Wear it Purple to support gay teens

VICTOR HARBOR - With the announcement of premier Jay Weatherill's pledge to support gay marriage earlier this month, The Times spoke to an inspirational teenager who made the brave decision to come out during high school.

A year ago, Victor Harbor High School graduate Gemma Cole was just another teenager at school, fighting everyday issues trying to work out who she was.

On top of the usual school and friends pressures, she took the brave decision to come out as lesbian.

As a year 12 student last year, she helped the school run Wear It Purple Day, where students could come get information and sign a banner they put up in support of stopping homophobic bullying.

Gemma recieved the 2011 Lions Club Citizenship Award at her graduation last year, which she was nominated for by one of the teachers at school.

She said going through high school while coming to terms with her sexuality was "difficult".

"I had to balance school with a rollercoaster going on in my head. I would worry constantly about how my family would react, my friends and how other students would treat me," she said.

"The hardest part above all was having to constantly censor what I was saying. I was lucky though, nearly all my family and friends had no problem, some of them even said they knew before I did.

"I also had some of the greatest people helping me along the way, people who settled my worries and answered every silly question I had."

She says for those in high school discovering their sexuality should "stay strong".

"There are way more people out there who are willing to help you than to put you down," she said.

"When I came out, not all of my family were very keen on the idea, if I had to tell other peoples family anything it would be that nothing is more important than your childs happiness, and your response to their sexual orientation is something they will remember forever.

"Being gay isn't something you choose, and it isnt something you can make go away so it comes down to accepting them or losing them."

Today, she is a volunteer for the SA Whale Centre and is looking for work.

Gemma thanks her family and especially her mother Jenny for support, her teacher Jen Leske who listened and gave advice, sexual health counsellor Lud Allen and Southern Fleurieu Health Service's Emily Zesers for giving Gemma a place to talk.

Wear It Purple Day aims to raise public consciousness on the issues surrounding rainbow youth suicide.

It is celebrated this year internationally on Friday, September 7.

You can show support by wearing purple to school or work.

For more information visit wearitpurple.org

Need someone to talk to?

Mental health emergency, contact the mental health triage service: 13 14 64. Available 24/7.

Counselling, support and crisis services, beyondblue: 1300 224 636

Inside Out Project at The Second Story - South: 8326 6053

Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Southern Fleurieu Health Service: 8552 0600

Mensline: 1300 789 978

Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277

Sane Australia: 1800 187 263

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

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