That was the sound of my pre-teens. Apparently, everyone in my school thought I needed to be told that I was a ‘gay boy’ or a ‘poof’ because of my somewhat camp tendencies. At this point, pre-puberty, I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about, primarily because I didn’t really even know what being gay was.

Sexuality, feelings and emotions are not something a pre-teen boy really explores – I didn’t even know what being a ‘gay’ really was. I did know though, that what ever it was, was making me a target.

Imagine how the conversation between me and my father, the man of the house, the main man in my life, the man who’s buy-in meant everything, went as I said “They keep saying I’m gay’, I unknowingly muttered as I sobbed in to my pillow, of my childhood bed. “Are you gay?” my dad probed. What was gay? I had no idea…

The early 90’s bore the hangover from the toxic masculinity of the 80’s, the era of Die Hard, Rambo & the Terminator whilst girl power tried to take a foothold in the hearts and charts across the world. Mixed messages, of course, a path to uncertainty, absolutely not.

Lets be real, life’s a bit like a ready meal; you’re created and include all the basic goodness you need, to one day be pulled from the deep freeze of childhood and shared with world as your most fabulous adult self. In essence, you are exactly what you are – human, pure and working to somehow navigate the future.

The school kids however, thought that life was actually a basic hotel buffet; a mix of stuff put together haphazardly in the hope to make something appealing on a plate. To them, being me wasn’t enough, of course I had to add the mincing walk, a dollop of high pitched voice and slice of gender neutral looks, because the extras are everything right?

…well apparently not, because those added extras were unwarranted. Those little ‘extra’s’ that lead me to avoid eye contact, run home and at many times cry, BUT they are the foundations of who I am today.

As I now approach my 40’s, naturally my perspective has shifted to the ultimate fear that my best before date is approaching, however, as I sit and type this, I look back and think of the younger me. The me that walked once into the world day after day without preconception or judgement and who quickly learned that a self depriving sense of humour levelled off the pain from strangers; what was this experience if not humbling.

Nowadays I talk with strangers, explore the world around me and even present in the boardroom without fear, because the fear, at the heart of it, was being perceived as something I wasn’t.

I can’t blame the kids for what they did, its only natural to point out the obvious differences between yourself and others, they didn’t know any better. They didn’t know the harm they were doing. As kids, none of us do. We still do this as adults by the way, but it’s our conscious, our adult inner voice, for the most part, that silences us.

The silence isn’t as deafening as it might seem though, as in the background is a beat. That pah dum, pah dum (thanks Kylie) resonating inside your chest, proves you are alive and that each day is yours to own.

You’re sooooo gay, everyone said, all the time, and now I know that they’re right, I am, but that’s not an insult like I once thought it was.


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