Sabrina is a Grade 10 student of Jamaican origin who is just emerging from a challenging period in her life. She realized during the summer before she began Grade 10 that she is attracted to both boys and girls. During the summer, Sabrina had a job away from home as a camp counsellor and she developed a romantic relationship with a fellow counsellor, a girl her own age. The two continued with their relationship after the school year began.
As Sabrina began the school year, she felt happy and excited. She also felt hesitant to share her wonderful news with her friends from school. While Sabrina’s school had undertaken a number of initiatives to develop a respectful and inclusive school culture, she still worried that this new development would change something with her friends, that they would see her as different. Sabrina decided to talk to her gym teacher, whom she had always liked and trusted. Her gym teacher listened carefully, taking the situation very seriously. She suggested Sabrina call the help line for LGBTQ youth and that she speak with other young people in similar circumstances.
Sabrina did call the line, and after a while she developed a trusting connection with the centre that offered the service. She began to attend weekly support group meetings for LGBTQ youth and her confidence and clarity grew. At the same time, as the only black person in the group, she knew her experience was different. While she felt close to the other group participants, there was always something she couldn't share – her experiences of racism, the close connection she felt with others from the Jamaican-Canadian community, the sense of belonging she derived from her church, the conflict this raised for her when she envisioned coming out as bisexual and the risk she knew it would bring.
When she tried to talk about these issues, her friends listened and she could tell they were trying to understand, but she found herself needing to explain things she knew her Jamaican-Canadian friends and family would automatically understand. She felt different, yet at the same time relieved to find a place where she could be open about her bisexuality. Many things were falling into place for her within the group, but she was keeping some parts of herself on hold.
Sabrina was determined but nervous to tell her four closest girlfriends at school about her bisexuality and her new relationship. When she finally found the courage to come out to them, they looked shocked and didn't believe her. When she finally convinced them she wasn' joking, they avoided her eyes and told her it was “cool”, “no problem”, but she could tell that wasn’t true. Eventually, her friends found some way to absorb this new information about her, and they continued on as before, but no one mentioned Sabrina's relationship again.
Sabrina was relieved that her friends had not rejected her and that they could still hang out together. At the same time, she was aware of a silence between them that was like a constant presence. She began to feel that she was always hiding something, that there was nowhere she could be completely herself. Consequently, she began to lose sleep, her marks began to suffer, and she was more and more withdrawn. She no longer wanted to hang out with her friends on the weekend.
Finally, her gym teacher approached her. She had noticed Sabrina’s change in personality and energy level. She asked Sabrina how she was doing, how the support group had worked out, and Sabrina found herself telling her teacher the whole story. Her teacher suggested that she attend a meeting of the school's newly-formed Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), an ethno-culturally diverse group of students with several Jamaican-Canadian members. While not all the students identified as LGBTQ, and many were straight, all were positive and supportive about her sexual orientation. From the very first meeting, Sabrina suddenly felt she could breathe again.