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To stay in Edinburgh or move, in light of my gay 14 year old?

Discussion in 'For Parents and Family Members of LGBT People' started by Minny, Sep 5, 2016.

  1. starlightonmars

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    Hi Minny!

    I grew up in Gloucester and went to school there, and spent a lot of time in Cheltenham growing up, and have many friends there. If you have any more detailed questions feel free to private message me!

    Personally I didn't have a great time growing up in Gloucester, and going to school there. I went to one of the boys' grammar schools and was bullied horribly. But by the time I moved for sixth form to the girls' equivalent, it was easier to come out, and I actually helped a few friends come out after I led the way. And I know that a few of the younger gay kids had an easier time coming out after I'd left too. A lot of the kids who bullied me at school are now pretty pro-LGBT+ rights, so maybe it's changed. Of course, kids are cruel anywhere, so it's impossible to avoid bullies all the time.

    Growing up I spent a lot of time in both Cheltenham and Gloucester. I know personally I felt a lot safer dressing in a more obvious 'gay way' (basically just dressing with a vague sense of fashion) in Cheltenham, and I would probably feel comfortable holding hands with another male there. I actually met my first boyfriend in one of Cheltenham's clubs after he came to my prom, and although I never went to the gay bar before it closed, I didn't feel uncomfortable being gay in 'straight' clubs like I have in many other cities, including Norwich which does have gay bars and is generally very inclusive and accepting.

    I know a few gay people who went to the school in Cheltenham you may be thinking of - the mixed grammar school - and they seemed to find it okay. If you like I can ask one of my best friends who grew up gay in Cheltenham and knows the city better than I do any questions you have, and I know he'd be more than happy to provide some insight!

    I would say Cheltenham is friendly and a place I would feel comfortable raising gay children, but I also found growing up there to be very stifling. There wasn't much to do and as soon as I moved to university I chose one all the way over in Norwich, and now I'm living in Philadelphia for a year - so I personally found growing up in the area great motivation to escape! I would never move back to Gloucester as I don't feel safe being gay there particularly, and there's not much to do and the people can be (occasionally) violent. The whole place is a little draining really, lots of my friends find it the same (gay and straight) when they return from university. If I did have to move back to the area it would be Cheltenham.

    Having said that I spent a little time in Edinburgh this summer, and actually went to a few gay clubs with some friends, as well as going to some in Glasgow. I found Edinburgh to be really exciting and there was lots to do - I don't think I'd have been bored growing up there. But I also noticed in the friends I have in both cities there is less incentive for them to get out and see the world. Obviously in part due to free university education, but even after, I have a drive to travel but they seem content living in Edinburgh forever. I'm not sure how important that is to you with regards to your kids, but I've noticed living in a bigger city or a very small town can often discourage kids from thinking of moving.

    If you like I could also forward any questions you may have to my friends in Glasgow and Edinburgh - one of whom is English and moved for university and so may have a different perspective to mine as he knows the area well but is also an outsider. I hope this has helped! Let me know if you have any more questions!
     
  2. Minny

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    Hi starlightonmars,

    Thanks very much for your really helpful advice and insight into the area. I will pm you, if I may, (once I find out how to do that!) and ask some specific questions about schools - that would be great if you could ask your friends about them.

    So glad you were able to come out and help other young people after you come out and feel safe: that's fantastic and makes all the difference I'm sure.

    Thanks again!

    ---------- Post added 1st Oct 2016 at 06:12 PM ----------

    Hi starlightonmars,

    I wrote this as a pm but got a message saying I can't yet send pms. I do hope you don't mind me asking my questions here:

    Thanks again so much for replying to my post - it was so reassuring to hear that your experiences, once you'd moved to a 6th form, were positive and remain so.

    We're looking at Pate's Grammar for my son, who is very bright, but I was pretty horrified that someone had committed suicide in 2010 there. Frankly, there was another terrible suicide story about the school I'm looking at for my other son: St Edward's - you may know the story about the poor boy who was taunted for being gay (I don't know if he was or not) and he jumped off the roof. Neither stories inspire much confidence.....

    Can I ask which 6th form you went to where you had a positive experience? I home-educate my son at the moment but am looking at 6th form colleges now for his A-levels rather than schools as it seemed to me that they are more like a kind of pre-university in atmosphere.

    Certainly, the two we're going to visit (Peter Symonds in Winchester and Hills Road in Cambridge) have LGBT groups: not to say my son will join them but their very existence says something about attitudes, I think. Whereas, I doubt very much Pates has anything like that and I do worry that it seems very 'straight' and conservative - though I haven't visited it yet - I just get the vibe from their fairly cringey online video.

    If you can ask around your friends for any recommendations of schools or colleges - anywhere frankly, as we're free to move where we like - which are places that a young gay man will feel safe and comfortable, I'd be really grateful.

    Edinburgh is a great place, has a vibrant gay scene I think BUT....the schools are very conservative and there are no decent 6th form colleges. Again, there was a terrible report about Fettes College by Philip Christopher Baldwin who was ruthlessly bullied there for being gay. So that's why we're looking further afield.

    I think my son won't stay in Edinburgh: he'll be off trying to make his fortune I think...and wants anyway to get to Oxbridge. Again, any hints from friends about which colleges are gay-friendly would be great also!

    Thanks so much!
     
  3. Bouldghirl

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    I only discovered this thread today but I wished I had seen it earlier. Firstly I know from experience that Edinburgh is a wonderful and open place to grow up as gay. Life would be so much easier if every town was like Edinburgh- but they aren't! The thing that I must say (and I'm sorry if this hurts you) is that you cannot and must not live your life for your children. One day they will make their way into the big bad world (just like I did from Scotland) and they will realise that there are nice people and nasty people no matter where you go. I was lucky enough to discover that Cardiff was a very welcoming place after I finished University and started standing on my own two feet. Again I apologise if I come across badly but I know two people who were home educated and both are totally messed up individuals 10 years on. You say your son wants to go to Oxbridge - wonderful but how well he relate to the very social nature of Oxford or Cambridge colleges without the social grounding that school offers. I assume your son is of a educational standard that he will get into suitable higher education so I must ask - what does he think? I can't see the point of moving to the other end of the country if he will be desperately unhappy.

    As a woman I appreciate my position is different but I know the gay scene in Bristol well and I am sure that he will be welcomed should he wish to involve himself in it. Whatever your choice I wish you (and your son) well.
     
  4. Minny

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    Hi Bouldghirl,

    Many thanks for your message. Glad you like Edinburgh - it is a great town!

    No, I don't think you can generalise about home-ed. We didn't do it for political or social reasons. My son wanted to be home-ed as he is highly gifted and was bullied/misunderstood at school for that....but that's a different story. You mustn't judge the tens of thousands of kids who are happily home-educated with the 2 people you've met who are unhappy.

    My son meets loads of people but he likes just one or two and there's nothing wrong with that. And you mustn't overestimate the 'social grounding' of school. It's not always what it's cracked up to be as I'm sure some of the people on this forum will attest too particularly if they have been victimised.

    Every single person I meet who learns that we home-ed our son ALWAYS raises the 'socialisation' question. It's a prejudice, if you like, against people who are home-ed who are very happy with the situation and their freedom to socialise with whom they like, much as in the way we do as adults; rather than being forced into being in a group of class-mates which doesn't necessarily suit everyone - particularly if you are different in any way, be that 'gifted', LGBT, disabled or whatever.

    I'm not at all hurt by your comment that I shouldn't live my life for my kids. But I think that as a parent you really MUST live your life for your kids. That's the point of being a parent. My son has only just turned 14 and we want to do - since we are footloose and fancy free - what will be best for him. And that's why we're looking into different areas around the country as he wants to go to college at 16. Yes, he's suitably educated to get into higher education - he's way, way ahead in fact, hence the Oxbridge destination....

    Thanks for your comment though!
     
  5. starlightonmars

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    Hi Minny

    Sorry for the late reply, classes have had me very busy lately!

    I did get in to Pate's as a child through the 11 plus exam, but my parents never considered sending me there as it was too far. In hindsight, it may have been better as I always got on better with girls. Pate's has a reputation for being a great school academically, though I've heard from friends that the staff don't put as much attention into those students who aren't looking to go to Oxford or Cambridge when it came to university applications, though by the sounds of it that won't be an issue for your son. I went to Sir Thomas Rich's for school and then moved to Denmark Road/High School for Girls for sixth form. I hated Tommies but loved Denmark Road, though I've heard that fewer students go there now. Personally I would recommend Denmark Road as a good option if you like the look of it.

    Obviously the reports of suicides due to bullying are concerning, but there has also been a massive cultural shift in opinions during the last few years. I remember school being hell in 2010/11 when I was taking my GCSEs, but not long after in 2012/13 when I was doing my A Levels lots of the kids who had bullied me were now advocates of the LGBT+ community. And hearing about kids who recently finished high school it seems things have changed even more - some kids were telling me about how before they came out as openly LGBT+, they were known at schools as being LGBT+ allies. When I was at school, you were considered either gay or homophobic, there was no in between. The idea that kids nowadays can be openly encouraging of the LGBT+ community before they even come out is amazing to hear. I think that perhaps your son will find fewer bullies nowadays whichever school he decides to go to.

    One thing I would say about Pate's is it attracted lots of snobby rich kids, who then mostly went on to Exeter and Oxbridge universities, which can lead to them being slightly miserable environments. I applied to Exeter but chose not to go, but my three best friends went and they said the environment was too reminiscent of the snobbery found at grammar schools. I have a friend who goes to Oxford and though she enjoyed it she would be in the library from 8 am until midnight each day and her social life didn't seem to be interesting at all. I've not heard about much of an LGBT+ experience on campus either. I imagine Cambridge is slightly better with the well known drama department, but one of my best friends who ended up at Exeter applied to Cambridge and by the end of the experience was pretty happy to not be going there.

    I have to admit to being 100% completely biased about this, as it's my university, but the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich is fantastic. We either have (I forget which) the biggest LGBT+ population of students in the country, or the highest ratio of LGBT+ to straight students. The university itself is a great one - it's first in the country for my subject and a number of others, and is 14th in the league tables despite only opening in 1963. The campus has a lot of societies and an amazing music scene. The Pride society is more like a family than a group - I'm friends with the majority of the members and know lots of LGBT+ people in and around Norwich. There's also an outside society for Norwich in general which holds events throughout the city. There are two gay clubs in town, both cheap and friendly, and the club on campus is also somewhere students can be openly gay without worry. I've only been to straight clubs a few times but they have seemed pretty friendly too. The city itself is beautiful and has lots going on. It reminded me a little of Edinburgh too, definitely in a good way. It's a very arty city, with lots of independent shops. It's the kind of place that when my mum comes to visit she wears some of her more daring outfits (a purple velvet skirt??) that she doesn't wear very often at home because it doesn't feel right, and she gets compliments for it too. That sounds like a strange thing to say, but it's a good indicator for what kind of city it is. The people are friendly, there's enough pubs to go to one each day in the year and still have some left over, and almost as many churches too. I would even say look to moving to Norwich yourselves, as it's got lots of places where adults can go out in the evenings - I always see couples going to restaurants where the owners are friends with them and know their names. It has good music, a great literature scene. I'm not sure what the sixth forms are like, but so many of my friends who have graduated even after my first year of university don't seem to have left. I could easily see myself moving there one day and having kids of my own. And it's close to London so there's a big city you can go to on weekends, plus pretty much everything else in Norfolk is coastal towns so there's lots to explore. It also isn't far at all from Cambridge so if your son did decide to go there, you wouldn't be far away at all if he wanted to come home for the weekend.

    I also looked at Kent University and that was my second choice. Canterbury as a town is also incredibly beautiful, and I've heard good things about Kent, so perhaps look into that too! Again I couldn't speak for the sixth forms but definitely look there as a university option or somewhere for you to move yourself!

    If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! I will try and reply more quickly next time! Additionally if your son has any questions he'd like to ask me, about university, or sixth form, or anything in general, let me know and I can pm you my email address and we can set up a correspondence! Hope you are well!
     
  6. falconfalcon

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    Dear Minny,

    I don't like to give advice - but . Don't move



    I grew up in CAlifornia, not far outside of San Francisco. You'd think that would be cool RIGHT??


    no . the few kids who were out went through really rough stuff

    and one morning my mother and I awoke to police because a boy from a few block over hung himself on the play ground around the corner from myself. A young man who was friends with my friends, graduated high school, was well liked by his friends from everything I know, had been involved with the community at school I know of , was a talented skater... 18. Wrote in the sand "To sleep, perchance to dream"



    Teenager years can be so difficult, adolescence... its a FORMATIVE time - not like being an adult

    children DEVELOP their confidence as people at this time - you dont want anything to go against a kid.

    If a gay can live in a community where they FEEL accepted, where they can smile and laugh and skip down the street and KNOW they are OK and safe

    vs somehwere where they have to doubt?


    As an adult I had the privlege of living in a big city with gay communities and it was lovely - then i had to move, and now I have been places where even as an adult I always have to wonder if its OK or if something negative is going to happen. I hate it = its so stupid. I'm over this - I grewup, advocate for LGBT respect in california, moved to a big city wher i was free - now this again? its so bad for ones mental health


    Take care of your kid. Give him his chance at a great childhood

    You can move to smaller town in a few years, once he's on his own.

    Give him a good life - don't take risks with his whole life


    Take care :slight_smile: <3
     
  7. mangotree

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    To be honest, city life is much kinder to gay kids than rural/small-town life.
    In a lot of cases, moving to somewhere smaller could end up putting him back in the closet. If you're prepared to stay in the city his sake, I'd say do it.
    I think this is a crucial time in his life for confidence, social awareness and self-awareness development. You've already helped him massively by being an excellent parent, but avoiding bullying and ignorance at this point could be quite healthy for him.

    This is coming from someone who grew up rural, but moved to the city when I was 18, the difference in acceptance was unbelievable.

    Just my opinion.
     
  8. Minny

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    Hi starlightonmars,

    Thanks so much for your long and interesting reply. I'm so glad you're having a great time at Uni and that it's all working out for you.

    Funnily enough, we did visit Norwich a couple of years back with a view to possibly moving there but I'm not sure we liked it as much as Edinburgh.

    We've got a lot of thinking to do. We're off to see Cambridge in a couple of weeks and perhaps we will move there. We've just got back from looking at Cheltenham. My son liked Pates and the woman showing him and my husband around said (not knowing my son is gay) that there was a LGBT group in the 6th form - which is pretty good! But my son for some reason didn't take to Cheltenham. I went to boarding school there, so not sure I like it that much either, though it's undeniably a pretty town.

    He loved Winchester - despite it being a small town. However, it is close to London. I keep asking my son: how will you feel when you want to go to a bar to meet some guys and there's nothing there (if we live in a small town) and he says: I don't know since I'm only 14 and don't want to go to any bars!

    I take what you say about Oxbridge - I do think it's too much for some people. It depends, i would imagine, on if you have had to really swot to get in. I think it must be an awful strain in those circumstances. Hopefully that's not the case with my son - if he gets in, he won't have done so by swotting as he's pretty laid back!

    Thanks so much for taking the time out from your studies (and fun!) to write to me - I really appreciate it. I'm not sure we can pm each other since we are just regular members but would be happy to if the moderators allow it - maybe we should ask?

    Many thanks Mango tree for your advice. I do agree that living in a city seems a better bet than a small town - but the view on EC, interestingly, is not conclusive.

    Falconfalcon - many thanks for your advice. I had thought a large city was a better place for my son but not everyone on EC agrees. Perhaps it is different in the UK? We do have a tradition of tolerance in the UK but of course there is prejudice here as anywhere else. It's a difficult one as there are a lot of intolerant people in cities as well. We're looking at a few more places and will have to decide sooner or later.

    Best wishes to you all and thanks again. xx
     
  9. starlightonmars

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    Hi Minny! I tried to send this as a private message along with my email address, but it wouldn't let me send it to you as you are not a full member!

    I personally wouldn't live in Cheltenham so I totally get you and your son feeling the same!

    I can't speak about Winchester. But if it's close to London he can always go to the city to go to bars when he's older.

    These stories about Oxbridge are all from very intelligent people. Obviously generalising here, but I think a lot of the students at Oxbridge don't need to swot because they're incredibly intelligent naturally, but lack emotional intelligence and social skills. It sounds like your son has no trouble with social skills, so he might find the atmosphere at an Oxbridge a little alienating. Though I'm sure that's not the same for every student, I don't think the opportunities for socialising will be as great as it would be at a different university. Of course, you have to balance that with future career opportunities - I know a girl who picked the easiest course to get into at Oxford and struggled through a degree she wasn't interested in for three years and now is getting job offers from great places, even though it was a geography degree, just because she went to Oxford!

    I think you're right to not listen to the advice from the American poster, I'm currently living here on my year abroad and things are totally different here. I imagine living in a small town here would be hell (the small towns in this state have KKK members and everything) which is obviously vastly different to small towns in England.
     
  10. Minny

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    Hi starlightonmars,

    Thanks for your message. Yes, I think I need to write a few more posts before I'm able to receive pms.

    Well, Cheltenham is definitely out and we've settled on Cambridge. It had quite a relaxed vibe and the 6th form college there is really good plus has a LGBT group - so I think will suit my son.

    Winchester was out because it was just way too small.

    Ah, I didn't realise you were doing a year abroad - how fascinating. Yes, I think America is probably very different to the UK as you say particularly in rural areas - much more religious also over there, than here. Same language (almost) but surprisingly different culture. We're actually European after all!:lol:

    Have a great time abroad and thanks again so much for all your advice - really appreciate it!