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Callum Tilbury

Callum Tilbury

The conservative KwaZulu-Natal Midlands are a very difficult place to realise you’re gay. I went to a very religious high school and began to question my sexuality when I was in grade nine.

Luckily for me, I have a very strong sense of self, and I knew in my heart that it was not my fault, I was not in the wrong, and holding on to this belief is what got me through the rest of high school.

By the time I was in grade eleven, I had come to terms with it and accepted myself as gay. But because of the environment, I was in, I chose not to come out until the end of Matric. I’m very introverted and withdrawn, so I didn’t even tell any of my friends – keeping it to myself was just my way of coping. In a way, I was putting my life on hold, because I knew that after high school I was going to move to Cape Town (I had heard someone call Cape Town “the gay capital of Africa) and I kept repeating this mantra to myself:

Just wait for Cape Town
Just wait for Cape Town
Just wait for Cape Town

And yoh… Cape Town did not disappoint! I studied drama and started working in the theatre industry, which is very accepting of “alternative” sexualities and gender identities. After a few years, I even realised that I wanted to be a drag queen! Yaaas darling!

But looking back now, I do wish I had spoken up sooner when I realised I was gay in high school, because I know my friends would have been supportive and understanding, and I could have saved myself a lot of the struggle of coming to terms with my sexuality alone. I also wish I had used my voice to challenge my school’s conservative mentality because I know that I’m strong enough to withstand whatever they would have thrown my way.

I think that’s what makes a young hero – speaking up for what you know is right, even in the face of adversity.

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