Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Story

Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:44 PM

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G'day JustinO,
I'm not sure how relevant my story is, or even if it's worth telling. I've tried a couple of times to explain it on Dunes' comments but ended up trashing it. So I'll leave it to you to determine whether or not it's worth posting, or of any use to others.
My earliest lesson in discrimination was as a kid. I heard noises on the other side of the fence in the backyard, and then peered through a crack in the palings to investigate. I saw six fluffy little chickens. Five of them were pecking the sixth to death. I saw blood and wondered why such a horrible thing was happening to one of the chicks.
I'm not sure if witnessing the chicks had anything to do with my behavior as a kid, but for all my years at school I would spend each recess walking around the schoolyard in circles pretending to be headed somewhere. I figured if I looked busy no one would bother me. I was afraid to stop or be seated on my own in case I became a target.
I knew somehow that I was different to other kids. Not that I knew I was gay. There was no such thing as gay or homosexual. No one knew what it meant. If you were slightly effeminate or whatever, the worst thing you could be called was "sissy". I never played sports or got involved in any organizations because that would have meant associating with my peers. My two best friends were Mr Smith and Mr Jones... both imaginary. My mother once told me she'd have to stand at the back door and listen to my conversations to find out "who" I was before she could call me in for dinner.
I was somehow cajoled into joining the school football team when I was about 12. We were bused to a local playing field where I was told to play "wing". Wing? What was wing? I had no idea. Everyone expected me to know about football but I didn't have a clue. So, early in the game, when I saw all the players headed in a particular direction, I seized the opportunity to head in the opposite direction. I jumped down into a storm water drain and followed it home. And that was the end of my football career.
I left school at 14 because I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to promise my mother that I would continue my schooling at night tech. And then I blossomed. My workmates were different to the kids at school. There was no peer pressure. I was free to be me. There were no teachers to turn my hands black and blue with the cane. I didn't have to line up in the mornings for inspection before marching into class with all the other kids. I didn't have to be like everyone else. There was no school uniform. I could wear what I liked to work, even luminous socks and an Elvis hairstyle. I was an adult. A 14 y/o, 5 foot adult but what the hell. I was treated like an adult. AND I EARNED MONEY!
I'll never forget the day I left school for the last time. I walked through the front gates determined not to look over my shoulder. And I didn't. Those days were gone... dead and buried. Good riddance!
In hindsight, I blame the institution of school for any problems I had about "fitting in". Outside of school, I didn't have that problem. There was nothing to fit into! In the school environment, kids rule the playground. You're not allowed to deviate from accepted behavior... from a rigid code of conduct. If you're different, the other chickens will peck you to death.
It was outside of school in the workplace where I discovered that some guys were into other guys. They were everywhere! At the time I had no idea what was going on. Young blokes would wink at me and smile, and do strange things with their tongues. What the bloody hell was that all about? Yes, I was extremely naive. If they had done that in the school playground, whoa! Big trouble.
When it did eventually dawn on me that I was gay, I became my own worst enemy... convinced that I was a sinner. It took me a long time to come to terms with being different. But that's another story.


Jim said...

This sounds all too familiar. Thanks for sharing this.

J said...

Well written, Gary. It's a shame your school didn't have the wherewithal to intercede.

Gary Kelly said...

Well, J, ignorance reigned supreme in those days. Nobody knew nuthin. What was I gonna complain about, and to whom? I didn't even know what my problem was or how to label it.

It's interesting to note that back then there was no gay pride. No closets from which to emerge. Nobody was "out". There was no GLBT movement. So there was no specific group for bullies or anti-gays to target like there is now.

Art Darwin said...

And schools still flounder without intentional policies coverning this kind of bullying. Teachers and administrators seem deaf and blind, in denial and/or fearful of community "moral" outrage if they admit that such bigotry should be a school concern.

Coop said...

Thanks for sharing this Gary.
Life got easier as I got older.
Kids picked on me because of the leg.