I was asked on World Coming Out Day if I had written a post about it, but I hadn’t. This is a story I often don’t choose to tell, because to me, whilst it wasn’t the worst story I’ve heard, it’s one that really affected me at an age when I had put my faith in a system that failed me.
To my mother, and perhaps the rest of the family, it was obvious I was gay – I mean, I used to wrap myself in a Union Flag and parade around pretending to be Geri Halliwell, as well as put on my mother’s thigh high leather boots, and I was adamant I needed the Scary Spice doll tour edition (complete with zebra print outfit). Either way, I never chose to come out to them first.
I chose a friend, and told them I was bi, to soften the blow. Everyone at school had teased me from primary, through secondary, but I had managed to forge friendships that looked passed my effeminate behaviour. It was all okay, I had broken up with my school girlfriend and it was just all okay. I still never came out to family, and months went by. Eventually I admitted to being gay to friends and the school started to titter about it, as if there wasn’t another five gay guys attending in different years. This was when I was 16.
So the day came, that no one had really made any disgusting comments to me for months, because there was nothing to tease about my truth. Then a girl, who I considered a friend at the time turned to me and said “Can I call you ‘batty’?”
It was meant to refer to my homosexuality, but I had grown passed that and no one else had use those words to me since coming out, but she was adamant to start torturing me again because all her other friends had grown distant from her and her increasingly reckless behaviour. Now, this was not my finest moment but I was angry, and I turned to her and said “Sure, as long as I can call you Paki”
See, this girl’s family was from Pakistan. I don’t consider myself to be racist and this is the only time I have ever used a racial slur.
Well, this girl erupted, disrupted the whole class and stormed out. I was bollocked for upsetting her, but it still took a day for the shit storm to really kick in. Everyone seemed to abandon me and take her side over it. I lost so many friends and was ostracised.
I had gone home that night and not said a word to anyone. It wasn’t until the next day when this girl’s parents had gone in and made a complaint that I had been racist that it really kicked off. My parents were called and that’s when I was outed. I wasn’t given the opportunity to explain myself until after they’d been called in and a teacher so kindly blurted out “you know your son is gay?”
I was distraught, because I hadn’t been given chance to do it on my own terms. I was even more livid that it was only after all the decisions were made by the adults, that I was even allowed to put my side of the story over.
I was bollocked for being racist, never mind the homophobia I had received. Racism trumped it, even though this girl had started it, she made sure she finished it with playing dumb as to why “batty” was classed as a homophobic slur. I was made to apologise, I was never given an apology back. Things just went from bad to worse.
I was keen to learn design techniques and be able to build things in woodwork, but I was surrounded by other boys who had now opted to tease me further for being gay. This one day, it was relentless, to the point that the teacher in charge blatantly ignored it. This is the same teacher that would seek me out on break times, and exclaim to me in front of everyone else “will you help me measure my wood?” which sent everyone into hysterics. I’d had enough, I shouted at every single one of my fellow classmates, and then the teacher told me off for doing so. I promptly told him to “go fuck himself” and was then taken to the head teacher.
Again, I was made to apologise, the teasing, bullying and blatant homophobia I had received was denied and brushed away. I was starting to feel so alone and that’s when my temper really flared up. I got into fights, I was rugby tackled to the ground in one instance, my lower body landing on the grass and my upper body landing on concrete, leaving me with a bad back until even this day. I promptly trashed a classroom immediately after and then ended up in an argument with the head teacher.
I had no one to turn to. My family had been largely supportive but I got some flack for coming out at the same school as my sister and how was she going to cope having a gay brother and everyone knowing? I had the smallest circle of friends in school imaginable, and plunged myself into studying and organising prom.
It wasn’t until Prom day that anyone really started to come around to me. The girl who had caused all the problems for me didn’t go and everyone saw that I actually wasn’t as bad, and that even though they had made the last few months of my school life hell for me, when I had my GCSEs, I had still gone out of my way to create a great prom with the only person who had stayed my friend throughout the experience.
I promptly left that school and started again at a sixth form college. That’s when it got better, I could be my true self and live my life.
I’m not going to say that ever since then it’s all been plain sailing. I’ve still dealt with homophobia, I’ve had shitty relationships, censored myself in public, but I’m still living. These experiences are character building, and unfortunately, we have to do it. We have to build ourselves to be these strong people, because we have to be role models for a future generation; for when a kid in school decides to come out, everyone is supportive, the teachers, their peers, and that you’re not outed by adults who should know better.
Each of us should be given our time and come out on our own terms. It’s our business, and it’s often easier confiding in a friend than family first anyway. It’s sometimes easier because we can process the loss of a friend easier than we can a family member. But no one should hold you to ransom for coming out. It’s your truth you need to tell, not theirs.