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I was bullied for being gay from the age of 8, and this is what I’ve learned

I was bullied for being gay from the age of 8, and this is what I’ve learned

When I was a kid, my older sister dressed me up in a little girl’s nurse outfit and I absolutely loved it.

Then I started school and the suppression began.

In year three, the kids in the year above me started calling me gay before I even knew what that word meant.

In year six, the Parish priest told me to stop playing with dolls and go kick a football around.

In year seven, a girl kicked me out of my all-girl friendship group because it was ‘weird’ that I didn’t have any male friends.

I went to Catholic primary and high schools so growing up gay was tough.

I suppressed any idea that I might be gay because, in my mind, I would be mercilessly bullied for it if I was.

So I had girlfriends during school and pretended to be someone I wasn’t, even though I knew I was different.

Kids throw around ‘that’s so gay’ as if it’s the worst insult imaginable and that stuff sticks with an impressionable young person.

It’s the end of Anti-Bullying Week and it’s so important to reflect on how far we have come, but just how much we still have left to do.

Hate is taught and inherently learnt from the people we are supposed to look up to – our teachers, parents, leaders and peers.

So it’s important to stand up to bullies when you see it happening, whether that’s on the playground, in the classroom, in the workplace or online.

Trés gay, hey 💖✨ #shineshineshine

A photo posted by James Besanvalle (@jamesbesanvalle) on

It has taken a very long time to knock down those walls of repression that I had built up over my childhood.

I have always hated my voice because I thought it was a ‘dead giveaway’ for people knowing I’m gay.

I actually remember researching diseases as a kid, where steroids might be the treatment and a side effect would be that my voice deepened.

How screwed up is that?

I’ve since learned to embrace and accept the things I cannot change, but sometimes I still ask myself, ‘Do I look too gay today?’

If I could go back in time, I would tell my schoolboy self to just let go of all the resentment and fear… but that’s easier said than done.

The best way to show someone how to be comfortable in their own skin is to be an ally – stand up for them when it really matters, call out bullying when you see it and actively campaign for equality.

Oh and, PS I can safely say that if I want to wear a little girl’s nurse outfit now, nothing’s getting in my way!

James Besanvalle is a journalist for Gay Star News, you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.