I didn’t see them all picking up rocks behind my back as I walked with a gang of “friends” to an isolated field. As the circle formed around me and the rocks were held ready I should have seen what was coming next. The word “run,” from one lad should have been a clue but my confusion at how it went from all friendly to this made me freeze on the spot like a rabbit caught in the headlights. “Fucking queer,” came next as the first stones hit me hard, I turned on my feet and legged it as fast as could, tears streaming as more stones reached their target.
Being beaten up and called gay with such hate was very confusing for a child who had no idea what the word gay even meant. It was something I was going to have to get used to as it would be a regular occurrence. Imagine being bullied for something that you have no idea about at all and wouldn’t really understand for another decade!
I did my best to fit in, but the reality was that no matter how well things went with the local kids who were supposed to be my friends, they would turn on me at any given moment. Life was tense as I walked on egg shells doing my best to not offend and fit in. I would feel sick most of the time as my nerves would show making me appear weaker and more of a target. I tried to be the humorous one to diffuse any hate towards me but at times it failed and I would pay the price with another attack of some kind.
I did manage to hide most of what was happening to me from my parents who were oblivious to the bullying most of the time. I found solace in books as they provided other worlds to escape to. It was that escapism which turned out to be my saviour in the end as that kind of self education had some lovely added benefits for my future.
To be honest those attacks were nothing compared to the homophobia I faced from family, work colleagues and friends as I grew older. Society fuelled this prejudice with its constant stereotyping and promoting of being gay as something very wrong, sinful and unnatural.
The most maddening comment people would say to me was “I respect your choice Paul in being gay, live and let live.” What choice? I remember praying to the invisible man in the sky to move this phase on so I could be like everyone else around me. Of course nothing changed, this was it, this was how I was born, the kids around me sensed it, my family sensed it, I knew something was off and in a world of ignorance and hate…I just had to deal with it. I was lucky, some kids don’t make it as they take their lives early as they feel they cannot handle the hate towards them. I would be lying if I said I never considered it either and more than once. It felt safer to just leave this world to its anger and vengeance towards what it doesn’t understand. There is much more support out there these days but we do need more and we need you to stand up and make prejudice unacceptable.
What can happen as it did I my case is that you end up leaking the anger you have suppressed within as you try and mask how you really feel. The smiley, bubbly fun gay characters people tend to love can have quite a darkside as they battle within themselves the programming of being something so wrong. We know logically there is nothing wrong with us but that programming from society can really run deep. There is a great book called The Velvet Rage by Alan Down which goes into this in more detail. To note not everyone who is gay has such a rough time and of course there are those that make my experiences look like a walk in the park. It is encouraging though to hear some of todays generation talk about their positive experiences when they realise they are gay and the support they receive from family and friends, I can only hope this continues to grow and become more common.
You Make Me Proud Project
So here I am in my 40’s and I cannot believe that in the 21st century we are still facing the fight for equal rights. Apparently if I get married it will tear apart modern civilisation as we know it. How stupid is that? In 80 countries being gay is still illegal and in some places you can face the death penalty. It just shows how far we have to go. On a daily basis too many gay people today start their morning with their anxiety running riot at what danger they may face today. My mind back then was really screwed with and I was very lucky to have been doing courses on self development at college and Uni part time to help me begin to work through the self hating programs that were running my mind. You can never underestimate the power of psychological torture and how it can affect someone in all areas of their life for decades to come.
So why have I written about my experience here on my blog? Besides being in a position where my past has been dealt with, I want to continue helping people be free of this type of hate. I want to draw your attention to a project which a very good friend of mine has created to highlight the astonishing level of inequality gay people face around the world. I find it crazy that being gay is still illegal in 80 countries around the world. Check out this link for just how bad it can be to be gay in some countries where the death penalty exists just for being gay.
Howard Alexander is founder of the You Make Me Proud Project . Howard won a global song writing competition held in Sydney with an amazing tune called You Make Me Proud. The song went on to become the anthem for gay choirs around the world as they joined together as one virtual choir singing out against inequality and discrimination.
If you would like to add your support to this cause and be part of the generation that hopefully brings this shameful part of history to an end then please go to the You Make Me Proud Facebook Page and like and add your voice to the project here. If you have a blog and want to add your story of homophobia to it with links to You Make Me Proud Project then please do as it can help in ways you cannot imagine. This is also not just about gay rights this is about equality for us all no matter who we are. If we make excuses not to support one fight for equality then we are on the side of inequality and the world is a poorer place for it.
Life is tough as it is without having to deal with people’s ignorance and anger focused at what they do not understand.
If you would like help with any of the issues mentioned above then please contact me to have a chat about how I can help.