Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Building an Adult: Sexuality

Your sexuality is a big part of youth - discovering it, hiding it, acting on it and so on. Not only is it a important discovery but it is also something that can cause a lot of distress. Anyone going through school will know that terms like 'fag', 'lesbo' and 'gay' get thrown around daily and always have been. Gay is seen more of an insult than someone sexuality. I hope that one day this will change but we have to understand that it isn't going to stop overnight and we need to act to support those affected by it in the meantime.

I wanted to write this post and for it to be the first one of this series because I believe that it is something that needs to be addressed straight away. The only issue with making  this post is that: I am not gay. It seemed stupid (and inconsiderate) for me to attempt to write this blog post and advise people when I have never had the experiences that (some) gay people have. I do have a few gay friends though and they kindly agreed to help me write this. The two of them have had very different experiences so I hope to cover as many bases as possible with their experiences so we can help as many people as possible. 

Here I will hand over to them:


Did you know that you were gay as a kid?

Ben: I think I did. I don't really have any specific memories where I've been thinking about girls romantically or sexually, so with me I guess I never had a 'straight' moment; I never had a realisation moment, it's more been a slow realisation about sexuality as most people have during puberty - that it's there, that it can be fun, it can be dangerous and it can be bloody scary. I would have to say in that case that I always knew I was gay and that I felt a duty to myself as a child to accept that because I knew nothing else and didn't feel a sense of detachment about it because of that. It's always been a part of me.

Mikey: I didn't know but all the stereotypical signs were there for example: I refused to have my hair cut, I insisted that I wanted to be a girl and I loved dress up in school. Also none of my friends were boys. Looking back how did I not know sooner? I was an innocent child and I didn't understand much out side of the home and school environment so I wasn't aware of my sexuality or even if i were I didn't care.


When I first realised that I was attracted to men when I was 11 but I didn't really understand what that meant and how it would impact me. This whole ordeal was confusing as I was brought up, just like everyone else, being told that boys like girls and girls like boys and there were no really acceptable alternatives. SO it wasn't until around year 8 that I fully understood I was gay (although I still insisted that I was bisexual, despite my complete and utter indifference to girls - hey I even dated a few!).

Were you scared about coming out? 

Ben: I was quite terrified the first time I told someone (which was quite early actually, I officially told my best friend in year six for the first time) but then it spread through our year in primary school so I didn't really have any control of it after that first time. It was out in the open, and that scared me in a way because people could do whatever they wanted with a piece of me, but it was fine in another sense - I was me and everyone knew just another layer of who I was. It was a bit different when I got to secondary school though, in a sense I had to 'come out again' because this was a new group of people and they were oblivious, so that got me a bit worried again. I think there were 2 moments especially nerve wracking in this second experience, one in year 7 when I come out to my best friend back then who fancied me, and I knew I had to tell her because I didn't have any intention of going out with her or leading her on. The thing I felt especially nervous about in this instance was the sense that I would be letting someone down, that I would make her feel resentful towards me and I think there was some of that in her reaction which she harboured for a while, but she was accepting and didn't really view me otherwise (for the time being) so I was fine with it and realised It isn't and will never be my obligation to uphold someone's standards concerning my sexuality - I shouldn't and will never hide myself from someone in the worry that I will let them down because it's not my fault if they feel disappointed. 

The second time I had a sudden rush of nerves in the coming out experience would have been when I discovered that the friend I told in year 7 had started telling all sorts of other people, and I suddenly had no control of my 'secret' - but, I noticed, this was almost identical to the situation in primary school. I thought 'Why should I have to hide myself?'. It is and always will be me. Inevitably, there were people who were less accepting (including a particularly dickheaded crush of mine) but in the end, I would just sweep them under the rug. They didn't deserve any of my pain or hurt, and they didn't deserve any of the emotion they wanted back. Those sorts of things were only reserved for events that truly matter to me in my life, and narrow minded homophobes do not matter to me in the slightest.


Concerning coming out to my family, it was all actually quite sudden with my parents. They read my texts one time (because I'd unintentionally wracked up a big phone bill) and found some concerning my sexuality, talking about guys I liked etc. I was shocked when they sat me down to talk about it, obviously nervous, but they were very accepting and didn't care whether I was straight or gay, only that I'm safe and secure in myself and within school. When it comes to my brother and sister, I've never technically told them but one of my close friends had told her sister (which I was fine with) and her sister was good friends with my sister, so naturally she found out and then spoke to my brother about it. I was fine with it all and never really had any intention to explicitly say to either of them 'I'm gay'. After all, they never had to come out as straight and I already knew that they were accepting. 

Mikey: Yes. Terrified. I don't think I had ever been more scared. It was terrifying to admit to myself that my life could never be like 'normal' peoples; that I could never have children or have a wife and make my parents happy. I think that the worst part for me was if I admitted it there was a finality about it. It would mean that I was finally admitting it to myself and could no longer hold on to maybe being bi or going through a 'phase'. I was terrified of what people would think, say or even do to me and because of this bullying was a big worry of mine. I based this on seeing how people treated me when I was closeted and it was a big deterrent. 

 I had been bullied before in primary so I knew how it could end so i buried my feelings deeper until I had convinced my friends that I was straight. This was a pretty hard thing to do since I am camper than a row of tents. Despite this, when I had convinced myself and everyone else I was straight I still got crap for it and that hurt me a lot. That was the main reason for me being so scared about coming out. I didn't even want to tell my friends but it was eating me from the inside out so I had to. When I did I regretted it so much. I have never felt so afraid of what might happen when I went into school the next day. I am sorry to say that I was scared even of my friends even though the one I had had come out to I had lessons with all day, which was pretty hard to keep cool and try and act like I was okay. Afterwards I had constant paranoia that other people knew and that as horrific. Just horrific. 

Saying all this makes it seem like it was a horrific experience but now I wouldn't change it for the world now. When you get past the beginning stage you think you were being stupid the whole time. But you weren't/aren't. I promise. I want to put emphasis on how great it is to finally do it, my life is so much easier now and so much better and its no longer scary and dark.

Did being gay ever affect your mental health?

Ben: This is quite a difficult question to answer because there are all sorts of ways that things can affect you mentally. I would say that I have never been clinically ill concerning my mental health, but on the smaller scale I would definitely say it has affected me in certain areas of my life. For example, every now and then I can fall into this hole of worry and anxiety that I'll never find anyone who loves me or who will want to date me. This is mainly due to the fact that I know barely any other people my age who are attracted to the same sex (one of whom is one of my best friends, so that's never ever happening because just no) so I sometimes get myself into a knot of sadness over that fact. In the end though, my friends are the best people to talk to and if I want to speak to them about something like this, they'll make me feel fine again and waylay that feeling for the time at least. Also, it's a point to make that I have am as of yet to have a boyfriend, so once I get to that stage (which I am in the current moment convince will happen hopefully someday) I'm sure I'll be much more secure with the thought.

Another thing which can get me down is when people used to be much less accepting. This doesn't happen nearly as much as it used to, and I would definitely attribute this to the boys in my year (as it has always predominantly been boys dishing out the dirt) having grown up a lot in recent times. The main thing I would say that affects me with both of these things is that I can get even more unproductive than I usually am (which is a stupid amount) and this can affect my school work. I would say that there are a lot of places you can go if you're having trouble and I'll try and give you some links for places which are known to be very good at dealing with these sorts of things.

Mikey: Yes it did, quite severely. I was lucky enough to have never acted upon anything (i.e. self harming) but I think (and worry) that I might be a rare case.

I would have bouts of depression which led to suicidal thoughts and complete and utter hopelessness. I would start thinking about what if's, (what if I wasn't there what if I killed my self, what if my friends didn't care). These were destructive thoughts and I didn't tell anyone which was a mistake. But it is hard to talk to someone - even your best friends when you feel like that. The thoughts were bad, very bad and had different levels of intensity. Sometimes I even started to think I was just doing it for attention which made everything worse because I felt guilty about these feelings - they still crop up whenever I talk about this stuff, even writing this blog post is making me doubt myself.

I was chubby in year 7,8 and 9 and became worried about this. One way around this (I thought) as to stop eating breakfast and lunch for a while which - I believe - was a side effect of the depression. People assumed that I was just getting skinny but it got to a point where a friend pointed it out. I wasn't anorexic (and I don't want you to think that) but it was leading there. I had serious body image problems but I was scared of the intervention of my parents so I forced my self to eat dinner and try to snack so I gained a little weight and got back to a point where I could be normal and clawed my way back to health.

This all stopped as soon as I became comfortable with being completely out and although I'm in a good place the depression happens still but not as bad. it got better as it can in every case.

The cause of it and all of this was the denial. It eats you from the inside. I never let on because I am the type of person who bottles things up until I explode. The depression affected my friendships made my life difficult, it even affected school work a little. Still the biggest noticeable effect was my friendships, a lot happened and made what I was feeling worse. but like I said it got better and it will get better.

How has your family/friends reacted and would you change the way that they did?

Ben: As said in the second question, quite a lot of the reactions I got when coming out have been positive, even though there have been those who have been much more negative. Though I don't think I would even change these experiences - I've never really experienced extreme homophobia in the form of physical abuse or manipulation (except for maybe one case which I'd rather not talk about, a certain year 8 fiasco of epic proportions) but I think that the way some people reacted have made me more solid in myself - I would be naive about the world if I had the perfect response as I know that there are people out there who won't accept me, and whilst I'm not ok with that, I know that I can deal with it and that people can change. As said previous, most of the people who reacted have grown up since then and it shows me that people can and will get better in the face of defiance. If you defy people, it is always possible to win (even if in some cases there can be much worse scenarios). I love all my family and friends for how they've just taken me in and loved me for who I am, let me be me in my own skin. That's most definitely the best feeling in the world and I wouldn't change it for a second.

Mikey: My family reacted well. My parents didn't care if I am honest and they tried to make it easier with humour but I didn't react well to that and didn't realise that they were trying to help. So I wish I had just relaxed a little but that's easier said than done. Friends can do bad things - especially if they don't understand what you are going through. In my case I feel as if my friends forced my to come out for they didn't understand how much of a big deal it was for me; however in general yes my friends reacted well, those outside my group but I consider friends were surprised in some instances but were okay about it and just acted no different from before. So don't worry about your friends because people can be surprising and be really great.

My advice if your scared is to just do it, rip off the plaster. It sounds terrifying but that was the sort of way I did it and I'm really happy now, life is fabulous. Each case is different and may need a way to be approached so find someone you can talk to or only tell the friend(s) you are closest to. Just remember if you are scared there is always someone to talk to whether it's an online forum or the lgbt foundation or a teacher or parent or sibling. It may be scary and it is but life gets so much easier after you do come out. 


What would you say to someone who is scared about their sexuality?

Ben: Be optimistic. It can be hard, but the glass has to always be half full and filling up. Let your glass spill over with opportunity. Engross yourself in this community you have and saturate every piece of you in its beauty. Because, whilst there can be a lot of hatred in this world, whilst there will always be broken glasses and half-empty ones, for every misshapen view on reality, there will be a thousands taps just spewing out acceptance. We're also in an age now where, if you can't find those outlets in the people surrounding you, the internet is here. There are communities upon communities out there, just as desperate as you at wanting to find answers, to find acceptance and hope and it is up to you and all those out there to build the answers piece by piece.

I've been listening to an album whilst writing this, an album called "If you leave" by the band Daughter. The actual music itself is irrelevant, something I put on to help me concentrate, but there was one lyric which hit me quite hard early on which I've never truly given any thought until this listen through. During the song 'Smother', the lead singer croons "I sometimes wish I'd stayed inside my mother, never to come out". I realised that this is a thought which could apply to lots of people experiencing coming out. The feeling that you want to hide yourself away and let your existence be rubbed out, or to start over again from the very beginning to give yourself a fleeting chance at something else. But I say this. You have no need to hide yourself from yourself. Whilst in certain situations it can be best to wait to come out, as you should always wait for the right moment, the first person you have to come out to is yourself. Some may say that it's a selfish way of looking at things, but when it comes to sexuality, there is nobody in the world more important than you are - you must always come first. Don't you dare listen to a goddamm thing anyone says about how you should be you, because I'll be damned if they know a thing about any of it.

Mikey: Talking to your friends helps. I know its difficult, I'm hardly one to talk as I never did but I wish that I had. You need to find someone who may understand the situation your in - maybe a teacher or an adult?  Don't let that lead to something like grindr. Getting advice does not mean going on a dating app. It is a bad idea and will lead to something bad. I promise you (first had experience!) It allows you to think that casual sex is okay and makes you want to look for validation. ABOVE ALL DON'T GO ON GRINDR. 

Tumblr and places like that where the community is accepted is good if you don't feel like talking to friends. I want you to take a moment - if you are struggling - and think about your future, your partner, the house you're going to have, your dream job and most of all think about how happy you are going to be. Think your life like it is a lump of clay - people can try and mold it for you but you have the final say.

Links:

http://www.thetrevorproject.org - the trevor project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention space, where you can talk to people via message, phone or social networking about issues dealing with sexuality.
https://www.trevorspace.org - the trevor project's social media platform, website.
http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out - the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)'s page for resources on coming out
http://www.glaad.org/transgender - GLAAD's transgender media and education foundation
http://www.stonewall.org.uk - stonewall, a website that offers help and information on what's going on in the LGBTQ community and how you can also help.

Find Mikey: Here
Find Ben: Here

2 comments:

  1. this is wonderful as a girl who for the past few years has started to notice that i may be lesbian. i absolutley love this article! Thank You!

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    1. I am glad that you enjoyed this post! I wish you well in the future and hope you have a great day!

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