Push Projects LGBTQ Youth Support
Registered Charity Number: 1162449
I first realised that I was different when I was quite young; from about the age of 5. I didn't know what being gay was in those days but I was aware that when I grew up I wanted to marry a man. That is something I didn't really hide in those days. I was an innocent young thing and wasn't taken very seriously. The fact that I used to like trying on my mum's wigs maybe should have been a giveaway, but of course it was the expected 'norm' that I would marry a woman when I was an adult.
Anyway, it wasn't until some years later that I understood what the word gay meant. I instantly identified with it. I knew then that I was a gay person. I was 11 or 12 years old at that point. A school friend was talking about gay men. I almost shouted out that I was a gay person but my friend said that gay people were disgusting before I said anything. That put me off saying anything. I too then thought that it must be a disgusting thing. After all, every man I knew was married to a woman or at least had a girlfriend.
School was very difficult for me and I was bullied a lot. The bullying started because I am mixed race. If you were to look at me you wouldn’t have a clue because I am white, but I have a black Mum and a white Dad. This led to comments from people at school that I was a mongrel and didn’t know if I was black or white. The bullying then morphed from racist abuse into homophobic abuse. All of my friends at school were girls and so everybody made the assumption that I must be gay. I was physically and mentally abused every day for almost 5 years. Teachers would see and hear the homophobic abuse but not challenge it. Yet if I tried to stick up for myself I would be told off for being disruptive. During this time I resorted to self harm and had a bout of bulimia.
My confidence and self esteem was rock bottom. This affected my grades at school. Having been predicted to do very well in my GCSE’s I ended up not doing very well. After school I began taking drugs and drinking heavily. The bullying had stopped by that point and I had come out to a couple of people by then (more on that in a moment), but the experiences haunted me and I became very depressed. I was on anti depressants at the age of 16. The bad experiences I had at school have been worked through and I have turned all of the negativity into something positive, which I will go into at the end of this story.
The person I told was my best friend at the time, Jamie. I was staying at his house one night. He was talking about women that he fancied and I decided to tell him about men that I fancied. I felt comfortable enough to do that. I figured that if he was truly my friend he would be ok with it. My announcement was met with silence. I asked Jamie if he was ok with what I had just said. He said that he wasn't bothered and that he still fancied women. I still laugh about that moment to this day, and I am still friends with Jamie. He has never had a problem with my sexuality and has always accepted me for the person that I am. I would never say this to him as we don't do getting soppy with each other, but I really love and appreciate him for the way he was so cool with me. I know that not everyone is as open minded about such things.
The next person I came out to was Jamie's sister, Hayley, who I was (and still am) good friends with. When I told Hayley that I was gay she gave me a hug and said, “That's fine with me honey”. Again, I was lucky to have such a positive response. I asked Jamie and Hayley if they could keep my sexuality a secret as I didn't want other people, especially my family, to know. I grew up on a very rough and tough council estate, and felt that if too many people knew I was gay I would get beaten up or something. Jamie and Hayley always did keep my sexuality between them. I guess that's true friendship. It was some time before I came out to anyone else properly. The next time I did was when I was 17. I was drunk one night (I do not encourage underage drinking!) and talking to my step mum. She asked me outright if I was gay. I said yes. My step mum just said that she wouldn't tell my Dad and that was the end of the conversation. No more was said.
Again, I know not everyone is so lucky when coming out to their friends, so I am eternally thankful to every one of them. So far my coming out had been very positive. There was only one person that I felt I should come out to. It was also the person that I was very scared to come out to; my Dad. He was not the most open minded and forward thinking person, and we had never really got on with each other. The thought of coming out to him made me feel sick. It happened eventually, but not in the way that I wanted to. At this point I was 18 years old. I was having an argument with my Dad one morning (I was probably having a teenager strop) and he shouted, “What are you, a f**king queer?” I was so angry that I shouted back that yes I was gay. My Dad left the room and I left the house. I don't want to go into too many details of what happened after that as I believe in some things remaining private, out of respect to my Dad more than anything else. However, I will say that my Dad did not take the news of his son being gay very well. It was a number of years before my Dad and I spoke to each other properly and had some kind of relationship. Now, at the age of 28, I get on well with my Dad. He is fine with me being gay. It's perhaps not the ideal situation for him but he accepts it and still loves me. From then, the rest of my family found out and each one of them accepted the news and has always been fine with it.
So there is my coming out story. It hasn’t been plain sailing and there have been times when I have felt that I didn’t want to be alive any more. But when I came out and was met with a large amount of positivity and love I began to realise that it may not be as bad as you think it’s going to be. Since I was a teenager I have spent a long time working on my demons and the emotional scars that I had due to the bullying at school. I also returned to education and trained as a therapist. Now I help others and provide a source of support for young people who are struggling with their sexuality. Some people have it easy, some people don't have it so easy, but the common thing in every case I have heard so far is that it does get better. As time goes on, more and more people are becoming accepting of LGBT individuals. Society is becoming more liberal and open minded in it's views, and young people today generally have an easier time of it than us oldies did. With each generation comes greater tollerance and understanding.
Proud Youth is run by Warwickshire Pride
Registered Charity Number: 1162449
Telephone: 07580 532659