Cynthia Dunphy says ‘coming out’ in high school is the hardest time.
A lot of people don’t do it, she said, because of the stigma associated with being a part of the GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning/ queer) community.
“Bullying is still a big problem,” she said. “It’s mostly verbal, but there are students who get bullied to death — it happens.”
Dunphy identifies as a bisexual woman, and had her first girlfriend when she was 15 years old.
News of her sexual identity in her hometown of Placentia Bay spread faster than she could tell people herself.
“It was a little bit forced out of the closet. But I was strong enough to be OK with it,” she said. “It was fairly difficult, but not as difficult as a lot of teenagers.”
Forming alliances — such as Western Pride NL that are organizing the 2012 Pride parade — help educate people, and sets a positive example for adolescents, Dunphy said.
Creating awareness at the post-secondary level, she said, encourages a safe space for teenagers after they graduate high school.
“If (high school students) know there are these kinds of groups, they will feel more comfortable,” said the 22-year-old.
Most people grow out of their bullying ways, but Dunphy said she still faces challenges even as she enters her fourth year of Grenfell Campus’ Fine Arts program.
“Being bisexual, you are just as judged as a gay man or lesbian woman,” she said.
There are perceptions of sexual promiscuity, she said, and a lack of knowledge about what it means to be bisexual.
“People are like ‘oh you know it’s Grenfell, people are so accepting. It’s a liberal arts college,’” Dunphy said. “But there are always still problems people are not aware of.”
At the university level, a lack of understanding was evident by a gay-straight alliance meeting held on campus last year, where Dunphy was only one of two who showed up.
“A lot of people say they’re OK with (GLBTQ issues) — but they prefer not to hear about it or see it.”
Dunphy will participate in her first Corner Brook Pride parade Saturday to show her support for the importance of gay-straight alliance education.
“It’s about equality,” she said.
The parade will start at the City Hall parking lot at 11 a.m., with the route headed up Park Street, West Valley Road and on to Margaret Bowater Park.