I have been staring at the screen for the last 5 minutes. I wrote the text, proofed it, and the only thing that is standing between thinking and doing is one click at the publish button.
It started yesterday, when I was talking with a friend about the LGBT History Month. He was telling me that we everyone has a cross to bear, and that he did not understand why we should be having a whole month for the LGBT crowd; and then I told him what I am about to tell you. I felt as vulnerable sharing it then as I am feeling now, but if it helps at least one person, in any way possible, I genuinely think it will be worth it.
Everyone has a cross to bear. This is mine.
When I was 17, I woke up in a hospital. My mouth was parched, my head sore, and my eyes unable to focus. I felt the weight of the sheets, comforting and sickening at the same time, and swallowed hard. Next to me, my best friend was sitting looking bored stiff.
I asked him what happened; he looked at me quizzically, weighing in his head what response he should give someone lying on a bed with a bruised face and no memory of the many times he asked the same question in the space of the same day; he began by telling me that I had already asked him several times, he answered me several times, and after I dozed off, I would wake up to ask him again. When I started promising that I would remember, he finished my sentence with the exact same words I told him all the previous times. Nevertheless, he sighed, and started telling me.
I was visiting him, as he was just settling in a different city for university. On the day that I was scheduled to leave, I offered to run some errands. When I returned home, I had a massive bruise running from my forehead down to my chin. I told him I was ok. We sat down, and I looked at him blankly, before asking him if he just put that vase on the table; he reminded me that I put it there before leaving. I nodded, stood still, and formed a puzzled expression on my face. Minutes later, I asked him: ‘oh, did you just put this vase on the table’?
He called our friends, and they told him he needed to take me to a hospital. He called my father, who jumped on the first plane, and we hopped in a taxi. Of course, I did not remember all this; I still don’t. But I remember him telling me. And I then fell asleep.
When I woke up, my father was sitting at the corner of the room. His worried face was focused at me. I looked at him, and he smiled. I smiled back. I knew I was keeping a secret locked in my head, and for some reason, I felt that it should remain there.
We then went to a cafe before catching a flight back home. It was spacious, with large windows allowing the light to flood the room, fall on people’s faces and expose their identities. I sat there, watching my dad and best friend trying to talk as if nothing happened. I noticed that the room was getting quieter by the minute, time slowing down as a thought slid though me like a knife: he could be here. Whoever hit me could be here, in this room, and I would not know it. I would not recognise him. He could be the waiter, or the guy with his daughter, or someone passing outside. I blinked hard, and bit my lips. Time came back to normal, and my father was asking for the cheque.
The truth about that day escaped me for many years. I once dreamt that I was back on that street, panic ringing in my throat, when I noticed two men coming towards me from the opposite sidewalk. I woke up gasping for air and touched my forehead. I lied back down, and stood still as my heart was racing.
Throughout college, I took an active interest in psychology, and especially the study of homophobia. I did research, run experiments, and published work on the subject. I was particularly interested in the line between verbal and physical bullying, the split second that separates the swear word from the knuckles thrusting into flesh. I never knew why, until I came to London.
Pieces of the event were slowly coming together. I remembered dropping off the DVDs at the rental store; picking up my tickets to fly back home; talking on the phone to my friend as I was walking home. My memory stopped when I turned the corner to the street I was hurt. Then everything cuts sharply to black.
One night, I was out with a good friend. One drink led to another bottle, and soon we were talking about everything from our sordid past. And as I was telling her about this event, for a moment I stopped being in the pub; I was back in the street. My eyes were scanning the street, and I saw myself lying down, facing the pavement. And then life moved backwards, and I got up, and a man’s hand moved away from my face, and him and his friend moved away from me, walking backwards. I took a sharp inhale, and I was back in the pub, in uncontrollable tears. I remembered.
I was walking down the street when two men were walking towards me in the opposite sidewalk. I can still not remember their faces or shapes, but I am assuming that they must have been attractive, as I was looking at them. They changed their direction and came towards me. They asked me why I was looking at them, wanted to know if I was a fag, and moments later were hitting me to the ground.
My friend took me to her house, where I slept on her bed. In the morning, my cheeks were covered with dried tears, my eyes were blank, and my mouth was half open, ready to say something, not sure what it was.
I still have no detailed recollection of what happened that day. I will probably never know. What I do know though is that I can not ignore homophobia when I see it; I know that mocking someone and physically attacking them is not far away when you are with like-minded friends, caught in the macho moment in time. It is easy to feel superior by pointing the thing you consider inferior to the other. It is much harder to feel safe in your sexuality, and accept others.
This is why we should be having an LGBT History Month. It first started in the US, in October of 1994, and moved to the UK in 2005. since then, It relies on the individual and collective effort for change, both on a national and local level. From uncovering the sexualities of major historical figures, like Florence Nightingale, William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci, to presenting the achievements and lives of current LGBT icons (with the recently popular J. Edgar and Alan Turing), it bring the LGBT identity out of the shadows.
This serves a really important purpose: show that gay people are not caricatures in the background of a 90 minute episode; are not an exotic addition to your daily life; are not ‘the other’.
You can find the full schedule of the London Events here.
Let’s change the world, one prejudice at a time.