His voice sent shivers down my spine.
He flashed his crooked smile, as we drew our favorite Pokemon together during lunchtime.
His name was Lachlan and I had a crush on him when I was five years old.
I didn’t come out until I was 18 (and Lachlan had long since moved away) but until recently, I never realized the extent of my latent homosexuality.
Our crushes may seem natural to us as LGBTI people, but we learn to suppress them from others – the shame and stigma force us to hide who we really are.
‘I had my first crush inside the church,’ says Erijah.
Erijah explains he comes from a very religious family and was forced to attend church every Sunday.
But one day, he developed a same-sex attraction to the guy sitting in front of him in the pews.
Erijah said: ‘His hands were behind him and he was holding his wrist with his other hand placed just above his buttocks.
‘With that positioning, his arms were flexed and I was like, wow!
‘I remember having an erection looking at his arms,’ he said.
‘I would go to the angel statue holding a pot of holy water and say sorry for my thoughts,’ he added.
But why do we have to apologize for the thoughts that come so naturally to us?
Fear of rejection forces us back into the closet, but sometimes, our innocence as children trump our fear.
Alexandre remembers his first same-sex attraction vividly.
He lives in France, but came to England on a trip when he was ten years old.
On a day out with his cousins to a sports centre, Alexandre spotted a teacher supervising the kids: ‘I found him so cute and nice, I just wanted to marry him,’ he said.
But he didn’t speak a word of English at the time, so left him a little gift instead.
‘I think the funny bit was how natural it all seemed,’ he explained.
‘I didn’t think it was abnormal to be in love with a man. It felt so normal, so casual, so innocent.
‘Children have absolutely no clue about what’s “good” or “bad”,’ Alexandre said.
For Laura, who identifies as pansexual, her first same-sex attraction was incredibly confusing.
She developed a crush on Katherine Heigl from Grey’s Anatomy and became obsessed with the show.
Laura said: ‘16-year-old Laura had some seriously confusing feelings – mostly in the vicinity of her ladyparts.’
She describes how she identified with Heigl’s character, who was ‘unashamedly’ herself.
‘Once I started having these feelings, I got a bit confused,’ she said.
Laura was attracted to both men and women, but felt like the label ‘Bisexual’ didn’t feel right.
‘It wasn’t until I was 19 or 20 that I discussed this with my best friend and he said that I may be pansexual,’ she explained.
‘Hearts not parts,’ she added.
Love is love
I, personally, was drawn to girls as friends, and talking to boys always made my face flush fervently.
I’ve never had an interest in watching sport, but I distinctly remember deciding which team to like solely because a boy I thought was cute barracked for them.
Also, the team colors of blue and white were very on brand for my aesthetic at the time.
I started to resent this same-sex attraction and decided never to share them with anyone.
It didn’t stop people from teasing me about my voice, or calling me ‘Fairy boy‘ but it was bearable.
Instead, I had girlfriends and grappled with a feeling of incompleteness.
It’s so important to give young people LGBTI role models, so they don’t grow up the same way – visibility is the cure for personal shame.
Hate is taught and inherently learnt from the people we are supposed to look up to – our teachers, parents, leaders and peers.
It’s about time we tell kids to be whoever they want to be, free from society’s expectations.