My name is Bee, I'm twenty. I was born with a condition known as cerebral palsy. There's a home video of me and my twin sister, who has something called hydrocephalus in our first home, talking to our dad on the other side of the camera. "It's your first day at school girls." We nod and give tentative smiles, holding each other's hand. "Belinda, are you going to look after your sister?" I nod and put my arm round my sister. "I'm going to look after Niomi and make sure she doesn't fall over." Is this scripted? I can smile now because I know I take my job as protector very seriously. I have done since I was five years old.
In our first two primary schools, I don't remember suffering much in terms of bullying. We lived in small towns with tiny schools - in my year five class, there were only ten of us in our year group. I think that being the only set of twins for about five miles made us special - and the fact that we had a special support worker and had special desks and seat cushions only made us more special. Everyone loved us and it was great. In 2003 we moved house again - after spending five/six years in our small, loving town, we didn't take the change very well. About the only thing we were looking forward to was the prospect of having our own rooms.
The first day of our new school rolled around and it was April 1st. A bit ridiculous. We were starting a new school half way through the year and in our final year of primary, too. Niomi and me were in different classes, but we didn't know that until we got there. I remember being sat with a group of girls who stared at me like I was an alien. It was the first time I'd been on my own for anything and I didn't like it. The girls made fun of me for not wanting to share my work or laugh about a girl no one liked who sat in the corner on her own. I remember trying to befriend that same girl and hearing them talk about me behind my back.
When we finished primary school, there was only a few of us going to one secondary school - my few friends were going to the bigger high school that was closer to home. We waited for the bus with our friend from primary and her older brother - in brand new uniforms and matching big hulking Um-bro bags. We sat at the front of the bus together and things went bad from there.
I was in P.E and one of the girls saw me take my leg out of my splint. My left leg had to be put in a corrective splint to help fix my walking. It had a hinge at the heel which made a distinctive sucking noise when I walked, as well as meaning I needed special shoes making for me. It was never the girls who bullied me, at least not the ones I knew enough. But the boys were worse. They started calling me and my sister 'spaz' and 'derwen' (Derwen College was a nearby residential college for people with physical and mental disabilities). There were two boys in particular who were on our bus. They sat behind us and kicked the back of our seats relentlessly and talked loudly about us, about derwens and how they'd been laughing about these fucking spazzes in class etc. We stared straight ahead and ignored it. Our parents couldn't make it better, even though they tried - it was easier to target me though because I didn't need the support in high school; my sister was protected with a more or less constant adult presence. She was also in different classes to me. I had friends though, so I managed to ignore it.
At the beginning of 2008, I wanted to get my hair cut short. Immediately people called me a lesbian. I tried to laugh it off, but it hurt. I didn't think about the fact it was true, because I didn't know it myself at the time. It hurt more because they stereotype you - short hair doesn't make you a lesbian. I've never seen the importance of 'coming out.' I class myself as pansexual, I've recently come out of a long relationship with an American girl. I didn't refute their claims, but then people who I was friends with starting wondering. I said nothing about my orientation or my disability when I went to sixth form - I'd learnt my lesson. If people asked, I would tell them. I didn't have to wear my corrective footwear but there was no uniform. I still have short hair and tend to have quite an androgynous style of dressing and I don't wear makeup. In my experience, the older you get, the more independent you get, the easier it gets. I met Marcus in my first year of high school. He was dared to sit next to me - he claims now it was the best decision he ever made. We've been friends nearly ten years, and he never came out either, but I think my relationship troubles helped him understand that it didn't matter. You don't have to make a huge deal out of these things. I love my best friend - he's stuck with me through everything. We live together now. I'll stick by him no matter what. You'll find someone who makes your life better.
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