With Anti-Bullying Week currently underway, I want to share my experiences of homophobic bullying in the hope that I can help victims to overcome the situation and to make bullies think twice about what they are doing.
I was a gay girl in an all girl’s school 20 years ago, which was difficult to say the least. There were no role models for me and I lied to a lot of my friends and family – I didn’t think I had a choice at the time. When people did find out a few years later, I may not have been ganged up on in the playground but the vindictive taunting and verbal abuse changed my whole experience.
Sport saved me. It was only on the pitch where I could truly be my authentic self which is when I believe that you perform at your best. To my team mates, I was just another Hockey player. So, ironically, when I was having the toughest time off the pitch, my hockey career was flourishing.
Being a sportswoman helped me to deal with what was happening off the pitch as it gave me the confidence boost I needed. In my role with Sky Sports Living for Sport, which is part of Sky Academy and delivered in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, I visit schools to deliver sessions using the skills learnt through sport to help to build confidence and develop young people’s life skills. It is here that I use my own experiences to illustrate how to translate confidence in sport into other areas of life – both at school and well in the future.
Sport is the perfect way to demonstrate impact and to provide people with the strong role models which I didn’t have. I think there’s still a long way to go but we’re at the start of a journey to acceptance for gay sportsmen and sportswomen. Now, I am open about my sexuality and I am a better person for it. It was the secret on my shoulders which was weighing me down.
When I speak to the young people in schools, I remind them to think about the impact of what they say and do - what may be intended as a lighthearted joke can have a big impact on someone’s life forever. For the victims of bullying, I advise them to speak to someone who they can trust as the more such experiences are bottled up, the more it can bring someone down. The bottom line really is that we should just be nice to each other.
I share my story to help inspire others that no matter what is at your door that it can be tackled. We may choose to put a brave face on things – I did that by being the class clown – but I should have handled it properly and the past could have been a lot easier for me.
It’s not always easy to be confident when you have been the victim of bullying and that’s why I want to help. I don’t want people to feel the way that I felt. If I help one young person to feel better, I have done my job.
There’s more information about Sky Sports Living for Sport and how your school could get involved with the programme here.