I was 20 when mum finally threw me out of the house, saying I couldn’t be gay in Dundee. I suppose that’s what counted for LGBT education back then.
She said my younger sister would be beaten up in school when people found out so I had to go – she didn’t care where.
I remember my sister had come into my bedroom and found me crying to a Pretenders song called Lovers of Today.
That was in 1979. It was a bleak year for me.
Mum brought me downstairs and demanded I tell her exactly what was wrong with me.
When I did I was swiftly turfed out the door of our council house on the Kingsway.
I had nowhere to go and just a few pounds in my pocket to get me there.
I got the bus into town and then, like the character in the Pet Shop Boys’ song Being Boring, I left, with a haversack and some trepidation as my only possessions.
The southbound platform of Dundee station still brings back horrible memories for me, more than 40 years later.
You might think things could only get better.
In fact, they would only get much worse.
Life I found was not one mum understood
The 1970s and 80s were not the most progressive of times.
I’d moved to London in 1978, chasing a life, a career and Siouxsie and the Banshees – whichever came towards me first, really.
As a devout punk, it turned out Siouxsie was much easier to find than a career.
And after living in a cubicle in the YMCA in Stockwell and holding down a soul-destroying job as an invoice clerk, I returned home to Dundee, defeated, jobless, hopeless and in turmoil.
The truth is I had found a life of sorts in London.
It just wasn’t the kind of life my mum wanted for me.
I looked like a very pretty teenage girl and one day the new art master said that in front of the whole class
When you’re young you’re fearless.
Now, at 62, I sometimes wonder how I survived these teenage years.
School was only tolerable for the literature classes and the art so I retreated into books and music and myself.
I had few friends and weekends could go by without me seeing anyone outside of my own family.
I looked like a pretty teenage girl and one day the new art master said that in front of the whole class.
That’s when I learned that being different is like wearing an invisible cloak of provocation and shame.
School bullies weren’t just the pupils
The PE teacher, who looked like he was on leave from the SAS, would look at me witheringly as he strode around the gym.
“Hands on the thighs, boys” he would bellow before glancing at me – “I mean your own thighs, Chalmers”.
I was 15 and had never had sex.
His victimisation continued in a class called Anatomy, Physiology and Health with jibes about my hair and my gender.
He played to the crowd and everyone laughed.
I wonder if he ever realised the irony of mentally torturing a 15 year old during a class purportedly teaching us about health?
I went swimming a lot, or just missed PE classes altogether.
Withdrawal was always easier, and no one really cared anyway.
When we all started dealing with puberty we were given rudimentary sex education.
Mum had to sign a form allowing me to see a programme called Living and Growing that presented the basics of reproduction to giggling, incredulous adolescents.
There was nothing in Living and Growing to suggest oranges were not the only fruit.
LGBT education did not exist.
There was no advice at all at school for those of us who felt confused about our sexuality.
You sunk or you swam and it took me years to come up for air.
LGBT education for a changed Scotland
This follows a report by Stonewall which found nearly half of LGBT pupils are bullied at school for being LGBT.
Surveys have shown more than half of trans pupils have attempted to take their own lives.
🏳️🌈 We're proud to have been part of this positive step towards LGBT inclusive education. Look out for our resources on the site!
📺 Watch: https://t.co/g3Pdl9S6M6
— LGBT Youth Scotland (@LGBTYS) September 23, 2021
This ground-breaking legislation comes at a time when society has never felt more fragmented and when mob rule seems more acceptable.
Freedoms which were hard won in previous decades are now being eroded.
Parties like the Family Party and the Scottish Tories appeal to the mob with their regressive, divisive actions.
LGBT education will help young people understand they are not alone.
When I look in the mirror today I see someone who weathered the storm alone.
I also see someone whose face is still disfigured 40 years after I was beaten up in an Edinburgh cul de sac.
I had run down there fleeing the mob, not realising it was a dead end.
You couldn’t find a more apt metaphor for my life at the time.
If this welcome new legislation from a progressive SNP government stops a single person being victimised the way I was then it will have served its purpose.