It all started at school.
I never got to “come out”. Well, I guess you could say I did, but, all I did was start saying “yes” when they asked me if I was a faggot instead of ignoring them. I’m not sure if it was my voice, my walk, my interests that prematurely outed me, but I know that I was 10 years old when I was first called gay. I did not get to find out for myself whether the label, “gay”, fit me. Gay was an unknown term. From the ages of 10 to 18 the terms, ‘faggot’, ‘bender’, ‘queer’ and the equally creative ‘bumder’ became my new identifiers. In the eyes of my peers, I was less than.
I finally came out at 15. This did not stop the constant harassment, the punches, the spitting only making me feel more of an outcast. I hated myself for being what they said I was. The years where I should have been trying to understand myself were bombarded by the views of others that being gay was wrong. I tried so hard not to be gay. I did everything, I tried to find God, I tried to date girls, yet none of this worked. My attraction to boys wasn’t going anywhere and I had to live with that.
I felt as if I had no control over myself, my identity.
I used to be such a happy, kind and caring person, but that version of me no longer exists. This is far from the version of me people are accustomed to today. I am described by people as “obnoxious”, “odd”, “rude”. My head is constantly filled with negativity, about myself and others. The eight years of torment I experienced at the hands and mouths of my bullies still lives with me, I have not forgotten a word of what they said despite how hard I try. Their actions haunt me, they have influenced every decision I have made since, and I believe have resulted in me becoming someone that I no longer recognise.
Their bullying, their harassment was a choice, one I did not have. I was alone at school, I wanted so desperately to fit in, but I was unable for the pure reason that I was gay. So, you can imagine my surprise when only a few days ago I discovered that these people, the people who took it upon themselves to make my life a living hell, to cause so much pain and hurt that I still wake in the night screaming, were at London Pride.
I saw on a school friends Instagram that they were there. They were laughing, joking, having fun, covered in glitter, celebrating the acceptance of queer people. When I saw the photos, I wanted to be sick. I felt physically and emotionally drained. I was filled with anger, 11 years of anger.
What twisted the knife within, was discovering that two guys, two of my main bullies were, in fact, themselves gay.
I still am unable to digest this information. They understood the inner turmoil I was experiencing, the fear of losing friends and family over something that I could not choose and yet they decided that it was easier for them to humiliate me. They chose to make me feel as If I was alone in the world, unable to find love. Yet now, they get to celebrate. Why do they get to do this? They walk arm in arm with other queer people, failing to realise the reason we have such parades is to help show validation and love to the people that they took such pleasure in destroying in school, people like me.
I wish they understood the pain they have caused me. I wish they knew how much hatred I had, have, for myself. While I understand that pride is for all, to help celebrate people from across the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of how and when they came to realise that they were themselves were queer, I can’t help but feel rage.
I am angry; Angry, that being punched in the face was not their reality; that they never had “faggot”, “queer” and “poofter” yelled at them in Maths class; they never received death threats in their school bag. Angry, that they never hated themselves for just being alive.
I am aware that some of you reading this will tell me to move on, just as they have evidently done, but I can’t. It is difficult to overcome the cruelty they inflicted upon me. They do not understand how I felt when I saw that they were at London Pride and that they were also gay. It feels like the final part of their torment. They don’t understand the reason we have pride is because of people like them.
I know that I must face my rage, that it is not healthy, but perhaps it is because I am jealous of these bullies. I am jealous that they got to have the childhood that they stole from me.
It has taken a lot to try and move on. I’m not saying that I have forgiven my bullies or the pain they have caused me, but I realised that by holding onto the pain I am only hurting myself. I now work as a high school English teacher; this gives me the opportunity to support LGBTQ+ students in a way that I needed when I was in school. My experiences have changed my outlook on the world. However, I am motivated to make a change in any way I can, prevent bullying and raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues.
I have further developed sympathy for my bullies. They had to hide who they were for a lot longer, and while they didn’t experience bullying at school, I can assume the internalised homophobia and self-loathing wasn’t easy to deal with. I am confident and proud of my identity; it brings me further joy knowing I am helping young LGBTQ+ people love and accept themselves.
Though at times it may seem as if you are walking a lonely path, know that you are not alone, and your experiences can be used to help and support others. You can be that person, you needed when you were younger.