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The subtle significance of this 17-year-old's coming out speech to his Sydney school.

Seventeen-year-old Sydney student Finn Stannard telling his entire school that he’s gay was one of the most important moments in his life so far.

But his powerful message of acceptance and being true to yourself had added weight because of the place he was sharing it: at St Ignatius’ College in Riverview.

It’s the same school where Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce were educated.

And yet at the school where two of the biggest opponents of same-sex marriage graduated, they warmly received the graduating student’s coming out through his keynote speech earlier this year.

Finn said that he first told his parents he was gay 18 months after he had realised it himself when he was 13 years old.

While for some gay Australians, telling their parents can be the most difficult part of all, Finn’s parents accepted his sexuality immediately and told him it didn’t change a thing.

However, the 17-year-old told his school – some 1500 students and staff – that he struggled with telling friends and classmates.

“While my family handled the news of my sexual identity perfectly, outside of home, being gay has not always been easy,” he said in his speech, published in full by SBS.

“I have been the subject of countless rumours and unpleasant jokes. Telling friends was difficult and came with a lot of anxiety.

“My main fear was no longer being accepted, of losing my friends, and being the subject of derogatory jokes.”

Finn said he didn’t know how to be himself at school and so wore a “mask”, but after seeking help from his school’s counselling team he finally felt ready to share the truth with his peers.

The graduating student, who is going to study teaching at university next year, later told SBS that the “yes” vote on the same-sex marriage plebiscite was what gave him the final push to make the speech.

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“When the results of the plebiscite came out, that’s when I knew that I could do the speech and it would be alright in the end,” he said.

Principal Paul Hine told SBS the school was supportive of Finn’s decision to share his story.

Former student Tony Abbott has long seen same-sex marriage as a “change to society” because “marriage is the basis of family; and family is the foundation of community”. It’s a stance many gay people find deeply offensive.

Barnaby Joyce, meanwhile, refused to vote in Parliament when his government pushed through the legislation they promised to in December last year after the survey of Australians returned a resounding “yes” to same-sex marriage.

It’s not the first time the school has opposed its well-known alumni’s positions publicly.

In August 2013, a group of 450 students signed an open letter to then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott and a few other politicians calling out his government’s treatment of asylum seekers. This was shortly after a riot at the recently-reopened Nauru detention centre.

“We feel compelled to express our disappointment that, as graduates of our Jesuit schools, you would allow those principles, cultivated in our common tradition, to be betrayed,” the letter read.

“[Your policies] betray our national character of being large-hearted, of giving someone ‘a fair go’, and of ‘helping the battler’. They lack moral courage and, in the light of our international obligations, may be illegal.”

You can watch and read Finn Standard’s full speech here.

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