I wondered if you could tell me your experience what happened to you?
There’s been a lot of them over the years.It started at school just had the usual- awful minimalising it saying the usual because it is usual for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisxeual, transgender) to have these experiences at school. I took a few punches at school. It’s more as I’ve got older it’s bothered me more. Because I’m just living my life – and you can’t do that without it constantly being in the back of your mind. Where am I, is it appropriate to hold my partners hand, what’s the reaction going to be? That constant vigilance is exhausting.
Even with my own family. A relative of mine was talking about me and said ‘he’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet but because he’s gay he’s dead to me’…spat at me and when I came out forcibly removed me from his house.
I’ve been attacked in the street. I was with a group of friends, chatting away, something that I said they took offence to. I was whirled me around and was like ‘who the **** do you think you are acting like in the street, there’s kids around’. I might have been talking about our boyfriends at the time, because I was only 17, 18…it was the first time I’d ever been physically confronted. I’d been confronted many times just verbally…
There’s a certain point when I’d just come out of liberation – now I’ve told everyone who’s important, I don’t really care what the rest of the world thinks and I wore it like a badge of honour. I was very, you know, PDA (public declarartion of affection) it didn’t bother me…it was someone else who pointed it ot to me ‘I think you should stop because that bloke over there’s giving you a funny look’ and that was the moment everything changed.
I’d been aware of it at school but that defining incident changed everything. We weren’t sat on the bench snogging each other’s faces off we were just sat on a bench, holding hands, casual touches, what couples do…
It’s being who you are isn’t it?
We weren’t putting on a live sex show it just – viewed as normal behaviour whereas if it’s two men or two women – it changes and becomes something sordid and my whole view on sex became qute sordid…I had to take a step back.
Ever since then, I was is a long term relationship 6 or 7 years we just totally stopped doing any PDA – in any form.
So you modified your behaviour?
Yeah. And that’s not ok and that’s why now this past year or so I have changed and I do challenge behaviour now. Because I want to know where the next generation are going to be able to be who they are – without fear of judgement and without fear of physical harm.
In the towm I grew up in we had a gay night – even then you were fine in the confines of a club but people would lurk specifically to target people. The gauntlett of getting home was terrifying.
When these things have happened to you can you remember how you felt at the time?
Frightened. That’s my immediate word fear, and shock – at the beginning anyway. I’m not shocked by it anymore which I think in itself is quite shocking – it doesn’t shock me any more. And then it changes over time, initial fear but then it turns to anger. Because I am, I’m angry I can’t be who I want to be without fear.
That’s when that anger turned in me. Stop gettng angry, and start doing something about it. Why should I change the person I am? In a sense I’ve grown from it but i could have quite easily gone the other way – and i did for a long time. I modified my behaviour, the way I dressed, the way I spoke, the way I acted around other people.
I am who I am and I can’t alter that and I won’t alter that any more…
But there are certain times when you think in situations where – even still – your perception of fear is that acute that you would, whether that fear is justified, from the experiences I’ve had…
That’s obviously a long term impact…
If I’m out on my own at night, in town drinking or whatever, and it’s still there, and it is that constant hyper vigilance, constanly aware, and you notice people’s looks. It’s vigilance but it’s hyper sensitive and you notice everything about you. And that’s exhausting it really is.
Individual instances they’re hard to pin point, hard to decsribe why it happened. I wasn’t doing anything that I would see as outrageous. If I saw anybody else doing it I wuoldn’t look twice so I can’t imagine what it was I was doing that infuriated a person enough to want to do me physical harm.
When these things have happened in a public place has anyone stepped in or supported you?
I’ve been around people I know normally – I’ve been round friends that have stepped in. The way I would approach it now is different. Fortunately it’s been a long time since I’ve had those experiences. I just wanted to get away, hide and run, but now I would challenge them…return fire as such, depending on how much I’d had to drink really (laughs).
We’ve kind of covered the impact at the time and the impact afterwards but something you did mention is that it bothered you more as you became older –
I think when you come out, when you actually do it you’ve got all those ‘worst scenarios’ in your head so you expect those behaviours from other people anyway. So those experiences I just took on ‘this is how it’s going to be’. But then when you grow up and learn it’s not like that for everyone else that’s when it started to bother me more. But that’s also when I started to change my behaviour – because I didn’t want to be experience that.
So maybe the sense of injustice becomes more acute…
Can I ask why you’ve agreed to share your experience?
Simply because I know there are going to be a lot of people that won’t. And I understand that. It’s a hard topic to talk about. There’s a part of me that’s been dreading it all day. It wakes up a part of you that you don’t want to think about. It takes you back to a time…
But at the same time there are alot of people that need to hear about it. There are alot of people who haven’t been through it who don’t understand the impact – and the long lasting impact. Bruises fade, the psychological impact of these things don’t. So that’s why I agreed personally. I see it, I read aobut it every day, and that’s not good enough.
Any closing comments?
To those people who haven’t experienced it if you see it challenge it. Educate people.
Afterwards go up to somebody and say ‘are you ok?’
Because that one thing restores someone’s faith in humanity again. And also report it, even if it doesn’t go any futher we need to know that it’s happening because we can’t make the wider community aware of it if it’s not documented. We know it happens, I know it happens. I’ve been guilty of not reporting it it. I won’t be in future.
You’re aware of the impact of reporting it to get a clearer picture?
It’s all about the picture. I’m aware it might not lead to anything but we need that wider picture of what’s happening on our streets.