Today, I’d like to talk about something very important to me.
As a young child, I always understood that I was attracted to men. Instead of having childhood crushes on Disney Princesses I always found myself drawn to the Princes and wanting to be a Princess. In particular, I fell in love with Aladdin at a very small age. SO much so that I forced my sister to watch all three Aladdin films with me after nursery every day (sometimes alternated with all three Swan Princess films). Naturally since I was a child, I didn’t know there was anything different about me, my sister liked Princesses too so I didn’t see anything different. As the years went by, I began to develop small crushes on a couple of classmates in my primary school. Everyone else in the class all talked about fancying other people in the class and I saw no difference between a girl liking a boy than me liking one.
It wasn’t until I learned what the word gay meant that things began to change. I researched into being gay and what it meant. I soon learned the negative connotations of being gay. I was bombarded with articles telling me that it was wrong. That I was going to hell. Only being young, I was terrified. The idea of burning in hell for eternity frightened me beyond belief. I didn’t want to be something that was so frowned upon. I wanted to be normal more than anything.
For the next few years, I completely hid every trace of me being gay. I continued hearing comments when I was out in public that shamed gay people. Every time a man did something even slightly effeminate, he was called gay. As a child I did not understand that there was nothing wrong with being gay or being feminine. I did not understand that femininity was by no means an insult. Every time a gay person was on television, I turned my eyes from the screen. I didn’t want to seem interested in them for the fear of being called gay myself. This continued right up until the first year of secondary school.
In year seven, the feelings I held for other boys became harder and harder to ignore. I tried so hard. I was petrified of not fitting in. Popularity in secondary school seemed to be vital to your survival. If you were anything other than normal then people would make fun of you. I tried my hardest to not let the slightest glimpse of difference show.
At home, I began to conduct further research into homosexuality and into pride. I learned the struggles that gay people endure every day of their lives. I also learned that the LGBT community had one of the largest senses of family and community I’d ever seen. People in this community were so proud of who they were and embraced who they were to their full potential. I was finally beginning to accept my sexuality and realising that there is nothing wrong with love. I began privately exploring gay culture via the internet and in turn, was exploring who I was as a person.
The next step for me was to begin to tell those closest to me. I told my best friend, who responded with nothing but positivity and support. This gave me such a huge confidence boost. I had never believed that anyone would accept me for who I was. I began to have faith in the world again. I told a few more close friends, every single one responded with such support, one friend even responded by coming out to me as a lesbian. I was no longer alone in my struggle. I began to allow myself to truly be myself for the first time in my life. I eventually opened up to the full school about my sexuality. I received support from people I’d never have expected. I was floating on a cloud. I was the first person in my year to come out as gay. I even managed to get my first boyfriend in year eight. A boy who lived around the corner from me since I was a child and also confided in me about his sexuality when I came out.
Of course, not everything was positivity and rainbows from then until now. Not everyone in my school was supportive and accepting. I received particular scrutiny from the straight males of my year. I was shoved in the corridors and taunted by them. They shouted homophobic remarks at me whenever they saw me. I spoke to a teacher about the incidents but I was just told they were just joking with me and that I should try and be friends with them. My confidence was knocked severely. I became nervous to walk from lessons or to have my lunch and break times. The most hurtful thing was being dismissed by a teacher who I had always been told would help you with anything and was there to fight bullying. I felt lied to. They were only there to fight bullying when the bully wasn’t one of their favourite students.
The weakest and most terrified I have ever felt was in the changing rooms for P.E. Every single week I would be bombarded with other boys homophobic remarks and hurtful comments.
‘You should be in the other changing room with the other girls. Gayboy.’
‘You better not be fantasising about us in here faggot!’
Other things along that line. I was pushed and shoved constantly. My eyes were forced to the floor to avoid being accused of being a pervert who was attracted to every single boy in the world. I left P.E. ever week and cried for hours. Never had I felt lower. I resorted to self harm on multiple occasions. The teachers did nothing. I wasn’t out to my parents yet so I couldn’t tell them anything.
The worst incident came in year nine. The setting was the changing rooms, of course. The boys laughed at me and taunted me as usual. Except this time, it was taken far beyond the normal homophobia. One boy was laughing with his friends and turned to me with his genitals hanging out of his boxers. He laughed at me and repeatedly kept saying ‘look he’s enjoying this. He loves it, don’t you?’, while wiggling them around and bringing them closer to my face. I had never hated my life more than in that moment. I wished I could disappear forever. I didn’t tell my parents because I was still in the closet. I didn’t tell a teacher because my trust in them had been completely shattered. I didn’t tell any of my friends because they would tell me to go to a teacher. I bottled the incident up inside of me and carried it with me. I told my mum that P.E. wasn’t compulsory and it was okay not to attend and she agreed to pick me up, knowing I never enjoyed it anyway.
My biggest challenge was yet to come. I grew up in a very catholic family. I was so scared to tell my family for fear of being disowned. I had read that gay people had been kicked out of their homes and were made homeless for coming out as gay to their parents. My parents had been raised their whole lives to believe that being gay was wrong. They were both born before homosexuality was decriminalised.
I decided it was now the time to tell my parents. Gay marriage would still not be legalised for another two years. I sat down my mum and told her everything. I told her about my (then ex) boyfriend and my current boyfriend at the time. She was extremely shocked at the news and didn’t quite know how to respond. She hugged me and told me she would always love me. We never spoke of it again. It had shocked her because she had been raised her whole life to believe that it was wrong and now she had been told the person she loves the most was everything she was raised to be wrong. All of her beliefs had been contradicted and it took a long time for her to process. She told my dad, who didn’t say a word about it to me. It was awkward between myself and my parents for a while after coming out. We never spoke of it, at all.
I started college and vowed to myself to be completely open about my sexuality from the start. I pledged to stand up for myself if anyone tried to bully me. Luckily, this was not the case. College was an entirely different world than school. I met a strong group of friends who accepted and supported me and I returned the same favour to them. Everyone else in the college was completely supportive of homosexuality, which caused quite a culture shock for me to be in such a supportive environment. I found myself another boyfriend and was accepted by everyone in the college for doing so.
My confidence began to rise from the trenches that it had been for the rest of my secondary school experience. I was now happier in myself. Truly happy for the first time in years. I learned to love myself. I took pride in my sexuality and fully allowed myself to be my true self. I still did not speak to my parents about my sexuality but at the time this did not matter as I had never been so happy.
I met my current boyfriend before starting University on a night out in my home town. I started my first year of university and unfortunately, my dad suffered a stroke. During this time, I received a text from my mum saying ‘I’ve seen a picture of you and your boyfriend.’ My stomach sunk to the floor. I had no idea if she was angry, sad, happy, or anything. I immediately text my sister about it and she said that it would be best to ring my mum. On the phone, the first thing my mum said to me was ‘you should have said! I’d have had him around for dinner before you went to university!’ before proceeding to ask me how we met and everything about him. The relief I felt was immense.
I am now twenty years old and I have never been happier. My mum adores my boyfriend just as much as I do. She even text asking how his exams were going when I had an exam that day, which I found hilarious. She constantly texts me asking how he is and even sends me articles about recent developments in the gay rights movement. I have a supporting and loving boyfriend and the best group of friends I could ever ask for. The confidence I have now I wish I could bestow on my 14 year old self so that I could fight back against the bullies instead of passively trying to bury it deep down.
My message to you is to never be ashamed of yourself. You are perfect exactly how you are and there are always people who love you. Be proud of who you are and never compromise yourself because of anyone else. Never be afraid to stand up for yourself.