Friday , 27 May 2022

Challenging bullying begins with acceptance: Andrew’s Story



Stonewall Scotland have launched a #NoBystanders campaign in response to National Anti-Bullying Week.

The movement asks people to be more vocal against all forms of bullying, whether explicit, subtle or misguided, and move away from just simply letting things slide.

This follows depressing statistics: 7,500 young people in the UK experience bullying per year on average, with nearly a third of them attempting suicide.

This shitty state of affairs signals the presence of outdated attitudes that have permeated into our language and behaviour.

Want to insult Justin Bieber by calling him gay? Laughing at the effeminate character in that movie? You’re adding to the problem.

No one should have to feel bad, let alone die, for being who they are. Simple.

In respect of Stonewall’s campaign and all the gay kids out there, I’d like to share my own story.

Here goes:

My childhood was insular.

I grew up in a compound in Saudi Arabia. My Dad worked for BAE in Dhahran, and as part of many ex-pat job packages at the time enjoyed a comfortable lifestlye in a gated communtiy next door to hundreds of other British families.

We lived in a mini-UK, enjoying friendly neighbours, international schools and all the luxuries that cheap, exported pre-recession goods could bring.

While the community spirit was great, and I had plenty of friends around, the place was small.

17593390672_8033cdb821_kThe compound, like many others dotted around the city, comprised of only 102 villas. In a kind of stepford wives reenactment, people got very nosey. While me and my friends were playing 40/40, rumours spread, exclusion was enforced, and cliques formed amongst the adults.

This insular culture created social rules within the community. People got pissed off if kids jumped in the pool; the talk of the day was someone’s wife cheating on her husband; the houseboys not watering their aloe vera plants enough was a cardinal sin.

People were getting void of their own opinions, existing in a manufactured bubble.

The influence of TV and media only extends on a shallow cognitive level. People got the gist of what they wanted to hear, then applied it in a small doses: Short skirts are slutty, beware of muslims, homosexuality is disgusting.

I was quite an effeminate kid. Gentle, quiet, introspective, but quite feminine in my mannerisms.

I liked playing with Barbie dolls alongside my model dinosaurs; I liked to sing and dance; most of my best friends were girls.

The older I got, the more people in this community started to notice.

“You’re boy’s a little weird,” folks would say to my parents. “He needs toughening up”.

I was sent to football matches, rugby clubs, boy scout groups (all of which I irrefutably hated), in what I guess were my parent’s efforts to get me to ‘man up’.

I felt inadequate because I wasn’t good at these things, and felt like I was letting my parents down. I felt bad about myself, like I didn’t measure up to the other boys. I had no role models. Only me and my painful feelings.

One day on the school bus I was sitting near the front (I must have been about 10 at the time), and a group of older, teenage guys were sitting at the back.

From nowhere they started calling me ‘fat’, ‘gay’, ‘a girl’. I had never spoken to them before.

The malice in their laughter struck me hard. I burst into tears, believing I deserved every negative thing they said because I wasn’t like them. Because I wasn’t an a straight, boisterous, arrogant little shit.

My parents took care of it. And I’m thankful they had the nerve to step in and complain to their parents.

But the problem didn’t end.

For years afterwards I carried this weight in my heart, intrinsically believing that I wasn’t good enough. That I, Andrew, me as a human being, was simply wrong. A mistake.

I look back now at the age of 25 and see the problem wasn’t with me at all – but with the shallow, bigoted attitudes that permeate through popular media and conversation.

It’s important that all you young LGBTI people out there see this. The problem is external, not internal.

You are fine. You are awesome.

And don’t for one second accept the words of others who think otherwise.

About Andrew Headspeath

Andrew Headspeath
Andrew is a Scottish-Filipino journalist based in Glasgow. He grew up in Saudi Arabia and spent two years living and loving life in Vietnam after graduation. He has written front-page features for AsiaLIFE Magazine and runs a travel blog. He is fascinated by people and the places they call home. He has a particular interest in travel, international affairs, race relations and youth culture. His drag name would be Manila Vanilla. He is currently studying an MA in Multimedia Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University.

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