IN HIS EARLY 20s he took a drug overdose; he wanted to kill himself. The reason? He was gay.
“I did it deliberately, I wanted to end my life. I had seen one way out; I didn’t want to be gay. In my head I’d picked up that being gay was sick, it was wrong, it was the lowest of the low. That’s what I thought: ‘How could I live?’”
Raised in Kilmacormick, Enniskillen, Dean McKenzie is now 23 years old and living happily in Belfast.
He has ‘come out’ to his friends, and his family, and he recently appeared on the Stephen Nolan Show as a member of the audience to voice his opinion on gay marriage.
The battle in his own head has raged on since the age of 12, and it was almost a decade before he finally came to terms with his sexuality.
“I would’ve known when I was about 12 or 13 that I was a bit different from all my mates,” said Dean this week.
“It was hard – what can I tell my family. They’re going to think of me basically as an outcast.
“When I was in school, there was a lot of name-calling. People can assume you’re gay, but unless you say it yourself, or if they see something to verify it, then they can’t know for a fact.
“I went through a stage of fighting it too – I looked online to see if there was any cures. I would say: ‘I’m not gay, I like girls’ – I went through a stage of hating myself, not accepting myself at all.”
When he reached his early 20s, Dean admitted that things had become increasingly difficult.
“It got so bad at one stage that I thought I’d rather be dead than tell people I’m gay. And that shocks me now that I actually thought that at one stage.”
He took an overdose to end his own life.
“It was one or the other,” he admitted.
Not long after, an aunt spoke to Dean, and told him that if he was gay, it was OK. However, Dean was still fighting internally.
“I said: ‘How dare you’ – I was still fighting it.
“But, eventually I plucked up the courage, and said to one of my friends, I said: Look, I’m gay.
“He just laughed – and said: ‘Dean, we always knew it’. And that was a massive weight off my shoulders, just that I could be honest with people and tell them.”
The next person he told was his mother.
“It was a similar response. She said: ‘You’re my son and I love you for who you are’. And once I got that response from those two, I thought, well if anyone else doesn’t like it, then that’s their problem.”
Dean went on: “People say you choose to be gay – but you definitely don’t. Why would they put themselves through that whole experience?. You’re fighting with yourself every single day. It affects your friendships, it affects you in work, it affects you in school.”
As a young person going through the issues that he did, Dean described it as, ‘the most fearful’ time.
“There’s a lot of young people out there, and there are a lot of young people who’ve went through the same scenarios as myself – it’s brushed under the carpet, and in Fermanagh a lot more work needs to be done about it.
“It’s the most fearful time for anyone. If you think about it, they’re in their teenage years most of them. They’ll have a lot of other issues, especially if they’re studying for their A Levels or GCSEs.
“Coping with all those things at once is not easy, you don’t tell anyone, you bottle it up.”
After he came out, Dean moved to Belfast where he is in a full-time job, and happy with how his life is going.
“It was the best thing I could ever do. You have your good and bad days – but who doesn’t have them?”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition