Bobby Norris shares his experiences of homophobic abuse as Pride month begins

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Pride month has always been close to my heart. It’s so important that we have that time every year where we celebrate, because when you look back – and I’m not talking hundreds of thousands of years ago here – 53 years ago, being gay was illegal, unbelievably.

So many people have been through so much. It’s important to celebrate that love is love and it doesn’t matter what form that comes in. We’ve come such a long way, but we’ve still got a hell of a way to go. I feel so fortunate that I have a platform to represent the LGBTQ+ community on TV. It’s important that TV shows, whether that be reality or soaps, are a true representation of society.

I get so many messages from parents saying things like, “Thank you so much, my son is a massive fan and felt comfortable to come out after watching you for years.”

It brings tears to my eyes sometimes because you forget having that platform can really help someone. I love that I can make anyone feel comfortable to be their true self and that they can tell other people who they really are. And that’s why I’m so big on speaking out about the trolling I receive, because I’m all for people having opinions, but not if it crosses a line.

For example, the online abuse I get is always homophobic. That’s not just having an opinion, people are sending me specific and detailed death threats because of my sexuality. I’ve got a thick skin and I can take that and still sleep at night, but if that had been me when I was younger, and for those who aren’t as thick-skinned as me, those people can struggle with that.

No one should be told they’re going to be beheaded or that they’re going to have guns in their chest because of their sexuality. There’s a general belief that the only people who get trolled are those in the media or on TV, but that’s not the case. I get trolled because of my sexuality, which is something I can do nothing about and I wouldn’t want to. I’m a very proud gay man and I’m proud to be me. So much good can come from social media, but I’m so glad it wasn’t around when I was younger.

There are very few things in life, when it comes to my sexuality, that I’ve not been called before at the age of 34, but when I get death threats because of who I choose to love, that becomes concerning.

There’s a saying that goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s the most incorrect saying ever! I think words do hurt more, and I believe there’s a connection between the rise of trolling and the growing rate of mental health problems. Something has to be done to stop it and I’m working on it with my EndTheTrendToTroll campaign. Sadly, I get so many messages from people who are scared to leave the house because of the trolling they get.

I’ve suffered homophobic abuse in day-to-day life. Not that long ago I got off the train and was walking home when
a white Transit van drove past and the people inside started screaming “Batty Boy” out the window at me. I can’t believe that in this day and age that terminology is still a thing – it’s so bizarre to me. I try to think, “Why do they do it?” But I believe hurt people hurt people.

It’s important for me to have a platform and talk about my experiences and let people know they’re not alone and that they should be proud of who they are.

I never had to come out. My family always had a suspicion and it was never a shock to anyone. But when I was younger, there weren’t really any gay men on TV. I didn’t really know what being gay was and there was no real representation on TV or in the media.

We live in a different time now, which is amazing. People know more at a far younger age and know more about the correct language and terminology to use. We’ve come on in leaps and bounds from me being a kid to being 34 now. I hope by the time I have children or grandchildren that the next generation will be even better.

Sadly, there’s always going to be vileness. I believe that as long as I’m on this planet there will be a form of homophobia in one way or another. Some people’s hatred is so deep-rooted and evil, I don’t think there’s any changing their opinion. However I have faith that the next generation will be a lot more educated and accepting, and I think that’s amazing. Even in schools now, it’s spoken about a lot more. Education is key and I think it will take time for the message to filter down.

Everyone’s situation and personal circumstances are different, but if you’re struggling to come out please talk to someone, whether it’s a parent, friend, cousin or teacher. And there are so many amazing LGBTQ+ charities such as LGBT Switchboard, LGBT Foundation and Stonewall who you can call. Ultimately, I want you to know that you’re not alone.

However lonely you may feel right now, if you’re struggling to accept who you are or you don’t know anyone else in your situation, just know that there are millions of people who feel the same and that things will get better. It’s OK to love who you want to love and to be who you want to be.'

If you would like help with discussing your sexuality, visit switchboard.lgbt or call confidentially on 0300 330 0630

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