It got to the point that my brain was manipulating me, and I could no longer tell what was real and what was a dream.
To be honest with you, I didn’t even consider therapy for a good five years after it happened. I never believed anything was wrong with me. Nowadays, we hear so many stories about the discrimination, depression, and hate that young ‘minority’ people like me are faced with that it almost seems… normal. I used to hop on a computer when nobody was looking and Google all of the sensitive questions I was too awkward to ask. Before long, my search history looked a little like that of a teenage fan-fiction writer: ‘How do you know if you’re gay?’; ’10 signs that you’re a lesbian.’ And perhaps the worst of the lot: ‘Is being gay a bad thing?’
Ha. There was something so surreal about the internet community of the late 2000’s. You could so easily find yourself immersed in a heated Wiki debate, discussing in painstaking detail the morality and ethics surrounding “coming out” as LGBT. People – STRAIGHT people, might I add – actually thought they had the right to delegitimise biology. Thinking about it, perhaps things aren’t so different now. What is different, though, is the amount of positive LGBT+ representation in the mainstream media. Back then, it was practically non-existent. I had nothing.
So, how was I supposed to know what would happen next?
It started with a rumour. I was 11 years old, in my first year of a brand new school and absolutely no idea who my friends were. Except, of course, for Her. She was a little taller than me, with striking blue eyes and blonde hair which fell to her shoulders. She was my best friend, and she knew everything about me. What made me smile. What all of my favourite things were. Why, at the age of nine, I’d been forced to escape the primary school in which we’d become friends. That the reason my hair was so short was because I was going bald.
Alopecia areata was only half of my worries. After word spread that there was a rouge lesbian in Year 7, people started tallying up the stereotypes. Short hair: check. No makeup: check. Trousers: check. At that point I was also as shy as anything, so you might as well add “boy-hating” to the list. All in all, the evidence seemed pretty compelling – at least to those 11-year-old witch hunters. From that point on I was the elephant in the room, and I didn’t even know it!
And yet, 6 years on, I am writing a blog entitled ‘I AM: UNSTOPPABLE’. How? Well, by clawing my way up from rock bottom.
They say that everything has to get worse before it can get better, and this case certainly did not disappoint. I remember the day my bullies turned violent as though it were yesterday. The air was bitterly cold, appropriate for a February morning, yet the sun had managed to burn through that grey blanket of clouds like a blowtorch. As per usual, I was with Her; we were chatting casually as we made our way from Geography to Maths, flanked by some other girl who would chime in every now and then. I don’t remember the topic of discussion, though I doubt that mattered much.
Everything snapped at the blink of an eye.
As my body slammed into that wall, I was struck with bitter realisation. Had I expected the lesbian rumours to take a toll on my friendships? Yes, of course. Had I imagined that the mastermind behind them was my best friend? No. That hurt more than every bruise, scratch, and burn I would acquire that year.
The worst attack came during my first month of Year 8, in the middle of a Design-tech class. I remember it in sickly detail: the circuit I was soldering together; the way they held me down; every word they said. This was the breaking point for my mental health, the moment I am forced to watch on repeat like I am Alex in Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’. In the words of my PTSD therapist, this day was the trigger for all the negative cognitions that continue to harass me to this day. The funny thing is, they probably don’t remember it at all.
One thing was certain. I had to get out of there.
The day I escaped that homophobic hellhole was the day I found my freedom. For the first time in my life, I was free! Free to live my life for who I am, sexuality and all. When I shared this story with Grace Victory and Hannah Witton, I felt something that I don’t think I’d ever felt: pride. I did that. I escaped. I took every horrible experience they put me through, and I forged myself a life. Seeing their eyes light up the way they did, I realised that in all my years as a storyteller, I have been sitting on perhaps the greatest story of all: my own.
With the help of Grace, Hannah, and the great people at the National Citizen Service, I am unstoppable. I am a young, gay woman with a passion to create, and now I have the skills and knowledge to start making the most of doing what I love. I am Emily Rumboldt, I am 17 years old, and I am unstoppable.
Now it’s your turn.
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