Earlier this week, Troy Michael, Mr Gay Iceland told Gay Star News about being raped when he was 12 by a friend of his older brother. For some reason, I only saw it this evening. I was not sure that I wanted to read the article, but I persevered and did so.
You may well wonder why I would not want to read his story? Well, it is for a simple reason – it is far too close to my experience for comfort… and it is time for me to tell my story too.
Back in 1991, I was living in my hometown of Ballymena, County Antrim attending a local grammar school. I was raped by a boy in the year above me at school. He encouraged me to come back to his house and “help him with his Maths homework”. He managed to tell me on the walk home from school that we had the same Maths teacher and that she had told his class that her third form class (mine) was better at basic Maths than his fourth form one. This made me think that I could help him. That he wanted my friendship. I was mistaken.
I won’t go into the details of the rape, simply because I do not want to publish it. I was told that I would come back the following week for more or he would tell everyone in school that I was gay. Looking back now, it is hard to see how that persuaded me that I should go. But it is obvious that it was a blackmail. You see, I knew then that I fancied other lads. I didn’t fancy him but went back to him to prevent being outed at school. The abuse went on for about four years until I finally stood up to him. I know now that it would have been very difficult for him to tell anyone, imagine the scene, a group of schoolboys talking, and he points me out and says, “He is gay.”, his mates ask, “How do you know?”, “because I have had sex with him” is not really a viable answer unless you are also gay. And he made it pretty clear to me that he was not gay.
Even now, if I am in my home town, he can wink at me, or cock his head in a particular way and try to get me to go with him somewhere. It worked when I was at school. But it doesn’t now. He holds no power over me, I am open about being gay, I am married to a wonderful husband, and I don’t have to hide it.
Troy says ‘I am really pleased to be able to talk about it now. The truth sets you free, they say, and if I held onto it for any longer, maybe I would explode.
‘I was never afraid to tell my brothers, my parents. It was just I wasn’t ready to tell them. I knew they would support me, my brothers are my biggest protectors.
‘They know I love them and although this is a traumatic experience they can see what I’ve been doing with my life, that I’m happy, that I continue to grow and they know I’m a fighter. I have a deep passion for success, to better myself as a person, to help other people and for gay rights.
‘Whenever you fall in love, I want to say it starts to go away because you have a person you can rely on, a person that’s there for you. I am taken, happily, but my boyfriend doesn’t even know about this either so I think he will be a bit shocked when he hears about this.’
Although I have been talking openly about living with HIV, talking about being raped is not something I have been able to do before. It is as a response to Troy’s article that I am writing this blog post. As he says, “The truth sets you free”. My brothers and parents have always supported me (albeit in their own ways). I am sure they will cope with this revelation too. Troy’s words, “I have a deep passion for success, to better myself as a person, to help other people and for gay rights” really resonate with me, for that is what I have been trying to do with my life too. I may not have realised those goals in ways that the rest of the world understand, but they have been achieved and continue to be achieved by me.
Troy talks about his boyfriend not knowing about this, I am fortunate that Andrew does know. The rape does still sometimes haunt me, and occasionally sex can be difficult. But, I know that Andrew loves me, I can rely on him. And we take it one day at a time.
To my abuser…
If my abuser is reading this, he will know who he is. If the jungle drums of Ballymena work well, and they usually do, he may learn of this article. He should know that as Troy has forgiven his attacker I forgive him. It’s now 23 years since the first attack, and 19 since I stopped the abuse myself. That is a lot of time for him to have a control on me — forgiving him is a way to stop him keeping any power over me.
Depression, bad grades… maybe now my friends and family will understand
I have read some of the comments on the GSN page about how “Crisis centers weed out boys who cry wolf” and that real teen rape victims commit suicide not become success stories like Troy. All I can say is that may be the experience of some, others of us manage to survive (just).
My grades in school plummeted, I did not do well at school, sure I passed most of my exams but not with the grades that I was very definitely capable of. I am sure that most of my teachers and my parents were worried about me, wondering what they could do to help me better my grades. But you see, I had this feeling of being worthless, being dirty, with an awful secret or two – one being abused by another lad, and two being gay as well. I suspect what happened is at the heart of my depression: the depression that lasted for years and years and years.
Sitting here in Gibraltar, with our three cats around me, I am in tears even thinking about what happened. But, it is now in the open, my friends and family may now understand part of why I was the way I was at school. Perhaps Mum will now know one of the reasons that I was often late home from school. But it is all in my past. My future is bright, I am enjoying my life with Andrew, the cats, and studying with The Open University.
Assistance for others…
If you have been affected by rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or similar issues there are links to support and help services around the world.
Like Troy, if you have had a similar experience and you want to reach out and talk, I am happy for you to do so. You can find me on Facebook here, my Facebook fan page is here, and I’m also on Twitter.