I always held out hope that one day an adult would see that I was locked in the basement and perhaps ‘rescue’ or ‘save’ me. No one ever came.
Growing up in Cambridge Ontario, my parents divorced when I was 5 years old. I lived with my father while I had a very limited relationship with my mother. I was an extremely introverted boy who really struggled with making friends and being sociable.
Living at home was terrible. My father was an alcoholic which has a long history in the family. Although he did not turn into a ‘monster’ or do bad things when he was drunk, he would not address issues that were important. Shortly after the divorce, my father met someone new, married her and she moved into my home.
This stepmother had many extreme rules for me. The first rule was the biggest and would be the most extreme and that was that I had to stay in the basement. I was told many times over the years that kids don’t belong upstairs’. This meant being in the basement, alone, for many years. I was not allowed to have any toys, computers, cell phones, PVR’s or even a DVD player. For whatever reason however, I was allowed a small black and white television with an antenna. The basement consisted of four cement walls, a cement floor, a single light and only three windows which were mostly covered up so I could never see the outside. There was always a damp, musty smell and it was always so cold! I always felt like they were ashamed by me.
This step-mother would yell at me, talk down to me and call me names. All I ever wanted from her was to be accepted or liked, even if only for a few minutes. I can honestly say that I was truly afraid of her. I hated being home, I hated how she made me feel and I hated that my Dad never did anything to help me.
Whenever I was sad, angry, ashamed etc., I would cry uncontrollably. I was unable to speak during these outbursts which prevented me from ever being able to explain my emotions. Crying was a daily thing for me. This followed me everywhere, even when I was at school.
Growing up, I had next to no real friends nor did I feel as though I had anyone that I could confide in. I had no role models, no close family members and certainly no one to talk to.
On top of my emotional challenges, I also knew that I was different from most boys, in that I was gay. I really struggled with my thoughts. I knew that being gay was not something that I could control but at the same time, I never quite understood what was happening at the time or why I was gay. During this time, there were no gay characters on television, role models or even support groups in school. I knew I was different but I never had a way to grasp what was happening.
I kept these feelings hidden deep inside of me. I never shared them, never explored them and certainly never acted on them. All through elementary school, middle school and high school, these feelings were hidden deep inside. My friendships with boys were always more concentrated, involved and intense. I can’t tell you the number of ‘crushes’ I had while growing up. I can tell you however that each and every one of them ended in heartache.
Because I was an extremely introverted young man, who would never stand up for himself, it made me a target at school for others to call me names. I would always cry as that was the way my body coped with any sort of pressure or stress. Words like ‘cry baby’ or ‘suck’ were repeated over and over by a cruel few for many years.
While in high school, I had several times where I was bullied beyond the point of being called names. One particular day, I was followed home, all the while being called names. When I got home, the boys spit all over the front door to my house. It was humiliating to have to clean that up. I can tell you everything about this incident. From the weather to the clothing I was wearing, to the names I was called, I remember it all like it was yesterday.
There were many times that I was pushed, had books knocked out of my hand, tripped, spit on, hair pulled out and even punched. All the while, I kept it in as I feared that reaching out would only make everything worse.
As much as I understand what bullying is now, at the time I always felt like this was only happening to me. I just figured that the world hated me, I mean I was locked in a basement by night and targeted at school by day. Day after day I would hold it all in and simply hope that life would simply get better on its own, just like magic.
To top all of this off, I was also being sexually abused by a much older man which took place over a period of several years. This is something that I kept locked away in my mind until recently. I am a survivor of sexual assault. One day, I hope to be strong enough to speak more openly about this.
Having no one to talk to, or confide in, I was hurting mentally for many years. My world was a mess and I couldn’t find a way to make it better. The reality is that I was crashing. I was falling apart and psychologically I was suffering from mental illness.
I had thoughts of an unknown future, depression, self-harm and even suicide.
Life was very dark for me during this time.
Being terribly introverted stayed with me until I was around the age of 17 when I unexpectedly ran away from home and slowly turned myself into a man. I got my own place with the help of the Government, took on two part-time jobs and finished my last years of high school.
During my last year of high school, I remembered my dream of wanting to be a Police Officer but I made a mistake. That mistake is that I never acted on my dream because I truly believed it was just a dream and I thought that dreams weren’t meant to be achieved. I never looked into becoming an Officer, never asked any questions and never Googled it when Google was invented.
I continued to struggle with mental illness for years. When I was twenty-one, I attempted suicide. This is still tough for me to talk about but I am glad that I did not succeed. When I awoke the next morning after my attempt, I was so angry with myself. I realized immediately that suicide is NOT an option and I promised myself to live healthier and to get the help that I needed and deserved. Reaching out would not be a sign of weakness, it would be a sign of strength.
During my mid-twenties, I traveled overseas to Scotland, England, France, Czech Republic and Ireland. I did this for just over two years. During this time I had the opportunity to learn about myself, learn how to be social and slowly become more extroverted.
It was also during this period in my life that I slowly came to accept the reality that I was gay.
I decided to call my Mom and tell her. I gathered up all of the strength I had and sat on my bed (with my friend beside me) and made the call. Mom was busy and asked me to call back as she was making dinner.
I was 25 years old.
The wait between calls felt like forever. As I write this, I have those same emotions flooding back all over again. When the time was right, I called back and told Mom to sit down. When she said that she was, I said ‘Mom I am gay’. Her response?…..’I know!’. I was floored. I asked her to be angry simply for the fact that I had always envisioned that she would be. Disappointed in the least…but no!
Mom shared a few stories on how she always knew and that it was great that I was telling her. She gave me some reassuring words and ended the conversation as we always do…’I love you’.
I remember hanging up, looking at my friend, and feeling like the world was lifted off of my shoulders. Mom later told me that she went to her bedroom where my Step Dad was resting and told him. My Step-Dad said ‘so what was so important that Tad had to say?’ Mom responded with ‘he’s gay’. Step Dad says ‘that’s nice’ and went back to sleep.
After all of those years of beating myself up inside, nearly have given up and keeping the true ME hidden inside. My life felt like it was brand new again.
To this day, I have never had a negative reaction when sharing the fact that I am gay. In fact, I have always had very positive experiences. Sadly, this is not the same for everyone.
I play sports (baseball is my favourite), workout, run a lot, read, go camping and enjoy just about anything outdoors.
When I was 32 years old, I was playing on a baseball team and a new player joined the team. I remembered what it was like to be new and when I saw him enter the room, I walked up and introduced myself to him. His name was Shaun. After a short chat, I asked what he did for a career and he told me he was a Police Officer. I smiled and told him how that was my dream job.
He convinced me to at least apply since I had nothing to lose.
Since I was 5 years old, I had a dream to become a Police Officer. Today, that dream is a reality. I never let my sexuality stand in the way of living out a dream. I never let the negativity while growing up stop me. I always wanted to ‘help’ people and today I am lucky enough to be in that position.
In October 2011, I was reading the news online and read an article about a young man from Ottawa named Jamie HUBLEY who had taken his own life because of years of relentless bullying and struggles with mental illness. The bullying started because he was a figure skater and later for being gay.
Reading Jamie’s story reminded me of being that 5-year-old boy who had a dream to become a Police Officer because I wanted to help people. I felt helpless knowing that Jamie went through such torment for so many years.
Jamie tried so hard for years to be positive and help break stereotypes.
Because of Jamie’s story, I made a choice right then and there that I had to 'do my part’ to help those who need it most.
On my own time and at my own expense, I began speaking to schools and sharing my story along with Jamie’s.
It took a tragedy for me to act but I will work as hard as I can in an attempt to prevent further tragedies.
Won’t you help me carry on Jamie’s message?
Order of Merit of the Police Forces of Investiture Ceremony / Cérémonie d'investiture de l'Ordre du mérite des corps policiers
Canadian Senate, March 2014 Statement Read in the Canadian Senate
City of Calgary International Achievement Award
Surrey Leaders " Above And Beyond. July 2013
by the Calgary Police Commission.