When do you know that you are gay? Is it possible that you know before you are actually sexual active? I can’t answer the question. I can tell you this though: many young people know they are different already at young age. I did. And so did Tyrone Unsworth. Tyrone loved fashion. He also loved make up. He loved it so much that he decided to become a fashion designer. Either that or a veterinarian. Maybe not the usual interests for a 13 year old boy, but thank God he is not the only one to have dreams that differ from others. But now Tyrone doesn’t dream anymore. Because last Monday he took his own life.
So Tyrone was a bit different. One might say a bit gay. One might also say a bit more sensitive. More creative. He didn’t fit in the social acceptable image the majority has of teenage boys. Does that made him a lesser human? No, it doesn’t. Then why did he have to suffer for who he was? Why did he have to be the subject of years of relentless bullying by his peers. Boys the same age as Tyrone who picked on him. Called him names like “gay-boy”, “faggot”, and “fairy”.
When I was a young boy and my interests differed from the other boys, they picked on me too. This is years ago when the word bullying wasn’t that much used. It went on for years and I’m sure grown ups must have known about it, but probably thought it was just a phase. It made me unhappy for sure, though I never had the urge to kill myself. Because of that experience I can only imagine the level of bullying Tyrone must have had to endure. It must have been devastating. No one –NO ONE – deserves to be bullied. No one deserves to be attacked, persecuted and degraded because they are different. Because of the color of their skin, because the color of their hair, because they wear glasses or because they might have a different sexual orientation which manifests itself by different interests in life.
Somehow Tyrone’s mother found the courage last week – the week she lost her beloved son – to come out and speak up. To demand attention to the heartbreaking story of Tyrone. A boy who only started his life but whose world was snatched away by relentless hate and a fear for something that is as natural as the sunrise every day except we as a species decided that it is unacceptable. We should be ashamed. And I say we because the blame doesn’t stop by his tormentors. Sure, they have a lot to answer for, and I hope they will, but what about “the others”. The ones who stood by and didn’t do anything. His school and teachers? Tyrone’s nightmare has been going on for years so don’t tell me no one knew. Oh wait, that is exactly what his school is saying. Tyrone was bullied by homophobic peers, but kids are not born like that. Homophobia is a false value taught by parents and caregivers. By society.
It happens sometimes that people become world famous in the blink of an eye. One week ago the world didn’t know Tyrone Unsworth. His mother did though. She knew him really well. Now, we do as well. Because Tyrone made international headlines by taking his own life last Monday. And together with his mother and doubtless many other people, I really, really hope it hasn’t been in vain. –BM-
Cover photography by Steve France, featuring Dmitrij Bessalov.
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