My name is Noel B. I was born in the Bahamas to a Canadian mom and a Bahamian dad. Being born bi-racial and bi-cultural now has it's benefits, but back in the 80's being a tan skin, curl haried, gay man in steel-town Hamilton, Ontario, wasn't easy. From early on I had always felt different compared to my peers, both mentally and physically. In elementary school I was dubbed 'The Brown Cow' based on my weight and ethnicity. In high school I searched for a way to be invisible which never usually worked because my voice could melt butter even back then. Every time I spoke, I felt my voice exposed that I was gay.
Finally, in the summer of 1996 I quite hiding who I was and at the age of 17 came out as a gay man. That year I worked at a Catholic youth organized summer camp. When a note I had passed to my BFF on the ride home was ripped out of her hands by a fellow counsellor, a buff, toned big mouth, I knew there was only one thing that I could do before I'd be outed at work the next day. My mother had attended a PFLAG meeting months prior and decided to buy me my first Gay Pride t-shirt. It was grey with purple letters that read "Love is Never Wrong" and had two male symbols on the chest. That morning I put my t-shirt on, took a deep breath and decided to out myself. I created a stir that day, but it helped me to realize when you're honest about who you are, you can receive the love you really want.
One of those friends was a boy named Kevin J. I'm sure my heart skipped a beat when we met. He was very funny, with liquid blue eyes and short, dark hair. We had an instant connection. I painfully waited a few days before dialing his phone number. Regrettably, an aggressive older woman rudely told me he wasn't in. Two weeks passed before Kevin made it to another GLC meeting. We were anxious to catch up and learn everything we could about one another. I knew I was falling for him fast, which made what I heard next very hard. Kevin was being verbally and emotionally abused by his mother, his classmates and bullies. At home, his mother would call him 'child molester' and tell him to stay away from little children. He then went on to explain how she'd torn up my phone number along with other personal possessions in his room. At school, his locker was repeatedly vandalized. He was often pushed and made fun of in the hallways with no interference by school staff.
A month passed, and although we had expressed our feelings for one another, we were still only able to see each other when he snuck away to our weekly meetings. I had decided to skip a night at the GLC since I had been having fun at a friend's house party, a decision that still haunts me to this day. A few days later I received a call that brought me to tears. Kevin had found a rope and decided to hang himself from a set of monkey bars not far from his house. Everyone who knew him was angry and in shock as we pieced together his last days. The night I had decided to party rather than attend our meeting, he had come looking for me and had even waited to deliver a message to me. I'll never know what that message was. At his humble funeral service, our support group provided a gay presence. The following GLC meetings had grief counsellors present to help us understand our feelings, to cope with our grief and to help us heal.
In Ken J.'s honour, I have chosen to share my story and what I knew of his - to help prevent anymore stories like these and to bring awareness and help to those in need. Support groups and services, like the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) community in Vancouver help to save lives and develop a confidence in our identity. I would encourage anybody with questions, or who is seeking acceptance, to reach out because help is there!
*My Note - Here are some links for those who want to access support in Vancouver. Those in the know, please send me any other links you feel offer support to the community and I will post them -
LGBT - www.qmunity.ca
Out in Schools - www.outinschools.com
PFLAG Canada - www.pflagcanada.ca
Submitted by Brand T. - www.checkhimout.ca