It’s Getting Better
Inspired by a post by the awe-inspiring Epijunky – It Gets Better . It has taken me a while to write, and so doesn’t quite fit in with other things that I have said recently, but it was important to me to get it right.
I’ve never made a secret of my sexuality on this blog. In fact, only a few of months ago I explicitly came out to anyone who happened to pass by this blog. But let’s be honest, this is a pseudo-anonymous blog and the odds of anyone I know actually reading it are minimal.
It’s not the same in the real world, at least, not all of it. At University, and in the Organisation (at least in my ‘home’ county), it’s not a secret, but I’ve hardly announced it from the rooftops. Some people I’ve told, others have worked it out for themselves, or have heard from others. I’ve not so much come out of the closest, more like drifted. I am forever grateful to my friends here that they have all taken it well, and I am glad that I have only once experienced a problem, and that was of the ‘no longer talking to you’ sort (which is fine, I don’t want to talk to you either…)
In my home town, it’s different again. There, all of this is a closely guarded secret. I’ve told three of my friends from school. They were the closest friends I had at school. One of them and I have both agreed that if one of us murders someone, they’ll be the first to back them up (and cover for them: she’s training as a forensic expert). She is the sort of friend who’ll have your back, right up until the last. One is my one and only ex-girlfriend, who I would trust with my life, my fortune, and everything (well, except my chocolate…). With a lot of badgering from the last two, I let the first one tell the last of the three (alright, yes, I chickened out…). I can’t say I regret it. She has turned in to one of the easiest people to talk to that I know.
The rest of it has been harder. My school was a local state comprehensive, and while it was the best school in the area, and generally fine, there was also quite a lot of intolerance. Aside from everything bad being called ‘gay’, which I just ignore, there were quite a few really hard-line Christians1 who seemed to have missed the bit on loving thy neighbour. During a rather relevant discussion, I made some bitter remark of something like ‘so much for a tolerant society’, and promptly got the reply of ‘why should we be tolerant?’ There wasn’t much I could say to that, I was rather stunned.
Of cause, it wasn’t all massive comments like that. They were relatively easy to dismiss. It was the little things that tended to get to me. Like one my friends describing homosexuality as ‘just wrong’. Like the little jokes that many think are harmless. Like the disgusted reaction my mum made to the first gay kiss on Casualty (I would link to it, but I can’t find any stories that aren’t trying to stir trouble…). Like my dad’s less than impressed reaction to the news that civil partnerships between two men or two women were to be legalised. Things that aren’t directly abusive, or violent, or necessarily with any particular malice, but which wear you down through pure attrition…
The net result was hiding myself for my entire career at that school. I’m not camp (or at least, not as far as I’m concerned), which helped, but I took it even further. As far as pretend girlfriends that nobody could ever meet, and then the extremely short-lived relationship with my friend (which I will always regret, not least because of the pain I caused her).
It all sound pretty harmless taken individually. A few lies here, a few secrets there, but, recently, I can see in myself a lot more problems.
I don’t drink alcohol. At all. This is mainly out of habit, and too many first hand encounters with the results of too much alcohol. I can see now, however, that one of the original reasons was that, when I was first old enough to start drinking, I had a few too many secrets to hide to risk losing any control. What if I started blabbering about who I fancied, or how I had a secret nobody would ever know. No, it was too chancy.
I am painfully self-inhibited. It takes a lot to pull me out of my very comfortable comfort zone, the one a few miles away from the centre of attention. It took a huge step for me to audition for the school musical while in sixth form. I loved it, and by the end was jumping in to things feet first, but I’ve never pulled together the confidence to do it all again.
The lack of self-confidence then extends itself to arguments, disagreements and conflicts in general. Even when I’m right, or the one in charge, I fold far too quickly. It doesn’t help that I have so little faith in my decisions that people jump on it if they disagree.
But it’s getting better. I joined the Organisation. I learned skills. I proved to myself that I could use these skills. Time and time again. Slowly, I stopped pestering people with ‘is this okay?’, and gained the confidence that I do actually know the right thing to do for my patient, within my limits. I now lead others to do the same. I’m not the world’s best leader, or the most assertive, but nine times out of ten, I get the job done.
Behind my uniform, I’ve done things I never thought I’d be capable of. I’ve cleared rooms full of strangers when someone has fallen ill. I’ve made important people clear off when they’re in my way, and nearly had the headline act of a university show forcibly removed from my first aid post when he was harassing my staff.
I’ve done things that deliberately make me the center of attention, and put me in a position where I had to convince some very antagonistic people that my way was the only way that would work. Things that I’d never thought I could do before. It’s become almost instinctive now that if someone is ill and I have ‘seniority’, I’ll jump straight in and start handing out orders (even to people who I probably shouldn’t be ordering around).
It’s not perfect. As soon as the uniform comes off I crumple back in on myself again. But it’s a start, and I have to start somewhere. And it’s getting better. Slowly, yes, but at least I’m not going backwards.
If I could give one piece of advice to people in this position, it would be this: Find something you can put your all in to. It doesn’t have to be first aid, or volunteering. It could be sport, if that’s what you prefer, or anything. Make it something that you enjoy, something that’ll make you better, someone to be proud of. Something that you want to get out of bed in the morning for. On the really bad days, it’ll be something to live for.
Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t listen to them when they tell you it’ll end badly, or that what you’re doing is a waste of time. You don’t have to make them happy, or convince them that it’s right. As long as you believe in it, and enjoy it, that’s all that’s important. The people who matter will believe in you, no matter what.
Let it stretch you, pull you beyond the limits that are so easy for you to put in your way. Put everything you have in to it, and take everything it has to offer. Focus on everything you get out of it. Every little thing that makes life a little better. That makes you a little better in your eyes (not in the eyes of society, or your peers).
It isn’t easy. I won’t say it is because I know it isn’t. For me, it still isn’t. And it might not be quick or dramatic. It could be so slow or subtle that you don’t notice until it hits you all in one go. But you’ll get there, when you are ready.
And please, no matter what happens, if you are having trouble, reach out for help. You are not alone. You are worth helping. Someone will stop to help you, and those who don’t, well, you don’t need them around…
Every time this world loses someone because they feel it is the only way out, it becomes a little poorer. Let’s not lose anyone else.
1 I don’t have a problem with Christians. A lot of my friends are Christian. (Err, cliché much?) But they actually follow most of the ideas, not just the ones about there only being one God, etc.