Bullying is a bit of a sore subject for me. At the age of 29 I sometimes still find myself haunted by past experiences.
I have been on numerous medications, had therapy, and even a stint in a rehab facility in an attempt to ‘get over’ the bullying I endured in my youth. It’s been a long and rocky road, and I still haven’t reached the end.
My experience of bullying began when I was at primary school. I was five years old when a boy in my street started to pick on me. I was quite a weedy child so guess I was an easy target. The bullying began as name calling but as the years went by it became more physical.
I was hit, kicked, and spat at. My mother would try to talk to his about what was happening but only came up against shouting and swearing. The bullying took a turn for the worse when I was ten years old. One day the boy picked up a pair of hedge scissors and tried to cut my head off. I almost laugh when I recall that because it seems ridiculous, but I was terrified at the time. He may not have succeeded in cutting my head off, but he could have easily caused serious injury had I not ran away.
On another occasion the same boy, along with a group of his friends, managed to pin me up against a fence in a corn field and tie me to it. They then urinated on me and tried to set fire to me. Luckily my sister came along at just the right time and distracted the gang. They chased after her and I managed to free myself. By the age of ten I was experiencing serious mental trauma. By then the bullying wasn’t just occurring at home.
From around the age of eight the bullying had also begun at school. What started as general name calling became racist bullying when the other kids realised that my Dad is white and my Mum is black (or half caste as some people call it). I was called a mongrel and the other kids would say that I don’t know if I am black or white. Just before leaving primary school the bullying changed focus again. Some of the kids in my class had noticed that all of my friends were girls and that I did not hang around with the boys. A word started to get thrown at me; a word that I had not really heard before. That word was ‘gay’.
Moving up to secondary school should have been an exciting time. However, I was dreading it. I was aware that most of the kids from my primary school were going to the same school. I was scared that the bullying would continue. That fear became a reality when rumours began to spread that I was gay. This was based purely on the fact I hung around with girls and none of the boys. Of course their assumption that I am homosexual turned out to be correct, but for five years I was persecuted for it. Taunts during classes and at break times were frequent. The mental abuse became a daily occurrence. I was called all of the usual homophobic slurs and sometimes I would be physically attacked. Appealing to the teachers never achieved anything and I was often told to be quiet and stop making a drama. As time went on I became more introverted and eventually fell into a depression. At the age of fifteen that depression deteriorated into bulimia.
Controlling my food intake and having the power to make myself sick afterwards seemed to be the only thing that I had control over at that time. The situation became worse, the bullying more intense, and the self-harm continued. At sixteen I had my first experience of antidepressant medication and mental health services after a friend realised my mental stability was crumbling and took me to see my GP. Something else also happened when I was sixteen; something surprising. The bullying came to an end.
The day came when I could no longer handle the bullying. It was a case of fight or flight, the flight being to end my life. In a moment of pure anger I chose fight. Someone who had previously been relatively nice to me started calling me homophobic names so I decided to confront him. When I did that, the boy kicked me and called me a fucking poof. That was the moment that I lost it. I punched the boy and knocked him off his chair. I ended up getting suspended as a consequence of my actions. When called into a meeting with my head of year I explained that I was being homphobically bullied. The year head brushed it off and said he was “not interested in that kind of thing”. I was then suspended. The boy who kicked me and was homophobic received no punishment.
Upon returning to school after my suspension I noticed that people were leaving me alone. The name calling and violence suddenly stopped. At break time a group of lads came up to me, but instead of being abused I had my hand shook and they said that I’m “actually not that bad”. I thought it was completely bizarre that it took me being violent and sticking up for myself for the bullying to stop, but at the same time wished I had done it years previously.
I wasn’t bullied at school again after that. I was left to it and my educational experience became easier. The damage had been done though. For years after I was haunted by the experiences and used mental health services extensively. Now as a mental health professional I am turning my experiences into something positive. With Push Projects, the LGBTQ youth support charity I founded in 2011, I provide a source of support to young people that didn’t exist when I was younger. I have also since returned to my old secondary school to discuss my experiences and work with them on anti-homophobic bullying strategies. I’m absolutely on a crusade and want to save all LGBTQ youth from persecution, but even if just one person is helped then I’ve done what I set out to do.
If you’ve been affected by the subject of this article visit our help page at www.thegayuk.com/Bullying