“I was part of the 90210 generation. The original one with Tori Spelling, Jason Priestly and Shannon Docherty before she was universally acknowledged to be a massive cock. It wasn’t just a zip code, it was a place where anything could happen and boy did it”.
Beverly Hills was everything I wanted out of life. Hot sun beating down on me as I rollerbladed between palm trees. Beautiful people checking me out at muscle beach as I pumped and posed and flexed. It was cutting edge cool and I would invariable have a best friend who looked suspiciously like a young Madonna but was called Bianca, Destiny or Shayzonsay (sing it sister!)
But it was not meant to be as sometime in the 1960’s way before I was born, the local governance of Central Scotland re-wrote my destiny with the decision to take the overspill of Scotland’s thriving cities (including my parents) and create a series of New Towns.
Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Glenrothes and Irvine were to be a haven for new life and new opportunities. Perfectly situated equidistant from the countries leading hubs of industry and commerce. Instead of relocating everyone to LA as my romantacised mind would have preferred, ‘they’ opted to re-home my parents in a ‘thoughtfully’ landscaped area in Central Scotland’s beautiful greenbelt. This paradise offered the promise of a new day. A place where everything was possible. A celtic land of the free. A place where a small black child born in the ghetto to mixed race parents could grow up to be President.
In reality, I was born a precocious white boy, with no rhythm and an exceptionally large head for my body.
So TV was a refuge for me and my circle of friends.. A place where we could escape and let our imaginations run riot. Every Saturday night at approximately 5.45pm we’d gather together and live vicariously through a series of meticulously market-researched characters all of whom were designed to depict the idealism of a teen generation missing a role model since the death of James Dean. A generation, where money was no object and no-one thought the 30 year old in the corner of the classroom posing as a high school pupil could possibly be a kiddy fiddler.
I had dreams of being one of the cool kids in the in-crowd. I imagined scenarios where I had great hair, looked like Luke Perry and had a nickname to depict my jovial yet menacing awe inducing personality. I toyed with names like Sin, Seven or Josh for size but destiny once again stepped in and I had to settle for Woody Woodpecker; and that was on a good day.
More often than not I was addressed as ‘Access’, ‘Poofter’ ‘Bender’ or ‘Faggot’.
I would like to blame this on a series of unfortunate and cruel events where similarly misunderstood teenagers, all feeling their own pain from broken homes, poverty, continually disappointing their parents and a lack of identity needed to belittle others to make themselves feel better.
Of course a person with a background like that would have to lash out. Of course they’d choose someone that appears to be happy and secure. I can’t blame anyone for feeling the need to victimise the cool kid with the wonderful quiff and endless stream of talents. Who didn’t want to beat me up when I made a perfect worm keyring from acrylic in CDT? And who didn’t want to wear my perfectly stitched terry toweling tracksuit bottoms from Home Economics? It wasn’t my fault my sculpture of Madonna in the Like a Prayer video looked just like her and I certainly couldn’t help the fact that I had the smarts of Degrassi Junior High and the luring appeal of Montgomery Clift.
That’s what I’d like to believe. The truth however is that it was fairly obvious from an early age that I liked the cock. I also managed to look like a militant lesbian for most of the early ’90s thanks to a hairdressing sister who refused to turn down my want for a ‘Sheena Easton’.
My schoolmates aren’t blameless for the torment but I’d like to believe we live in different times now.
I recently reunited with a few old school chums whom I hadn’t seen for 16 years. Chatting about our experiences and reminiscing I found it fairly eye opening that all of them were of the opinion that I was fairly popular and had a great time at school.
Thanks for telling me.
I’m not in any way purporting that my school life was hell. Some of it was fun. It certainly wasn’t the best time in my life. But I did have the privilege of coming home to a fairly liberal household that supported and nurtured ambition and generally lived by the belief that you should worry about who people choose to hate, not love.
I can definitely see how these tumultuous events can shape a persons life for a long time after.
Personally, I have my own shame from trying to protect myself by carving my place in a pecking order and tormenting someone less fortunate than me (ie.smaller and less likely to punch me). I don’t dwell on it too much as I think there’s some mileage in the fact that I was 12. It does however make me appreciate how delicate the balance is and that it’s not always cut and dried.
I’ve recently been massively inspired by the Trevor Project and how enormous the reach of it’s It Gets Better campaign is. Not since the rise of the AIDS epidemic have so many celebrities and civilians from across the world come together to put their names and words to a greater good.
We forget that in our civilised world there is still prejudice. That hate crimes still happen every day and are happening around us. Who knows what’s said to our children, our nieces and nephews, our colleagues and our friends on a daily basis?
Sadly it seems that though we can now take the tiniest essence of man and use it to create new life, grow new organs or pick and choose the colour of our babies eyes the one thing we have yet to manage to clone is decency.
The Trevor Project is attempting to do just that and the secret to it success is that it’s true.
IT DOES GET BETTER.
Barry Church-Woods lives in Edinburgh with his same sex life partner Josef. He works for the largest arts festival in the world and enjoys nothing more than spending a cosy night in listening to Madonna while drinking martinis so dirty they make you blush. In 2010 he founded The Big C to raise funds for cancer charities across the UK. He secretly wants to be a pop star, but has a voice that can toast bread, an ‘ironic’ face and a body that could never keep up.