Bibliophile | Shannon Molloy recounts his year of darkness in ‘Fourteen’

by Shannon Molloy
Simon & Schuster

Shannon Molloy’s intensely raw and incredibly moving memoir recalls his second year at an all-boys, rugby-obsessed Catholic high school in rural Queensland. If he was not being taunted and attacked, he was treated as if he didn’t exist.

More than that, teachers and the principal brushed off the dangerously unhealthy hyper-masculinity at the school and rampant homophobia as ‘boys will be boys’ behaviour. The daily burden of having to attend school was a toxic mix of sadness and rage, made worse by the sheer uncertainty of his future.

Shannon was starting to discover who he was and he wanted to be anything but ‘gay’. He had only heard negative things about homosexuals and homosexuality, and television and movies made him feel uncomfortable and scared. “Gay people were fags and poofters. They were weak, sexual deviants.”

Each day was the same, “with varying shades of awfulness but with absolutely no sign of change coming”. Shannon thought that the only way forward was to change, but this felt like a death sentence and, after a particularly painful betrayal, ending it all became an attractive option.

It is difficult to read about his agonizing year, but I was compelled to stay with him as his self-belief grew incrementally with each gigantic obstacle being tackled … and the back cover blurb did promise that there would be a turning point and a happy ending.

Horrifically, this was just two decades ago, and he still remembers being 12 years old when Ellen came out and was “virtually hounded out of show business for telling the world who she was, for living her truth – finally – rather than a carefully constructed and exhausting lie”.

Fortunately Shannon had the unconditional support of his mother, to whom the book is dedicated, and his two brothers and sister. He also had a posse of girlfriends and a local youth worker to support him. There are 6 pages of acknowledgements at the end of the book including his husband, so this award-winning journalist has had a very fortunate life.

Ultimately, Fourteen is a tale of survival, but the revealing memoir is also a testament to the recent history of torment and trauma endured by LGBTIQ+ high school students that receive very little support from an ignorant education system in Australia.

Lezly Herbert

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