Junior | 27 | Leeds/London, UK | Floor Manager Banking
I can't remember ever thinking about coming out. Coming out of where? Where am I coming out to? My childhood was unbelievably scattered. Same old story - absent father, struggling single mother with two mixed race kids. I have strong memories of the moving around, the time we spent in a hostel and, most of all, how I had to grow up so fast to help my mother through what was a long, long tunnel.
Being a mixed race kid with a white Mom in predominantly 'white areas' brought me face to face with prejudice and judgement at a very early age; the racial name calling, the segregation and the sheer ignorance of some people. I remember people telling me to go back to Pakistan, where I came from and thinking, "What? I'm from England and I'm sure my Nannan and Grandad are Jamaican..." That memory actually makes me laugh now because of the complete idiocy of the statement alone. So, a person choosing to dislike me because of the way I was born was a very early experience for me. After three primary schools and three secondary schools, lots of fights and a lot more learning, I settled at my last school when I was 14-15. This was a very mixed school with children from a similar background to me so it was easy to make friends and fit in. Popularity soon followed and I started a journal to document my transition into becoming a young adult and analyse my own actions.
"I'd had girlfriends when I was 12 or 13 but we only ever 'pecked' on the lips. Looking back, it was definitely more about the friendship than anything else."
I never actually knew what homosexuality was. It's not something they just bring up at school and your parents certainly weren't going to talk about it back then. It wasn't all over TV like it is now; a token gay guy in every soap and all the passing shows like Queer Eye and Playing It Straight - and don't even mention reality TV shows. I knew I liked boys but I thought that must have just meant that I was born wrong, like I was meant to be a girl or something and that I'd eventually grow out of it.
Then something very interesting popped up on TV and everyone was talking about it... Queer as Folk. What is this? What are those men doing? Is that what gay means then? Ah... Think I'm probably gay then, not born wrong.
I thought back to when I was 11 years old and had kissed a boy and thought nothing of it; we just used to do it all the time like it was normal whenever our Moms went out partying. I then thought back a bit further to how obsessed I was with my babysitters friend, Wesley, and how I simply had to show him every new toy I owned and wouldn't leave his side till I was sent to bed...Yeah, definitely gay.
Being the impatient and carefree youngster that I was, it wasn't long until I started telling my friends. I had no concerns about my parent’s thoughts around it because, as a result of my upbringing, I was already used to making decisions for myself without their consent. I was however a little concerned about my Grandparents because they were from Jamaica, and I couldn't bear the thought of them being disappointed in me.
I soon got my first boyfriend, still at the age of 15. We were part of the same group of friends and he was in my class at school. We spent the summer together, meeting up with our friends around the area and my Mom would let him stay over although I'd never actually told her that I was gay. It was a good summer.
When I turned 16, I met an older man, a patriarch if you will, who introduced me to the gay scene. He was like an older brother who looked after me and introduced me to the right people, protecting me from the wrong.
"Because he was mixed race too, I felt so close to him and could relate so strongly to him. I'll never forget him. I'll always be thankful for him."
That winter, my Mom asked me if I was gay. I didn't hesitate in saying yes. She replied, "I miss your Dad so much, I'm so lonely." There, there Mother, let’s talk about you! She obviously knew for a long time and just needed that confirmation. I think she thought that me telling her somehow opened a door that we'd closed a long time ago which had stopped us from ever being close, hence her turning it into a conversation about my Dad. That wasn't the case but it was good that it was out, that I was out. My Mom told my Dad one day when he was at the house and he didn't say anything. I think he'd also known for a long time. As he left, he hugged me and said, "Bye Son" and I could hear the tears he was holding back. I don't for a second think they were tears of unhappiness or disappointment. Maybe he was thinking of the prejudices I would face in life after and the fact that he couldn't protect me from it was too overwhelming for him. He told my Grandparents who were completely fine and their relationship with me didn't change in the slightest and my 16 cousins and I are still as close as we've always been.
The main issues I faced were with complete strangers or people who had absolutely no right, but felt the need to, comment on my life. My past and personality helped but, for the best part of 5 years, I had to learn how to deal with people's negative behaviour. I've seen some ugly things and heard some poisonous words but never has it diminished any part of me. I'm approaching 28 years old now and I'm probably the most comfortable I've ever been with my sexuality and myself generally. It really does get easier as you get older yet I'm actually still really thankful for the struggles. There's still a long way to go until the world is free from homophobia. There's still a fight for equal rights when it comes to marriage in this country; a country that is supposed to be so modern and liberal. Maybe I won't get to see all the changes, but the ones I've seen from 1999 - 2012 alone have been outstanding and because of them, I smile!
"So my advice? Be strong, know yourself and know who you can count on.
Surround yourself with people who love you, people you love.
Laugh, Cry, Dance...
It's your journey, and it won't always be easy but you're never alone."
Follow Junior on Twitter - @JuniorBeaman