Dallas Texas, where I currently live, has one of the largest GLBT communities in the United States. This is a far cry from where I grew up. I was born in Germiston, South Africa and since South Africa has year round school and my mother could afford it, I was sent away to an all boys private boarding school in King William’s Town.
King William’s Town is tiny compared to Johannesburg, Cape Town or Dallas with only about one hundred thousand residents and living at the private boarding school made my world even smaller. I felt like I was the only gay person in the world and was constantly bombarded with negative information about gay people and the link between gay sex and AIDS.
Due to my effeminate manner and high pitched voice, I was tormented at the boarding school constantly by students and teachers alike. There was no hiding my orientation, there never has been and so this was my life for six years from Standard 2 (4th grade) to Standard 8 (10th grade).
When you live in an environment like that, you adapt and learn defense mechanisms that help you to survive and I am still living with these today. That being said, the mind is a wonderful thing and when I look back now it is with fondness. I barely remember the torments I endured, yet I remember fond memories of secret sexual relationships with other closeted and sometimes straight peers and teachers as well as strong friendships with other gay men who were also struggling with their sexuality.
It gets better and I am living a wonderful life in Dallas surrounded by openly gay friends in a loving and progressive city. Looking back at my birth country I can also point to South Africa as a leader in GLBT rights with legalized gay marriage and strong GLBT protections in their constitution.
As time passes, the world improves. Our lives as GLBT individuals improve as we take control of our destiny and I’m glad that I have endured. Living and adapting to life’s challenges makes us stronger and more resilient. It has made me who I am today and I would not trade anything in the world for those experiences.