My name is Eddie James – I’m an aspiring medic, I love photography and I’m a young gay man. If you would have told me that in Year 7, I would not have believed you. Purely because I hadn’t known about any of these attributes of which I hold so dearly as part of myself. As cliché as it may seem, I’ve grown a great deal since then and I may still have a lot of growing to do.
At the start of Year 7, I was a somewhat shy boy who was just trying to find his place in his new and unfamiliar school. I never thought I’d be targeted. I guess I was just being naïve and I was blissfully unaware to the capacity of cruelty that some teenagers possess. I think having to deal with all the personal changes and problems that ensue with puberty was hard enough without even having the judgement of others interfering and cutting my confidence down even lower than it already was. It may sound overly dramatic but, frankly, that was the truth.
The distasteful phrase ‘that’s so gay’ was casually thrown around the school in a negative context by students like someone complaining about the English weather or talking about how hard it is to wake up at the unholy and early hours of a Monday morning. I quickly got the sense that being ‘gay’ – whatever that meant – was not exactly a good thing. I was oblivious to homosexuality as it wasn’t really evident in the school curriculum and it wasn’t in mainstream media.
A boy in the year above me who I had never spoken to before had once asked me “are you gay or are you posh?” He had made a judgement on me and categorised me into two groups based on my voice and how I acted. People would call me ‘gay’ and I could not run away from that label that I fought so hard to not be. I look back and I have extreme empathy for my past self. I was confused. I was lost. I was scared. I remember asking myself “How do people know what I am but I do not?”
Over the last few years, after a plethora of affliction and pain, I have finally come to admit and accept the label which was shoved on me from a young age. The fact that people singled me out for being different and giving me a label was unacceptable. However, since I have grown to love my label and own it, I have never been happier.
We must learn to embrace our diversity and differences. From a young age we’re taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it at all and to love one another. As we grow older, it is easy to forget some of the most important values which were once etched into our brains at a young age.
Sadly, I imagine that labelling will always occur and there will always be stigmas around certain labels and types of people. Everyone is labelled and it may bother some people and it may not others, however, with whatever you may be labelled with – take it and own it. Turn over the stereotypes and defy people’s prejudices. Scream your truth to the world.
-Eddie James, Year 12