My homophobic bullying story
Comedy writer and performer, Doug Faulkner, faced homophobic bullying throughout secondary school.
Because of his experience, he's passionate about tackling homophobic bullying in schools. He describes what happened to him.
How did the bullying start?
"I've always been an extrovert, and I was quite effeminate when I started secondary school. At the time, I considered it part of my personality and nothing to do with sex or sexuality. It was just who I was.
"Because I was very confident, the older kids wanted to put me down, and people in my own year group joined in.
"It started with homophobic name calling, such as 'backstabber' and 'shirt lifter'. The first time I heard the word 'gay' was in a hateful context, and I didn't even know what it meant. I just thought I was uncool.
"By the time I was in the third year, I was being bullied a lot. It was always homophobic bullying. It would happen on the way to school on the bus, between lessons, sometimes during lessons, and on the bus home. It wasn't just verbal abuse but physical abuse, too. Once, on the way home, my hair was set on fire.
"It took a lot of strength to get out of the house and face the bullying. Being ridiculed was part of my daily life.
"I was at the bottom of all my classes. My self-esteem was so low that I was almost suicidal. I didn't know who or where I was. All I knew was that nearly everyone had decided that I was loathsome, vile and unnatural."
Did the school do anything?
"I'm dyslexic, so my school made me do an IQ test in the third year. I had the highest IQ in my year, but I wasn't doing well academically because my self-confidence was so low. So the school sent me for counselling when I was 14.
"After counselling, my mum said to me: 'Do you think it upsets you so much when people call you names because you think what they're saying might be true?'
"I said to Mum: 'I'm 14. That's not a decision I'm prepared to make now. I have the right to experiment and find out about myself. But I'm not being given that right at school. They're telling me what I am, and that it's disgusting.'
"The counselling helped because it gave me a chance to express myself. After about a year or so of counselling I became more confident. I'd find different ways to try to stop the bullying, such as being the class clown or being nice to the right people."
How did the bullying make you feel?
"I'd get a sinking feeling. As soon as I walked along a corridor I knew it was going to happen. It happened a lot in certain areas, such as walking from class to class, or going to and from school.
"It gave me a victim mentality. I either loathed myself, or I loathed everybody else for making me feel like that.
"Leaving school after GCSEs was the only way out. During the five years after I left school, the culture towards homosexuality changed. I came out properly to my friends when I was 19, and to my family when I was 20."
Has your experience at school affected you in later life?
"On the negative side, I find it very difficult to have long-term relationships because it's difficult to trust people. I'm scared they're going to turn around and be hurtful.
"On the positive side, it's helped me understand how different we all are and how that difference makes us stronger.
"Everyone deserves to feel positive and unique, and happy with that uniqueness.
"I also respect people's need to have space to discover who they are, because I didn't have much space."
Where to find help for homophobic bullying
Schools have a legal duty to ensure that homophobic bullying is dealt with. Find out how to stop bullying, who to talk to, and about anti-bullying helplines and organisations.
For further information and advice about homophobic bullying, visit these charities' websites.
EACH is a charity for young people and adults affected by homophobia and transphobia. It has a telephone helpline for young people who are experiencing homophobic or transphobic bullying. You can call Actionline on 0808 1000 143 on weekdays, 9am to 5pm. Calls are free from landlines and most mobiles.
Stonewall: Education for All
Stonewall is a charity that campaigns for equal rights for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Their Education for All campaign tackles homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools across the UK. On the Education for All website, you can find case studies, facts and figures about homophobic bullying in schools, and advice for young people and teachers.
Schools Out is an organisation that works towards equality in education for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Find out more about your rights at school with the Schools Out student toolkit.
Article provided by NHS Choices