In which our correspondent talks about trolls, the real affect they have on their victims and how trauma can affect us as LGBTQ people.
Well! Happy New Year and all that good stuff. Here’s to a great 2019, a new you and a fresh start, and here’s to all those resolutions you’ve made. However – what was wrong with you last year? Probably nothing that a hug and someone believing in you couldn’t cure.
I started thinking about how, as a community, we could be kinder to each other. There are so many LGBT people (not all) that do not love themselves and that for sure can be unkind to other gay people. You know what they say “what you don’t like in yourself” and all that. So why is this? Maybe it’s something to do with how we are treated by the rest of the world. As Ru Paul says, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?’
Why was I thinking about this? Well, my year started on a sour note. It was not because all my usual New Year’s chums had gone to more exciting destinations and the thought of spending a fortune in town did not appeal to me.
No, in fact, I had come to terms that it was going to be just me on my own on the balcony at midnight, enjoying a glass of bubbly as the bells chimed. I actually enjoyed it.
The reason was, that I had broken my rule on the last day of the year by accepting a Facebook friendship request without first cross-checking who they knew. He looked nice and was proud to be a ‘Nice… boy’, and as many of my friends had a similar religious background, I accepted in good faith.
Around 12.45am, once the calls had stopped coming in from family and friends, I received a panicked message on Messenger; ‘Look at your Facebook page’. To my horror, below my profile picture was a comment from the new Facebook friend stating, ‘You dirty f…. gay you make sick to my stomach, hope you die.’ Then, under all the comments from my well-wishers at New Year, he had posted more horrendous messages. Many of my friends had noticed and offered their sympathy and outrage. Oh, and this new Facebook friend had also “poked” me into the bargain.
Obviously, I got the vile post removed asap and blocked the offender. An hour later, determined not to be a victim, I decided to report him. The culprit profile was gone. My first thought was how sad he must be to have kicked off the New Year with an attack on another human being – it sure was not going to affect me Who would go to such bother as to set up a fake profile in order to post abuse?
There was a passing moment where I thought that perhaps someone who I had fallen out with had done this.
You know what they say, ‘sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt me’. There has never been a stupider saying; a scar can heal, but often the abuse of name-calling will last forever – just ask all the many people living with mental health issues.
Many of my friends have been abused by trolls and, despite publicly handling it well, there’s often another story behind closed doors. Being so open about my life, it was bound to happen to me at some point. So, to bed I went, determined to have a great 2019.
Yet later that day, it hit me and brought back thoughts of past bullying which kind of reignited some of the trauma from my childhood that had been pushed to the back of my mind, so I perhaps was not as tough as I thought.
Let’s face it – we sometimes look in the mirror and the reflection of the child you once were looks back at you. Often scared, wondering how this man or woman’s body we inhabit came to be, since inside you still feel the same as you did at school, only this thing called maturity has aged us. But we shake ourselves down, notice the lines and the sagging, and then remember we have responsibilities as adults and quickly come back down to earth.
The truth is, we never go far from the playground in life. There are often bullies at work, clique groups that you do not fit into, the pressure to perform well, and let us not forget, to ‘FIT IN’. For many people, the trauma from childhood can echo into their adult years. Nowhere is this more truthful than in the gay community. For everyone who has a positive coming out story, there is an avalanche of horror stories of gay people feeling full of guilt and depression about their lives after being rejected by their families and friends.
As we grow older, most of us who are LGBTQ learn coping mechanisms to deal with trauma and negativity, to become what appears to be grounded and amazing adults. There are exceptions, but who actually made us feel good about our sexuality to begin with?
Last year on Dr Pam’s radio show, I said that it would be great to get education to a stage where parents of LGBTQ kids were more worried who their teenagers were dating – ‘Is it someone nice?’, ‘Are they getting home safely?’, and most importantly, ‘Are they happy?’ – rather than ‘Where did it all go wrong?’
This is one of the main reasons that I signed up to the charity Diversity Role Models, an exciting organisation which goes into schools to talk and educate about LGBTQ. I wanted to share the story of my childhood and life with kids.
For those that don’t have coping strategies the reality can be quite daunting, with gay and bisexual men being four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual men. According to university research homophobia and negative views surrounding the lifestyles of gay and bisexual men is cited as one of the main contributing factors to the higher suicide attempt rate amongst the LBGTQ community.
For young people, the gay scene can be far from a warm and safe environment to help with their self-esteem. Back in my day, the chicken hawks surrounded me, most with only one intention. I was a lucky one and some kind souls helped me. Plus, I quickly became streetwise after having learned to be self-sufficient at an early age.
Today the gay dating scene is moving more and more towards mobile apps. At a recent event to talk about chem-sex held by the dynamic Dave Stewart, the manager at the Dean Street Clinic, he explained that chem-sex is on the rise. It was said that a young gay man arriving in London who subscribes to an app such as Grindr can expect that, by the third message he receives, there will be an invitation to a chem-sex party. Of course, these parties are also held in the heterosexual community, but they are having a more devastating effect on the gay community, with many deaths reported from these parties, not to mention rises in addiction, psychosis, and STDs.
Do gay men use drugs to cover up the guilt and shame that they are made to feel over their sexuality? Surely being in love and cherishing yourself and another person would be more empowering and self-gratifying?
I always believe that as long as it does not harm anyone or yourself, go for it. The rise of crystal meth and other so-called party drugs is not doing anyone any good. If you look across the pond to places like Fort Lauderdale in South Florida, the gay scene there has been ravaged by crystal meth – cases of meth addiction have doubled and deaths from the drug have risen by 80 per cent since 2014.
According to Dr David Fawcett, a Fort Lauderdale psychotherapist, most gay men using the drug did so in the hope of connecting better with other gay men, having been stigmatised and often shamed in their search for intimacy and safe relationships. Instead, they found the opposite from the drug. It is therefore far from a harmless pastime.
In 2019, let’s spend more time promoting loving yourself among the gay community.
From my years on the planet, I have found that some of the biggest homophobes can be gay men. It’s a fear of who they are, or who they really are. My experience is that men who are truly heterosexual have no problem with gay men; it’s the ones who have hidden away their true identity that have issues.
How many times have I wanted to scream when a gay man tells me “I only sleep with straight men”. Not only should they have a label attached to them, reading ‘DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHER GAY PEOPLE’, but they should also wear a T-shirt saying ‘DELUDED’.
Having eclectic friends, I tend not to go around with just groups of gay men. However, a few years ago while sitting in Soho House with five gay men, one boasted that he had sex with a straight Algerian taxi driver. Another spoke about how he nearly got the boy in his theatre show, who is straight, into bed. I stood up and told them ‘If their cock is half way down your throat, they are not straight,’ and then left.
Yes, there are plenty of straight men that I fancy, Colin Farrell and Tom Hardy to name two, but I keep it real and have never entered a friendship with a straight man hoping to get his trousers off. I have more dignity than that. Keep it as fantasy in your head, like being Superman (or Supergirl, writes our editor).
Equally I have been in friendships with men who identify as straight that I thought saw me as just a guy and my sexuality did not matter but, on occasion, have been let down. One friend messaged me to say they had booked a room for us at a hotel at an event we were attending adding “Mind you…separate beds”. First, I had never once showed interest in him sexually…nor would I. Luckily maturity made me brush it off though I did think “Fucking hell…as if!” But it all adds up to being made feel less about yourself.
Let’s not even talk about the line some gay men use – ‘straight looking’ – which points to a dislike of yourself as gay man.
Back in the early 80s, I was on Christopher Street in New York walking down to the Monster Bar. A gay pal gave me some advice; “You get in trouble, see those drag queens over there, scream “help” they will come running. Don’t bother with the clones and muscle Marys – they will go screaming back into the bar.”
Luckily for me the situation never arrived, but it just goes to show that the drag queens had to be more streetwise to be themselves and suffered more often in life, so for them, it was sink or swim, and those broads were as hard as nails, and as kind as could be too.
So, let’s just start by being kind and looking out for one another. Of course, just as in any community, we can’t all be best pals, but we can try and make a difference by being happy to be our true selves. Have a great 2019!