"Growing up in a school in an area where school robberies, fights and occasionally knife crime would take place, coming out was the last thing on my list."
I had an odd experience in school, because it was neither bad nor good, but more so challenging. Growing up in a school in an area where school robberies, fights and occasionally knife crime would take place, coming out/being myself was the last thing on my list.
I never had the courage, support or encouragement to be anything other than what people thought I was – a heterosexual teenage boy – and with frequent jokes about the way I walked/talked at the time, as well as the company I kept (usually girls and sometimes the other effeminate/smaller boys) it was apparent that I was safer hidden away. That who I was would be too much of a burden on my school experience. So I stayed hidden.
I don’t recall there ever being anything in school that I could relate to in regards to my sexual orientation. Nothing that taught me about who I was, and how to ‘deal’ with it, so I found myself living a lie, and very often falling so deep into this lie that I almost started believing it. Denying who I was just so I could stay somewhat popular, and taken seriously. And to be honest, I can’t imagine anything would’ve made my experience any easier – however, a school that acknowledged this struggle would have been a great place to start. I yearned for a support unit, someone/something to turn to; as I couldn’t even speak to my family… at least I felt I couldn’t at the time. So I turned to the Internet. Although full of so much information – I found myself engulfed in an over-sexualised community that probably wasn’t designed for someone my age. Having nowhere to go, and no one to turn to, I spiralled into an inevitable depression, which led me to dislike who I was. In fact, I didn’t know who I was.
College life wasn’t very different in regards to acceptance, but I was certainly a lot more confident and independent, so I gradually came out to people close to me. Responses greatly differed, with some friends completely disappearing, some who used the opportunity to spread rumours and others – albeit very few - who stuck by, resulting in friendships that still flourish today.
Years later after latching onto this new found confidence and pretty much coming out to the world (a whole different story), I am now excited to be involved with Just Like Us - a charity that focuses on issues beyond middle class gay men – as I believe there are deeper rooted issues within the community that may not be talked about as much.