Well, I wish I could say my Coming Out and early life as a lesbian was all sweetness, bunny rabbits and candy canes but it wasn’t. When I told my mum, she looked at me and went; “Yeah, I know. Put the kettle on, but don’t tell your stepdad!” it was hugely anticlimactic really. My Nan was equally as unphased by the whole thing. Which, for an 80 year old, was pretty cool!
Not everyone around me was as supportive. At Secondary school (high school) I was bullied relentlessly by various members of the staff, because I wasn’t a ‘proper girl’ and didn’t wear all the ‘proper’ fashions and skirts that would’ve made a hooker blush. Maybe I should have hidden myself, not been as obvious but I was a stubborn kid and refused to. They were big on telling us to be ourselves and so I did! Why should I hide to make the bullies feel better when I’m doing nothing wrong?
The more comfortable I felt in my own sexuality, the worse the bullying got. It all came to a head when my stepdad found out. He was immensely homophobic anyway, despite our family having many gay and lesbian friends. One evening, after a huge argument in our house, he chased me, pinned me to the bed and punched me in the face. I defended myself the only way I had and kicked him in the face. My mother refused to believe that he would both punch me, and say the horrid things he did. I packed up a few things and moved to my Nan’s that same night.
For weeks they begged me to move back home, I refused until he’d admitted what he’d done. In the end, he did admit to my mother that he had hit me and that’s why I’d kicked him. We met up and discussed some issues and he promised to try and be more accepting and understanding and I moved back home on the understanding that if he ever laid a finger on me again, I would call the police and I would press charges. Eventually, he learned that being gay is just like anything else. I didn’t grow horns or start eating small children or doing any of the other terrifying things I can only imagine he thought would happen. He eventually grew enough as a person to try setting me up on dates. It was truly weird.
As my circle of gay friends grew, I spent more than a few Friday and Saturday nights at my local gay bar where well, there was a clear segregation. There were the friendly people who welcomed most new people with open arms, then there was everyone else, in their established little clusters who never let anyone it. Also weird.
It was one night, on my way home from said bar that I encountered the real scary kind of homophobia. I was walking on my own and a couple of guys started shouting things, ‘filthy dyke’ ‘you just need a real man, like me’ that sort of rubbish. I ignored them and hoped they’d go away! They didn’t. They followed me off the main road and through a small estate when they started running after me, still shouting abuse and jumped me, hitting me and threatening to do worse. It was only by chance that a police car drove past and scared them off. I managed to catch their attention, bleeding and bruised and told them what happened. For whatever reason, they didn’t seem too bothered, didn’t really take a statement or go and look for the offenders. So I went home and carried on. My family were concerned about my injuries but seemed more worried that I was walking through the estate on my own in the early hours rather than the fact I’d been attacked because I was gay. A few weeks after, a group of us saw the same guys that attacked me and they were looking pretty bad. Someone had obviously given them a beating and, when they passed me and my friends they hung their heads and wouldn’t make eye contact. I can only assume they’d picked on the wrong person. Thankfully, that was the worst I’d ever had to deal with. It did get better, I know it’s a cliché but it did. Our local police now have a dedicated officer who deals solely with hate crime and homophobic crimes.
Now I’m just gay, it’s just one of those things about me, like I have blue eyes. No one really bothers about it, I’m treated by my friends and family and most other people, just like anyone else and it’s not even an issue. I guess when you’re a teenager and just growing into yourself that these things seem huge but once you become an adult and, most importantly are happy in who you are, it is less of an issue for yourself and everyone else.
Now well, where I live there is action, there are many groups who support LGBT teens and the police are making the effort. It’s not such a scary thing to be gay here. I can walk down the street holding a woman’s hand and while there are a few people who have to stop and stare, I don’t feel scared. I can just be.
I thank my best friend and all those friends who came and went who taught me that you have to be true to who you are and be comfortable in yourself. The bullies might not go away but they will get their own and things will change for the better because the LGBT people of the world are not a small group, they have a voice and we use it… LOUDLY!
If you’re reading this and have had a similar experience, you have to talk to someone, anyone, a teddy bear will do to start with. Get your feelings out there and make yourself heard to someone because hiding and fearing are the two most self destructive things a human can do. You get knocked down but you have to get back up, grow a nice thick skin and refuse to go away because the bullies of the world are everywhere, in politics, in schools and in the workplace. The only way to change things is to fight back and make yourself heard, stand up and make things better for yourself. Easy? No, but it is possible.