To celebrate IDAHO 2012, Polari Magazine is publishing stories from its writers about their experiences of homophobia and transphobia. Some tales are funny, some are shocking and some are sad.
Clayton Littlewood writes about how he avoided a female stalker by blurting out his love for a pair of well-built, rugby playing twins. To read more of Clayton’s writing click here to go his website. And click here to read the recent Polari interview about his new book, Goodbye to Soho.
When I was at school I had a crush. On twins. Robert and Bert Hedges. Both in my History class, they were big, strong, handsome, with legs like sturdy trees and hair that parted in the middle like David Cassidy – and, being an ugly duckling, they were everything I wanted to be.
For the first year I was fortunate. My love remained unrequited and I was able to mix with them, hiding my little secret behind a mask of ‘rugby playing’, bike rides and breaking into the local nunnery to steal rhubarb; always trying to assimilate, always trying to blend in. Until one day I opened my big mouth…
At the time it seemed just a normal ‘off the cuff’ remark but within seconds I realised, to my cost, the impact it’d had; the repercussions of which would reverberate around me for the next four years.
I was 11, still in the first year of secondary school and attracting unwanted attention from girls. Looking back it was probably my, ‘I’m not interested’ attitude that was attractive. It was certainly a turn-on for a very tall girl called Karen.
Karen was no beauty. Made worse by the fact the she surrounded herself with a gaggle of pretty girls. I can picture her now. So very tall and plain. On a clear day you could spot Karen from the other side of the school playing field; like an electricity pylon in a hockey skirt. And wherever I went, Karen followed. I’d be at the Tuck Shop and there she’d be. Unlocking my bike, she’d be unlocking hers. Walking home, she’d be walking the same route. I was being stalked before the word was invented and what freaked me out most of all was that Karen was pushing for something that I was still trying to understand myself. Then one day Karen and her posse cornered me. I’d fended off her ‘cow eyes’ for months, but enough was enough. The courtship had now reached a critical phase. Today they wanted action.
‘Why won’t you kiss Karen?’
‘Karen loves you. Just give her a kiss.’
‘Will you take Karen to the cinema?’
They were incessant. Like rabid dogs baying for blood. Surrounding me. Pushing me toward her as she cooed and fawned nearby in her big blue socks, big blue skirt and, no doubt, big blue knickers. Suddenly it all got too much. I had to put an end to the ‘on heat’ Karen. It was now or never.
‘I’ll never kiss Karen! Why would I want to kiss her when I’m already in love with Robert and Bert Hedges!’
The jeering stopped. The laughter stopped. Everyone staring at me, wide-eyed, mouths hanging open, looking back and forth as if trying to comprehend what I’d just said. I giggled nervously. Took a step back. Karen started to cry. Galloped off. And then the whispering started. And it became louder. And louder.
‘You can’t love the Hedges twins. They’re boys!’
‘How can you love them?’
‘You can’t love boys!’
‘I know,’ I squeaked nervously, biting my lip, near to tears, signing my own death warrant with every word. ‘But I do.’
That was it. The genie was out the bottle and within minutes it was flying round the school. Literally. Everyone running in different directions, spreading the word. And by lunchtime the whole school knew. Dinner ladies too. I’d become famous for doing nothing. The Kim Kardashian of Broadoak Comprehensive. I was also dead meat.
When I sat down for lunch, people moved away. When I walked into a class, everyone stopped talking. When I lined up for the rugby team, no one picked me. Even the school weed turned his nose up when I walked by. I had to regroup, and quickly.
The strange thing was there were boys playing with each other all over school. Schoolboy wanks in the showers, ‘jack off’ competitions in the bike sheds, kissing in chemistry lab. But me, who never got a nod from a donkey, I’d broken the golden rule. I’d acknowledged something people had little knowledge of. Defined something not yet defined.
So I started a media blitz of the school corridors. Batting the whole thing off as one big joke. ‘Oh you didn’t believe that did you? It was a joke.’ ‘Me fall in love with a boy? No! I’m in love with Mrs Kelly the music teacher.’ But it was too late. No one was convinced. My plan had failed. From being one of the loudest, wildest and most popular kids in school, I became one of the most withdrawn, one of its outcasts. A complete personality change overnight.
Fortunately however, although I was ostracised, I wasn’t bullied, and for a couple of years I managed to dodge the threats of violence, always staying one step ahead of my tormentors, my mouth saving me on more than one occasion; secretly proud of how I’d manage to survive the controversy. Then one evening, walking home from school…
‘Oi! You! Clayton!’
I turn round. Who’s that shouting? Then I see them all, walking toward me. Fuck! Five of them. Ed Parker and his gang. Clay, you are in big trouble. You can’t talk your way out of this one. There’s too many. Run!
Luckily I’m already 50 yards ahead of them before they decide to chase. Down Winterstoke Road. At least ½ mile long. Running. Running. Strangely full of energy. Adrenaline flowing. Like those long runs Dad makes us do along the beach. Running. Running. Calm cos’ I know I can out run them. But still sweating. I reach the bend in the road. The grass verge. I look behind. They’re still there. Three of them pushing ahead.
‘Oi! You! Wait here!’ one shouts. ‘We wanna word with you!’
I carry on running. Reach the hill. I’m half way home now. Just through the estate and I’ll be safe. But wait. What if I duck into the copse? I know it like the back of my hand. They’ll never find me in there. I glance behind once more. They haven’t even passed the bend yet. They’ll never see me if I quickly duck in here.
So in I went.
It’s dark inside the little forest. Mud mounds that are used for bike jumps. A little stream at the back. Blackberry bushes on the outskirts. Sun filtering its way through the tree branches that hang low onto the muddy, leaf strewn ground.
I run to the back of the copse. Hide behind the two big oak trees. My heart’s thumping, trying to contain my breathing. Cars roaring past outside. I listen and wait. Wait for the sound of Ed and his gang as they storm past.
A minute passes. Is it a minute? Maybe it’s only seconds. I wipe the sweat from my brow onto my jeans. Pick a piece of bark off the tree. Dig it under my nails. Adrenaline gradually subsiding. Phew! Another lucky escape. I’ve done it. Thank God.
Only the sound of the gang doesn’t come. Just the cars and the sound of branches breaking…
Branches breaking? Oh shit! They’re here!
I peer around the tree. Sure enough, there are three of them, inside, two more by the entrance, keeping guard.
‘Clayton! We know you’re in here! Come on out!’
‘You’d better come out. You know we’ll find you.’
I duck back. Now what? If I step out they’ll tear me apart. I don’t stand a chance. But if I stay here they’ll find me anyway. It’s just a matter of time. What should I do?
‘Clayyyyyyttttoooonnnn! Where are yoooooooou?’
I step out from behind the oak tree.
There are three boys facing me. The other two, loitering by the entrance, look over, big smiles on their faces. No one moves. Then Ed steps forward.
‘Why did you run?’
I clear my throat. ‘Why did you chase me?’
Ed looks at me. His face, slightly sneering, aggressive; a bead of sweat running down his temple.
‘Hit him,’ says one of the boys taking a step closer, snapping a branch underfoot as he nears.
Ed holds his hand out, signalling them to wait. Then he says, ‘So, you like the Hedges do you?’
I clear my throat again, nervously. ‘Yes. I like them. We used to play rugby together.’
‘No but you really like them don’t you?’
‘Oh that old story. That was just a joke.’
‘I don’t think it was. I think you fancy them.’
‘What makes you think that?’
‘Because you’re a poof?’
I don’t reply. The atmosphere’s tense. Anything could happen. One false move. If ever my mouth’s gonna save me it’s now.
‘Why do you say that?’ I ask.
‘Because you look like one.’
‘I don’t look any different from you.’
Ed clenches his fists. Careful Clay. I quickly change tact. Trying not to sound nervous. But it’s hard. My throat’s tight. And I’m aware the other boys are moving closer. And closer.
‘How can I be a poof if I’ve never done anything with a guy? I’ve kissed girls. Just like you. I’m no different to you.’
‘Yeah but you want to do something with a guy. I think you want to touch me, don’t you?’
He steps closer still.
Shit. This is now or never. I need to think of something, fast!
Ed sneers. ‘I said you want to touch me don’t you?’
He stops. ‘What?’
‘I want to touch all of you. Didn’t you know? It wasn’t the Hedges twins I wanted it was you lot.’
‘You think that’s funny?’
‘I’m not trying to be funny. It’s just that if I’m gonna get accused of something then-‘
‘You think you’re so smart.’
‘Not really. But can’t you see how silly it is?’
He’s staring right at me now. Nods his head, slowly. Smiles. I can’t tell if it’s friendly or aggressively. Any minute now. It’s gonna go either way. I can tell. I’m gonna get hit. Any minute…
Then I look at him. I mean really look at him. Into his eyes. It’s only two or three seconds, but it’s a look that’s stayed with me ever since. That glint. A feeling. A feeling I couldn’t really understand at the time because I was still trying to work it out for myself. The same look I see every day when I’m walking down Old Compton Street, watching guys rush past and we happen to catch each others eye. That recognition. Like he was trying to figure something out too. As if we were both in this together. He as troubled as me.
Then he stopped staring. Tore his eyes away. ‘Come on!’ he said gruffly to his friends. ‘Lets get out of here!’ And out they went.
We never spoke again.