As part of the #BeYourself campaign we have asked a number of people from the LGBT+ community to share their stories of their journeys to self-acceptance and how they have grown to become the person who they are today. LGBT+ people are now more societally accepted than ever before but often our journeys can have some challenges (including homophobia /transphobia and bullying). Shane shares his story, his thoughts and his journey with us and hopefully can inspire others in similar situations to be their unique selves.
Hi there, my name’s Shane and as part of the #BeYourself campaign, LGBT helpline Ireland have asked me to write a piece about being me and expressing myself.
So here’s my story, I’m 27 and from the UK. I grew up in the somewhat sunny seaside town of Brighton, which is meant to be the gay capital of the UK but that didn’t make being gay or coming out any easier.
I always knew I was gay, from a very young age actually but never really thought much of it and I didn’t feel at the time there was anyone that I could really speak to about it either. So I put it to the back of my mind and tried to forget about it.
It wasn’t until I started secondary school that I really struggled with the idea of being gay and felt rather ashamed about it. I just wanted to do what I thought at the time was the right thing, not for myself but for my family.
My friends where I grew up were somewhat rough and were real boys tracksuits, gold chains, baseball caps you get the picture. They used to tease me and make jokes about me being gay, I would just laugh it off and insist I wasn’t. All I wanted was to lead a normal life marry a woman, have children, the whole white picket fence thing and for a long time I thought I could do that by suppressing my thoughts and feelings.
I had several girlfriends growing up and for a while thought that I could be happy but I was wrong, I was sick of lying to myself and at the age of 16 I decided I owed it to myself to explore a little and try to embrace who I really was. Thankfully there was a little thing called the internet, I started using a few chat sites for gay teens and realized that there were lots of guys that were in similar situations to myself and for the first time in a long time I didn’t feel so alone.
I then went on to lead a double life, sadly I wasn’t a secret agent posing as a teen in high school, but to all of my friends and family I was the same straight guy that they all knew and behind closed doors I was a young gay guy trying to figure out how to be comfortable in my own skin. Over time I distanced myself from my friends more and more, I would sneak out of my bedroom window and go to the local gay bars and clubs with a few guys around my age that I’d met online and loved every minute of it. Yet I still didn’t feel strong enough to embrace myself completely or come out to everyone.
I carried on living like this until I was 18, it was summer and I’d been out for a few drinks okay maybe more than a few but I’d decided that it was now or never, I had to call my parents right now and tell them that I was gay. So I did just that, I was sitting on the top deck of the 14c back to Brighton and I called my mum who happened to be on holiday in Florida at the time with the rest of the family. I had no idea what time it was there and to be honest I didn’t care, I needed to say this now. She picked up the phone and it was like word vomit, it just came out, ” I’m gay ” followed by a huge burst of tears (the alcohol probably did’t help). Both my parents said that they already knew and that it was perfectly fine, I was still their baby boy, granted a lot bigger but their baby boy nonetheless.
I couldn’t believe how well they dealt with it, I was over the moon I could finally be who I truly was and could stop leading a double life. Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy, I still had to tell my friends and that I was dreading but one of my brothers beat me to it and told them. I had no idea how they were going to react.
It had been about 24 hours since my brother broke the news to my friends, I’d been at work and had just home, I was sitting in my bedroom which was on the ground floor when I heard someone banging on the front door. I got up to answer the door when I heard my so called friends shouting faggot and gay boy. I l just went back into my bedroom and tried to ignore it, it suddenly went rather quiet so I just assumed they’d gone. I was wrong, they then started banging on my bedroom window and screaming faggot, you’re going to die gay boy and various other threats.
The banging on the windows was getting so bad I thought they were going to come through, they then started on the front and back doors. I was petrified and genuinely in fear of my life, I rang the police and ran around the house making sure all the doors and windows were locked and then hid upstairs whilst I waited for the police to arrive. They eventually gave up after half an hour or so. The police arrived shortly after, took my statement and said they would be in the area should I need them again. I locked the doors, pretty much barricaded myself in the house and cried myself to sleep.
My parents came home the next day, I was so relieved to see them and knew things were going to be better. I never saw any of my friends again, I kept to myself and would avoid leaving the house when I knew they would be around, they were creatures of habit and I knew their routines. After a few months of doing this, I decided it was time to move out of my parents and into the city center where all the bars and clubs were on my doorstep.
Shortly after my move I met my now ex boyfriend and really embraced who I thought I was, I was so confident it was unbelievable. I’d never felt so great, I was making friends whilst being myself, which was something completely new to me. I hate to use this term, but I really was as camp as Christmas but I was happy, this was just one of many phases I went through and each one was just as crazy as the last, but I was having fun figuring out who I was. I used to get a lot of homophobic abuse shouted at me in the street and got beaten up on a couple of occasions but I didn’t let it deter me.
It wasn’t until I was around 25 that I felt like I knew who I really was. I woke up one day and thought to myself, I actually don’t care anymore It’s my life and I’m going to live it for me and as someone once said haters gunna hate. I went out and got a tattoo, which has now turned into 5 fairly large tattoos and several piercings. Not everyone likes them, but that doesn’t bother me because it’s my body and it’s how I like to express myself. I intend to get a lot more tattoos but think I’m done with the piercings, for now at least.
Ever since that day my confidence has grown and grown, I now know who I am and I’m very proud with how I’ve turned out. Yes it took me a while to get here, but you can’t rush perfection. I believe everything happens for a reason, whether it be good or bad. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if they hadn’t of happened.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that life really is too short to worry about what others think. We need to live our lives for ourselves and we deserve to be who we want to be whether that be getting lots of tattoos, piercings and having an immaculate quiff like myself, dying your hair or wearing different trends and styles.
We can be our own worst enemies sometimes and try to please everyone else but ourselves and yes life can be tough at times but trust me when I say things will and do get better.
So cliche I know but you only have one life so live it!