It’s OK to be gay – Mike’s journey from abuse to acceptance

“At Barnardo’s we believe in children – no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through. We ensure their needs are met and their voices are heard. Our vision is of a world where no child is turned away.”

This vision, which underpins all of Barnardo’s work, includes helping all children to feel safe, supported and accepted, regardless of their sexuality. Barnardo’s Positive Identities service fights for the rights of those who identify as LGBTQ to be able to have the same life chances and experiences as everyone else. They believe that how you identify should not be a barrier in your life – it should be a springboard.

Mike is a young man who was supported by Barnardo’s when he was struggling to find his place in the world because of his sexuality.

Mike’s story

Mike first realised he was gay when he was about 8 or 9 years old. He says:

“I really hated who I was and I was so scared to say anything. No one talked about (being gay).”

His parents were not accepting of his emerging sexual identity. Mike said he felt that his mother treated him differently to his siblings and she became abusive towards him. His father also changed, making his feelings about homosexuality very clear. Mike’s dad took away his mobile phone, forbade him from leaving the house and told Mike he couldn’t go to university. Mike recalls:

“(Dad) looked me in the eye and said ‘What is it to be gay? It’s a disgusting disease. And they all need to die’ “

Mike’s home life became so unbearable that he took the drastic decision to run away. After packing a bag the hardest thing about leaving was saying goodbye to his baby sister, who was just two at the time. Homeless, Mike remembers feeling:

“freezing, starving and scared for my life. I felt really vulnerable.”

Finding help from Barnardo’s changed Mike’s life

In desperation Mike went to a local police station to ask for help. They contacted Barnardo’s and the welcome they gave him was a turning point in Mike’s life.

As well as finding him a safe place to call home Mike began working with Barnardo’s Positive Identities Service, attending groups for LGBTQ young people. Marcel Varney, an assistant director of children’s services, describes the guiding principles of the service. She says:

“Our vision is for LGBTQ young people to feel safe, to feel supported and to be able to celebrate their diversity – that they are able to be who they are with pride and acceptance.”

Mike says:

“Sometimes when I think about my life without Barnardo’s I think I would have suffered a lot more. I wouldn’t be as confident with who I am.”

Barnardo’s ground breaking work

Barnardo’s Positive Identities Service aims to allow all children to celebrate who they are with pride. They work directly with Young People, Parents and Carers, Schools and local authorities to help tackle bullying, and educate individuals about how to combat it to help ensure that children and young people feel safe and empowered to be their full selves. Sam Monaghan, Corporate Director, Barnardo’s Childrens Services, England says:

“I don’t think you can underestimate the importance for individuals of finding out who they are and feeling assured and comfortable in their own skin so that they can then go on and live their lives. And that is really where our services fit in.”

The charity wants to bring their inclusive LGBTQ services to more local communities to be able to help even more children and young people.

You can watch Mike’s Story here.