The 2012 Stonewall School report identified that to be a gay young person at school condemns you to be a social outcast. With more than 55% reporting of homophobic bullying, complacency from school staff of language used from ‘poof’, ‘lezza’ and ‘you’re so gay’ as terms of insult to outright physical abuse.
The consequences of this can be devastating from self-esteem issues, depression and other mental health conditions to underachievement at school. MigMag talks to 2 young people about their personal experiences.
SG: How old are you?
BH:I’m 18, in my last year of Sixth Form College.
SG: How old were you when you came out?
BH: I came out to my friends when I was 16 – it was the first term of college.
SG: What age were you when you began to be aware that you were attracted to girls?
BH: I was 13 when I began to think that I thought of girls in a different way from my friends, although I was going out with a boy at the time.
SG: So you have been in a heterosexual relationship?
BH: In a fashion, it’s quite complicated.
SG: If it complicated, shall we start from the beginning? Firstly, your attraction to girls how did you know it was different from what your friends thought?
BH: Ok, so when we were out in shopping malls, pictures, or even school anywhere, everywhere – my friends would comment on ‘fit’ boys. I didn’t know what they were talking about I just didn’t find them attractive.
SG: Not all boys are attractive. Surely you could appreciate beauty, much in the same way girls would appreciate other girls being ‘pretty’?
BH: Yes, there were good looking boys but nothing that made my tummy turn upside down – is that sexual chemistry. I just knew when I looked at girls I was checking them out looking specifically at different areas of their body and feeling excited and not thinking ‘oh I wish my body looked like that’! So it wasn’t a case of she’s pretty, she’s got a perfect body – B***CH!
SG: Did you confide in anyone how you felt?
BH: No, there were reasons firstly I was going out with someone, so I thought nobody would believe me. Also I wanted to be like everyone else. It was a confusing time.
SG: The boy you went out with at the time – how was your relationship with him?
BH: I didn’t want to be intimate, at first I thought I wasn’t mature enough to handle a more intimate relationship. By this time, my friends had got quite far and thought back to the sex ed lessons we had had, which incidentally are all aimed at hetrosexual relationships. Anyway that’s how I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t mature and maybe a part of me didn’t really want to face the fact that I wasn’t attracted to him or boys at all. I wanted to be like my friends.
SG: At that time what did your friends think of him?
BH: Whilst they knew him they didn’t know him socially as I felt he was 3 years older and so there wouldn’t be much in common.
SG: How did you deal with the conflict that you didn’t like boys, when all of friends were so ‘obviously into boys’?
BH: Once when I was out with my friends a very attractive girl walked by, all my friends noticed and passed comment as did I. It was my comment that reinforced that I shouldn’t stray from what was considered the ‘norm’.
SG: What was your comment?
BH: I commented on her bum – everyone looked at me in a very strange way. So I stopped and carried on.
SG: So, eventually your relationship with him must have ended, if only on his behalf from sheer frustration of not getting anywhere?
BH: No it didn’t really happen like that. Yes, I didn’t find him sexually attractive and I resisted – a year or so into our relationship it turned ‘bad’.
BH: He got sexually aggressive and not just the once.
SG: Repeatedly? Where did this happen?
BH: The first time he did it, it was at his house. After that it was either at his house or my house – he would turn up to my house drunk or drugged up. Ring me continously on my mobile. Eventually I would go and answer the door as I didn’t want him to disturb my parents (this was quite late at night so they were asleep).
SG: Did nobody awake?
BH: No I was quite, I guess I had become immune to it.
SG: Why did you go to his house?
BH: Normally to see his mum, I used to get on really well with his mum – maybe that’s why I didn’t end it. But he had this power over me, I can’t explain why I carried on, I don’t know whether I feared rejection from my friends, whether I wanted to be ‘normal’. I don’t know.
SG: You must have confided in someone?
BH: Yes, 4 months after it had started I told my best friend, who hadn’t suspected anything was wrong. I guess I was good at pretending.
SG: What was her advice?
BH: To leave him, to seek professional help for what he had put me through. I didn’t follow her advise. I stayed with him.
BH: I didn’t want to upset anyone, I wanted to be like everyone else. Although a few months later I had to tell my mum.
SG: You say you had to, was there some evidence – bruising, broken bones ones where you had to explain?
BH: Nothing like that – I was pregnant. Here I was in year 10 and pregnant, so I told her everything, including the fact that he forced himself on me.
SG: What was her reaction?
BH: You have to understand my mum really liked him. He was charming and polite and all the things your parents want from a boyfriend (that’s the side he showed) so she couldn’t conceive that was how it happened, she thought I had made it up to lessen the consequences on myself. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make any choices as I miscarried.
SG: So, did the relationship end after this?
BH: No, we were still going out though resentment was building within me. It ended very suddenly – he had an accident on a night out and died.
SG: How did you feel?
BH: Relieved, guilty, sad a whole mix of emotions.
SG: Did you seek any professional help?
BH: For a while I saw a school counsellor but that didn’t seem to help.
SG: Maybe, you weren’t ready?
SG: So, how did you come out to your friends?
BH: I was at college, now and many of my school friends came to the same 6th form and knew my history. At first I told them I was bi-sexual, I knew this wasn’t strictly true but I was testing the waters. My friends were fine, they didn’t think anything of it. This gave me confidence to eventually ‘come out’ properly. Firstly I told my closest friends, those from school. There were some who never spoke to me again, it was a time to find out who your real friends were. Those closest to me didn’t care, some even said they knew; whilst some new friends found it difficult in accepting me although they are over it now and we are friends.
SG: What about your family?
BH: That took longer, I only told them in the beginning of the upper 6th year. Reactions were different – my dad suspected all along for various reasons and has accepted me there is no change in our relationship, my siblings I have a brother who didn’t think it was a big deal, and my sister who I am especially close too had like my dad suspected all along.
SG: Your mum?
BH: She does not accept it, she thinks it’s a ‘phase’ because of everything that happened before. She has even warned by siblings not to be encouraging of my current ‘status’. Our relationship wasn’t good before but it’s worse now, most of the time I try and stay away from her. I believe it will take her time, years even but she will get there.
SG: Finally how is it now with your friends?
BH: At last I feel good, my friends accept me for who I am and I don’t have to be cautious of what I say if someone catches my eye! Whilst there are some hiccups (my mum) I am true to myself and my real friends are still here with me – it’s all good.