Maguire Stevens says confidence and support from family members made it easier for him to come out as a gay teenager in Parksville Qualicum Beach.
Stevens is graduating from Kwalikum Secondary School this month. He came out a year-and-a-half ago and said he had more issues with bullying in elementary and middle school than in high school.
“I was called all these mean things that were directed towards my sexuality and… I find that I feel as though I didn’t come out for a longer period of time because of this,” Stevens told The NEWS.
June is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Pride month.
When he was younger, Stevens said it was difficult because his sexuality was something that had to be explored.
“Being attacked over something I still wasn’t 100 per cent sure of made me think that I had to defend it (my sexuality) by dating girls.”
The closest support group Stevens said he could find in the area was at Ballenas Secondary School.
He said there is an official support group in Nanaimo, but the hours didn’t work with his schedule.
The group at Ballenas is coordinated by youth care workers and discusses topics of sexuality, according to Gillian Wilson, assistant superintendent for School District No. 69 (Qualicum).
There are community agencies that offer support for health and wellness, according to Wilson.
The Society of Organized Services does have a support group for teens, said Lissa Alexander, the marketing manager at SOS.
“Ballenas Secondary School is starting up a group that will specifically support LGBT youth,” she said.
There are also youth support groups at the SOS for teens and there is one-on-one support available.
Although Stevens said he struggled when he was younger, his family has also been supportive.
“I came out to my dad at Disneyland, during the fireworks,” Stevens said.
“I’m not ashamed,” his mother, Nancy Stevens-Thomas said, and noted that her son is one of her best friends.
Maguire Stevens said he hasn’t experienced anyone who has been homophobic towards him in his day-to-day life.
“If there is a lot of homophobia in this town it’s probably reserved for households,” he said.
Stevens said there are still issues with slurs and jokes however.
“It’s because it’s not a visible thing.” Maguire said.
“I’m careful with the language that I use, like, because it is an older community and I don’t know how people will react.”
Stevens said he’s comfortable with himself and it’s been easier for him to come out because of that. He was emcee for his grad’s fashion show.