A gay teenager broke down in tears the day before his suicide, telling a friend he was afraid of returning to school.
Gypsie-Lee Edwards Kennard told 7.30 she was on a fishing trip with Tyrone Unsworth when he revealed the extent of the homophobic taunts he was facing from other students.
“He was an absolute mess, crying his eyes out and telling me everyone wants him dead and I said, ‘Tyrone, what do you mean everyone wants you dead?’,” Ms Edwards Kennard told 7.30.
“He said, ‘The kids at school keep telling me to go kill myself’, and I was obviously gobsmacked.
“[The other students] did call him nasty names, like faggot and fairy.
“He loved girly things, he’s chosen dresses for me and his mum to wear, he’s asked to use makeup.
“Kids obviously thought because he’s like that he could be a target for their bullying.”
Ms Edwards Kennard said she pleaded with him to seek help from his teachers at Brisbane’s Aspley State High School.
“I said, ‘You need to speak to someone [at the school]’ and he said, ‘They don’t care’,” she said.
“He just felt like no-one wanted him around and he didn’t belong.
“It’s really hard to hear that from a child that’s only 13 years old.”
‘This kid picked up a fence paling and hit him from behind’
One month ago Tyrone was in a fight with another student outside of school hours that left him hospitalised.
Queensland Police is investigating the assault.
“A kid and him, they fight a lot, this kid picked up a fence paling and hit him from behind and knocked him out and broke Tyrone’s jaw,” Ms Edwards Kennard said.
His grandmother Twiggy Jones said the assault had a major impact on Tyrone.
“He was very upset and sad and he didn’t want to go to school,” she said.
“We tried to force him but he just kept saying, ‘No, I don’t want to go back to school.'”
Aspley State High School has admitted it knew about the assault but said it had no idea homophobic bullying was occurring, something Tyrone’s family disputes.
Principal Jacquita Miller declined to be interviewed by 7.30, but in a statement Education Queensland said:
“Tyrone was absent from school following the incident and the school attempted to make contact with the family regularly,” the statement said.
“The school has the best interests of the family and school community at heart in handling this matter.”
Ms Edwards Kennard said she wished Tyrone had experienced a supportive environment that allowed him to open up.
“I wish that he could have expressed the feelings that he had and I don’t know why he couldn’t, and this one time that he did to me, afterwards he had to pretend everything was fine,” she said.
Calls for Safe Schools to be introduced to all schools
Yesterday hundreds of people gathered in Brisbane to remember Tyrone, with people asked to dress in bright colours, something he loved.
Tyrone’s mother, Amanda, was due to speak but cancelled due to her ongoing grief.
Speakers at the rally called for the controversial Safe Schools program to be made mandatory to prevent bullying of queer students.
“I had a gay daughter who, in her mid-20s, committed suicide,” William, a man in the crowd, told 7.30.
“She was bullied and vilified from the beginning of school because she was different.
“It shouldn’t happen, we should have Safe Schools in all schools.
“We need to protect our kids from bullying.”
Gay university student Christopher Hanson spoke about how he wished Safe Schools was available for him, who as a teenager hid his sexuality and struggled with depression.
“When I was in high school and I suffered from poor mental health,” he told the rally.
“Safe Schools hadn’t yet come into existence and there wasn’t really anything like it in its place but I wish there had been.
“Instead I had to find support for myself.”
Mr Hanson’s said his school made the situation worse by providing sex education that ignored his sexuality.
“Sex education throughout all of my schooling essentially pretended that any kind of sexual or gender diversity didn’t exist,” he said.
‘I wish he could have expressed the feelings he had’
Many queer young people in Brisbane, like Mr Hanson, turn to the organisation Open Doors for support. General manager Pam Barker said most of their clients had experienced bullying.
“Taunting, name calling, hitting, kicking, spitting, telling of stories and spreading of rumours [is common],” she told 7.30.
Ms Barker said many schools want to provide education about sexuality, but remain afraid of discussing it properly.
“They’re scared that their children will turn gay, their children will become transgender, that we’re teaching something outside of religious beliefs,” she said.
“Parents may backlash and get upset about it and they want us to tell the students about being sexually diverse or gender diverse but [they say], ‘Don’t tell them that much or don’t say this or don’t mention homosexuality or don’t mention transgender’.”
People who need help with mental health issues can call specialist queer counselling service Q Life on 1800 184 527.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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