Now Reading
Facing the terror of my days as the only gay in school

Facing the terror of my days as the only gay in school

Little more than a decade ago, at the age of 14, I came out as gay to a shocked art class.

From the second I arrived at secondary school, I was teased for being gay. I was given the identity even before I figured it out on my own.

And so, when one idiot was making fun of gay people in Year 9, I stupidly said: ‘Well, I’m gay, so what does that make me?’

The looks on everyone’s faces were like a courtroom drama. He finally said it. He finally admitted it. He’s out. The faggot is out.

And from that moment on, it spread like wildfire. 11-year-olds were coming up to me asking if I was the gay guy in Year 9.

13-year-old girls demanded I braid their hair. 15-year-old boys would throw stones at me in the playground.

This wasn’t just at the school, either. Every school in the borough seemed to know there was a gay guy who had come out. I was almost famous.

That was at the point the bullying got bad. I was hunted from classroom to classroom. Teachers would stare and do nothing as I got pushed around. I was attacked, repeatedly.

I was living in the shadow of Section 28, the law which prevented teachers talking about LGBTI issues in British schools, three years after it was repealed.

So, more than 10 years after that art class, I went back.

I don’t even know why. I live around a couple of miles from my old house now, where I would walk a couple of hundred yards to school. It’s not far, but I’ve never wanted to return.

On a Tuesday evening, I went for a run beside the River Thames, and there I was at Teddington Lock.

I walked across the bridge, just to take a look at my old house, and I don’t know what happened. I turned left, and I started running down the same road I would walk down nearly every single day for five years.

Trauma hit me like a brick wall. Abject fear. On a hot day, my skin shivered. It all came back, that trepidation of going down that road again.

I kept on running, each step like a window into my past.

Everywhere I looked was memories. Everything. The holly in the bushes. The tennis courts. Teddington Studios.

And there it was, the same silver bars that greeted my return to prison everyday.

But my Teddington School, the 1970s pile of brick and horror, was gone. It was demolished a few years ago, put back a few feet, and they’ve built something new.

The scared little boy inside me stood up and looked at the school. It has a power, a fear that grabs me by the neck, still. But I wasn’t so afraid. After all, it’s just a school – a very different school.

The place I went to is long gone. It still exists in my head, and it probably always will. But seeing it different, changed, reborn, it somehow helped me let go a little.

I can’t run from my past, my past is everything that I am today. But I can acknowledge it. I can look at it in the eye, and start walking into my future.