of individual student bullying cases or disciplinary actions as a result of bullying behaviour cannot be made public due to student privacy," the spokesman said.
"The school has been working closely with the family resolve their concerns and is continuing to work diligently to promote safe and respectful interactions between students."