They walked down the aisle holding hands to “Going to the Chapel” by the Dixie Cups. I was 11 years old, sat in my bedroom with a pretend church and a congregation of Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets.
You can see where I am heading with this one, can’t you?
I always knew I was different from the other boys at school and in my area. While the other boys played five-a-side football in the playground, I stood doing handstands against the wall. I played skipping with the girls and was always found hiding in this gorgeous Wendy house donated by one of the parents, pretending to be the mummy dressing this god-awful doll – nursing it better by feeding it pretend food.
I never really mixed well with boys. I didn’t really have anything in common with them. I did have a few male friends but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered to talk about girls, sports or what they did with their dad at the weekend. I couldn’t wait to see my best friend in class, to have a good old girly time in the play area.
To me, though, this was normal. I remember seeing guys on the TV and secretly thinking, I like him. He’s cute. But how can I like another boy? I mean, it should be boyfriend and girlfriend, right?
So I kept these thoughts to myself for quite some time. An 11 year old shouldn’t really be thinking of kissing boys, should they? It was obvious to the rest of the word I was a raging homo-in-the-making.
I was confused about why I was being laughed at and being called a “sissy”. I didn’t quite understand why I was always being called a girl. I didn’t even know what the word gay meant, but some of the boys in my class did. (Who does an 11 year old learn these words from for heaven’s sake? It must be their parents!)
Anyway, in school, I had lots of girl friends. We used to play hide and seek behind our houses. We had sleepovers and created dance routines to the latest Spice Girls songs and performed them on the park, where we all spent the weekends just chilling in our group.
I will be honest, I was never the brightest pupil. I was never the perfect child. I misbehaved, caused mischief and had a temper that frightened even me. I wasn’t hitting puberty so god knows where these angry hormones came from.
Through primary school I was bullied terribly. I was hit every day in class and in the playground. I was locked in cupboards and items from my bag were thrown across the yard. I was chased by a gang of thugs (can primary school children be called thugs? I guess so).
Being called “gay” and “queer” became the norm for me. I was bright ginger, so of course I had every ginger insult shouted at me too. I heard it every day. My parents moved me out of there but I got bullied again at my new school. Kids are cruel and when you’re different they hone in on this and use it as a weapon to hurt you as much as possible. My teachers did nothing and blamed me when I retaliated.
I was being bullied by the boys in my area too. I used to get chased, called queer and spat at. I received constant blows to my face. I was thrown into a group and pushed from pillar to post. I never went out on my own; I felt scared.
By now I was 12 and ready to leave primary school. My parents knew I was being bullied and did everything they could to stop it. They used to walk me to the school gates and wait until I finished. They attended meetings with teachers but it kept on happening. Even then I never told my parents about the feelings I had towards boys.
I was petrified. What if they didn’t accept me? I wasn’t like any of the other boys. I didn’t want to do PE and play sports – I couldn’t wait to learn drama and music.
At 12 I knew I 100% liked boys. I wasn’t attracted to girls in the slightest.
Then came high school.
So here I was, a gold-star gay arriving on my first day. I stood there at the entrance with both straps of my bag on my shoulders. Blazer fastened, tie perfectly done up and my shoes all shiny and new. My palms became hot, my heart fluttered and my chest became tight. Was this going to be primary school all over again?
I had this question running through my head a thousand times. Could I hide this camp personality that for some reason just oozed out of me? How could I pretend to be “normal?”
I remember sitting in my new form and looking around. Who could I befriend and who could I avoid? Unfortunately for me, the majority of my primary school was also sat in my form. The bullies had followed me.
Let me take you away from school for a while and tell you about my home life. I grew up in a very respectable family. Both my parents worked hard and provided the best they could for me. Growing up as the only child was the best ever. I had all the attention. I had everything I could ask for.
Then my beautiful sister arrived and took that shine away. It was great, to be honest. I got to play with all her toys. Then my brother arrived not so long after. I became the big brother.
I often talk to my mum now and ask whether she knew I was gay. Her response is always, “Of course I knew, ever since you were born.” I used to stand like a tea pot – hand on hip, other hand as limp as an unwatered house plant. That’s where I get the saying that I was born with jazz hands under glitter balls.
They of course tried every trick in the book to get me to extract the truth from my lips. I will always remember a calendar I got one year for Christmas. It had semi-naked females on it. I was more interested in their bikinis than their boobs and bottoms.
There is a famous story of me and a friend of mine one Christmas. This gets told at every family event I have ever attended. I’ve learnt to just laugh now!
I was bought a brand new BMX (the full trimmings, the lot). My friend was brought a pram – it had beautiful canvas wrapped around it and silver wheels…. It was the old fashioned type you see on these Victorian TV shows. As my parents sat in the lounge celebrating Christmas day, they saw my friend whizzing past the house window doing wheelies, while I trotted down the street with this pram. (I was in my element.) So of course, they knew I was gay from birth.
No one suddenly “becomes gay” – and you can’t be changed either.
I did have my dad try everything from golf to fishing, and yes, I played in the under 13s’ rugby club once. However, being dragged off the pitch by my shirt because I was crying that I was sweating didn’t go down a treat with him. We didn’t get on at times.We had nothing in common and I made his life a misery. I spent a lot of my time as my mum’s shadow – I followed her everywhere.
But one thing always sticks in my mind – neither of my parents tried to make me be anything I wasn’t.
I was very naughty and caused a lot of disruptions, but mum always sided with me. Looking back, I’m surprised my parents didn’t blindfold me, take me to a convent, knock on the church doors and do a runner – leaving me there with a bunch of scary nuns.
So going back to my school years: yes, I was an arse. I had attitude. I was being severely bullied there too.
One memory I have of school is the day I was stamped on in the school yard and the Nike tick on the bottom of the boy’s shoe stayed on my back for at least two weeks. Again the school was useless – my head of year was as useless as a chocolate tea-pot. Clearly schools aren’t equipped for bullying.
I’ve read so many stories posted by parents on social media lately – about how their kids are being bullied and the schools do sod all. It will never stop. How do you stop bullying? I’m just glad I’m not one of these poor souls being bullied now. Social media today creates the perfect forum for this – trolling and the like is happening everyday. I’m lucky.
I’m not going to name and shame the school I went to. I also would love to point the finger at those who made my life a living hell but I don’t need to.
I have’t seen my best friend for some time. She’s now building a family life with her beautiful children, and not so long ago I attended her wedding. She’s as stunning as ever. She was my rock through my school years. We did everything together. We sneaked off to Manchester’s Canal Street many times. With her, I began to embrace my sexuality. I understood myself as being gay. My best friend taught me not to be ashamed of who I was and what I was to become. Finally, it was time to come out to my parents.
I will always remember the day like it was yesterday. I was 15 years old. I came home from school, and there was my dad sat in his chair watching TV and my mum and nan in the kitchen/dining room. I was quiet and wanted to tell them so quickly but couldn’t. They knew there was a problem I needed to off load. Years and years of bullying, feeling alone and isolated had come to this.
I sat on this huge table; it all felt very professional. There my mum and nan stared at me, asking me so many questions. I just couldn’t get the words out. My dad was watching TV in the lounge. Then that was it. I was asked!
“You’re gay aren’t you?” my mum said. I sank, went bright red and put my hands to my face. I cried. Then I went silent. I didn’t get a reaction. Not one bad word.
Suddenly my nan chirped up. “Well we knew that, so what are your other problems?”
I was one of the fortunate ones that day. I’ve heard so many horror stories of parents kicking their beloved children out onto the streets just because of their sexuality. What sort of parents are these people? What sort of parents throws out their own child like a bag of garbage?
I was pretty disappointed, to be honest. I mean, this was my moment – my moment to announce myself to the world and all I got was an “Oh right.” But that was it. No drama…. nothing. I was out of the closet at last!
So when I came out, I was free to enjoy my life. My family realised the reasons I had struggled were because I was keeping something like this to myself for so long.
I got through school in the end. I was suspended about four times and put in detention a lot. I hated school. I had the girls but that was about it.
At 16 I left. Hurray! I was free as a bird. My best friend and I spent every weekend getting glammed up to hit the cobbles in Manchester. Sometimes we pulled all-nighters. Other times we missed our bus home and had to go to the police station to call our parents to come collect us at 4am in the morning. School became a distant memory and I embraced my sexuality with 1st class honours. I had boyfriends (for like a week, then got bored). I just wanted to party and dance the night away in our favourite clubs on Canal Street.
It was the best feeling in the world. I was out and proud. No more kids calling me names. Just me against the world.
I often think back to the horrible times I had at school and wonder – would I have been treated differently being a member of our school football team? Well, of course. I mean, you have to be straight don’t you?
I have had my fair share of messed up relationships in my time. I am not denying I was a complete arse at times. But I can finally say I have met my penguin and never been as happier.
It’s such a tremendous feeling to be loved. I’m extremely lucky – there are far too many “straights” stuck in straight marriages, and secretly getting with guys. But regardless of having six heads, four arms and blue skin, everyone deserves to be happy and loved.
I don’t think we’ll ever eliminate bullying in school. I suppose you have to be a follower and be like everyone else to fit in. Well, not me. Being gay is only a small part of my personality. It’s not a choice you make; it’s who you are.
I have my enemies, just like everyone does. I don’t want everyone to like me. To be honest I’m not a people person. But there’s one thing I can hold my head up high and say to you all: “I am what I am, and I am my own special creation.”