[DISCLAIMER: offensive/ insulting language]
When I was a young lad, we moved from South Staffordshire down to Hampshire, due to a job opportunity that arose for one of my parents. However, it all went a bit sour pretty fast. When my parents split, we were left with little money, and my dad and I were relying on benefits to get by. I always cringe when I say that, as it brings up images in peoples heads that really anger me. My dad is the most hard working and dedicated bloke out there, and I wouldn’t have a bad word said against him.
Thanks to living in such an affluent area, I’ve struggled with stereotypes for much of my life. The accent I’ve developed is a sort of east London (thanks to “step-family”) with a Birmingham influence. The only true way to describe it is “working class”. Why do I talk about this? Well, it defines a lot of what happens in my life. I’ve been called a chav, pikey, and many other names you can think of, purely because of the way I talk, and my background. Just because “mummy and daddy” don’t buy me horses & I don’t own a BMW doesn’t mean I’m scum of the earth y’know! Ive been told I sound like everything from the Krays (I know, weird) to a Peaky Blinder (thanks, I guess?), and this, on top of my naturally suppressed and closed attitude (cheers depression) has led to me having a reputation. I don’t think I even need to explain what that reputation is but let’s just say I don’t “fit in”.
What properly throws people is when I feel I know them well enough to open up slightly, and tell them that I am in fact gay. I’ve known people genuinely look like they’re going to pass out in shock, as thanks to my reputation as a “working class” whatever makes people somehow seem to assume I’m intolerant/ macho. This is quite far from the truth. It makes life tricky, as I’m constantly trying to break down these barriers and be myself while simultaneously the other half of me builds the barriers up. I just can’t help it.
This isn’t the only thing that stops me feeling like I “fit in” though. Even in day to day life, especially at “secondary” (yes I know, how posh of me) school, I would get infuriated at some of the other kids moaning because they couldn’t “see their horse” that night or that their parents wouldn’t let them go to a party, or their “dealer” couldn’t get them any drugs. I mean come on! I always wanted to turn around and just tell them that they wouldn’t know tough times if they slapped them in the face, but that’d probably go down quite badly.
What really made me irate was the fact that I’d get the piss taken out of me for my accent and things like that, called a chav and the like, yet these same people would go out and smoke, do drugs and wear tracksuits etc as they thought it made them look “cool” while insisting they were neither posh nor rich. It’s like they tried to make any effort to seem “working class” and “salt of the earth” whilst also looking down on any of us who were actually working class. (On a side note, if you do drugs etc to look cool, you need to re-evaluate your life). As someone who suffers from addiction issues as well, albeit not related to illegal drugs, I find the idea you’d do drugs for “reputation” sickening.
Add on top of this being called all the various homophobic slurs under the sun, and also being disliked by the “gay community” for not fitting in there either and fitting the stereotypes (which they all did). It’s quite hard spending your teenage years being called a “faggot” or a “bender” but also then not being liked by the “gays” for being too straight… what a nightmare! Being a gay working class lad in the Home Counties, loving football and going to school wearing my villa tracksuit, meant I really didn’t fit in anywhere. For the first year or two I was mates with a lad who had just come from Zimbabwe, and since we both really didn’t fit in (he was one of about 4 black kids in the whole school) we got on incredibly well (that ended when I told him I was gay… which in hindsight probably wasn’t a good idea him being a Zimbabwean Christian).
The one mate I did have from the start and who I am still close with now was similar to me, Working class, didn’t fit in, liked rap music and he also wanted to be a producer. That was the one place I felt like I belonged. We’d sit there in his bedroom for hours just mixing music and having a general laugh. (That went down the pan a little when he moved away, but in our heads the dream still lives!)
Maybe it was my fault for dressing the way I did, talking the way I did, and not trying to be like the others. Maybe I shouldn’t have opened up about my sexuality at such a young age. There are so many ifs, buts and maybes, but the one thing I can give myself credit for is being wholly and unapologetically me as much as I could.
The problem is these days it’s hard to be like that. I don’t trust people, and I don’t open up. I always think someone has an agenda, even if they’re being nice to me. My mental health makes me closed off, and helps perpetuate the stereotypes developed about “people like me”. I don’t really know how to solve that, but I know it doesn’t help. While not fitting in never bothered me that much, the self isolation I now put myself under is far worse than anything I’ve described about my past. It’s the battle of wanting to fit in, yet wanting to be myself, therefore wanting to open up, yet not trusting people enough to do so. That’s difficult to deal with.
I think that’s why I love Villa and the Villa community so much. I have found somewhere I “fit in”. While I’m not the sort of person who comes across as a “misfit” (I seem fairly confident and assured of myself at face value) the villa community is the one place I truly feel welcome and accepted for who I am.
I’m not really sure what the point of all this was, but what I will say, is be tolerant, don’t look down on people, and if you don’t “fit in” don’t worry, you’ll always find people like you, and those friends are the ones to cherish.