Former Warwick boy Hayden Ellis turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with homophobia, before turning his life around and doing community work with the Queensland AIDS Council.
Former Warwick boy Hayden Ellis turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with homophobia, before turning his life around and doing community work with the Queensland AIDS Council.

Scared for his life by relentless homophobia

AS A young gay man growing up in Warwick, there were definitely a lot of trials.

When I was in Year 1 I came to the realisation I was different. I didn't know why but I liked it and was happy to be different.

As I got older, outside influences created an opportunity for me to start questioning myself and wondering what if it wasn't OK to be who I am.


I still didn't know what it was that made me different, but thanks to schoolyard bullying I soon found out. I was targeted and labelled as a 'fag' from Year 4.

I was still a baby and had no idea why people seemed to hate me so much. Like Jayden Brown's story, I don't like to be seen as a victim but as a child I really was.

My school life in primary school was full of grief and trauma. So much so that I gained a considerable amount of weight rather quickly. To the point that it worried my family.

I had a bad heart, was deeply depressed and couldn't seem to avoid harassment over being gay or being overweight.

I used to get followed around the school grounds and tormented. I couldn't escape.

I eventually demanded to my mother that I needed to change schools as nothing was being done for me and these kids were relentless.

She was very supportive and moved me straight away. I was in Year 7 when I changed primary schools, and I changed to one of the best schools I could have imagined - Central State School.

It was culturally diverse, warm and accepting and had a great arts program which was incredibly therapeutic for me.

I had a lot of friends and the staff were so supportive. I still hadn't come out, as I had only just realised that I was indeed gay.

When I knew that this was what it had been all these years I was very scared for my life.

I knew I couldn't pretend to be something I wasn't but I was so scared to tell anyone the truth in fear that I would be isolated again.

I fell further and further into depression trying to deny my identity. I told my best friend Bethany at the age of 12 and for three years I continued to try and change who I was.

In high school the bullying became more aggressive and hurtful, further confirming that it wasn't safe for me to be openly gay.

I decided once I was 15 that it was do or die. I had made a promise to myself that if I didn't come out before my 16th birthday I was going to try and kill myself. This is how far I was prepared to go to be free.

Fortunately for me my older sisters were there for me every step of the way, I came out to them first and they were very supportive, one even spoke to a professional to try and help my situation and to get some clarity - I not only struggled with sexuality but also my gender identity.

I got my sister to tell my mother as I couldn't bring myself to do it.

When my mum knew, she was supportive and it reassured me that I could tell my father.

His response is one I will never forget - he told me in these exact words: "I don't care if you love Martians, as long as you don't hurt anybody".

That was it! I was free!

My parents knew and now I didn't care who else knew.

I came out publicly and decided on the career I wanted to follow in hairdressing which was something I was scared of doing previously.

I worked at a salon in the main shopping centre which was such a great experience for me.

One of my colleagues in particular was extremely supportive of me and helped me to come out of my shell and expand my creativity and visual library.

Although I was really happy, I did have to put up with a lot of abuse outside the salon. I was anxious when leaving for a lunch break.

There was rarely an occasion that I would leave the safety of the salon and someone didn't make a snide remark, or even an openly aggressive one.

Unfortunately I turned to drugs and alcohol to help deal with some of the things I was going through which consequently led me to enter a rehabilitation centre here in Brisbane on February 14 last year for seven months.

I now study counselling and community service work and work for the Queensland AIDS council in Brisbane which is an organisation that promotes LGBTI awareness and sexual and mental health.

I have been free from drugs and alcohol for 14 months and I am more comfortable in my skin then I have ever been identifying as non-gender conforming and as homosexual.

In my opinion there needs to be more support for LGBTI youth within schools.

Perhaps even some youth programs to initiate a sense of community as the LGBTI community in Warwick is very disconnected itself.

LGBTI or not we are all brothers and sisters and it is our responsibility as human beings to protect each other.

The only love you get to keep is the love you give away!


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