Happy Thoughts Academy has collaborated with Martin Bowie, Founder of LGBT+ Hinckley to discuss how being a part of the LGBTQ+ community has affected his mental health over the years.
Can you give us your backstory please Martin?
I started having thoughts that I may be different when in my first year of secondary school. Though I never gave it much thought about what this might be. This is how it would be for many years and it eventually like most people that are finding themselves may start to consider themselves as Bi-sexual. Especially when the “norm” is to find women attractive but over time this really didn’t happen.
I left High school in 2009 which is long after section 28 was abolished. For those who do not know this law prevented schools from teaching/promoting LGBTQ+ issues etc. I left high school knowing nothing about who I was or who I might be. So, I began experimenting and I opted to go to a college away from my friends that I made from school. Thinking this would allow me to be who I was feeling on the inside. It was at this time my cousin came out as Gay and to my nuclear family he became the butt of many jokes.
This wasn’t the case and I was still hiding who I was and having to lie about it. Make up fake girlfriends etc to keep up appearances that I am straight. The course I had taken was male dominated (being IT) but to make me further a minority I was the only person who was not a Muslim or Sikh and my close friend was very religious. At the college on the second floor was Art, I believe and there were a couple of Gay people that where out and the close circle of friends always made jokes about being Gay etc (Never directly about them but about just being Gay in general). This made me fell more uneasy about coming out.
I would soon meet the partner I’m with now after a few secret relationships that never really latest long as I was always felt being forced to come out. After a few months of us being together the day I dreaded came that I would have to come out to the rest of the family. I did not have the courage to tell them face to face that I am moving out, never mind that I have a boyfriend. So, we worked on composing a text together and sent it to my family. When I got home that night I had no greeting or anything. This was normal to me, you may get the usual shout have you locked everything up? But tonight I expected something different. This didn’t happen.
I moved out and for a short period and I moved back to the family home. This is where things got went from okay to worse and it was at this point I planned to get away from my family for good. A few years later I would finally changed my name as just the sight of my surname would make me feel sick. Since then I’m much happier for changing my name and I’m still living with my partner. Though my where abouts to my family is unknown and this is how I plan for it to remain as in my mind they are dead to me.
Did you come up with any coping mechanisms to help you survive with the environment you were in?
Like most gay or experimenting people I had Grindr and I only knew about it because of all the shows that briefly featured it. It was Top gear! Jeremy Clarkson introduced me to this world and how many Gay, Bi-sexual and curious people there are around me. This quickly became my Gay social network and I would make friends through it as well as meeting my long-term partner.
Grindr isn’t probably the safest place to meet and interact with the community and this would lead to me creating LGBT+ Hinckley. The aim at first was to bring people together in a safe environment online which people can talk and interact with each other just like I did on Grindr. Though now the purpose of LGBT+ Hinckley has grown over time and as well as our original aim we hold meetings in person known as our social meet ups as well as promoting other LGBTQ+ groups & charities that to someone new to the area or finding themselves which may be difficult to find.
Do you have any advice for anyone who might be going through the same thing and words of hope to get them through?
I always found talking over instant messenger easy as I was able to be myself and not worry about hiding. Especially being a quiet person anyway. I encourage anyone that just wants to talk at LGBT+ Hinckley we have a few people that are always happy to just talk. This can be done from our website or you can head over to our Facebook too.
What is LGBT+ Hinckley and what do you do?
LGBT+ Hinckley was started due to the gap that there is not a truly local service. As prior to our starting you had to travel to Leicester for support. We believe mostly in community support, and we encourage people from all parts of the local LGBTQ+ community to send in their coming out stories to help those finding themselves in similar situations.
We hold social meetings, where the local community can come together in a safe place and socialise in person. Recently this has been changed up due to COVID-19 and we are now hosting these social events on Zoom. We are holding new type events all the time and we always recommend checking what’s coming up on our events page on the website and Facebook.
As a community group we have to fund everything ourselves and we are relying more on donations from those that can so we can grow our activities and events. As well as keep ourselves going such as paying for the upkeep of our emails & website. We are finding funds by asking for donations, Raffles and also our much delayed 24 hour race! If you have any questions about our group feel free to message us on Facebook or email: admin@LGBthinckley.co.uk
This is absolutely incredible, thank you so so much for sharing your story with us. Our heart goes out to you, it really does. We are so happy that you have created your new family and are now surrounded by the right kind of people. People that know that to love is to be human and that's all that matters!
Please check our their website, it truly is incredible!