Bupa Global’s Heather McLean shares her daughter Eleanor-Rae’s (Ellie) story after attending her first Pride event this weekend.
"Let me start by saying that I am a very proud mother of four, and also a proud grandmother of one.
When my first daughter Eleanor-Rae was born I was in awe of her from the beginning. She was a strong soul and I felt (still feel) honoured to have been chosen as her mother. She was always wilful, confident and happy. But when she was at secondary school, I noticed a change in her, both physically and emotionally as one would expect, but there was something more.
Her behaviour at school had become awful. She was arguing with teachers and fighting with other pupils, and this had seemingly come out of nowhere. Ellie’s behaviour at home was no better. We argued constantly.
We decided enough was enough, and wanted to get to the bottom of it so we had a family meeting where after lots of probing, Ellie spoke about how she was being bullied and taunted at school by other pupils and also online. She also told us some huge news. She was gay.
We had not seen it coming, but it mattered little to us who our little girl loved. Love is love.
She seemed quite shocked and relieved that we felt this way as her peers apparently had made it clear she was a freak and would be rejected by us when we found out. She also said the school were aware of what was going on but had done very little. I was absolutely incensed.
She had gone through all of this over nearly a year and a half on her own feeling like no one was on her side. As a mother I felt I had really let her down. So we changed what happened at home. We opened conversations with her and let her know that home was sanctuary - always. We would fight her corner.
We fought hard with the school, but while there seemed to be sympathy, the cause was not fully being investigated and the online bullying was considered out of their remit. After many meetings we eventually got the point across that this form of bullying was absolutely and unequivocally unacceptable.
Once this was being dealt with, her behaviour started to improve. It wasn’t a smooth ride. It wasn’t easy. But it was a start.
Her mental health suffered greatly as a result of all the stress and she was put on medication and we sought counselling alongside talking with her as openly as she needed at home.
To hear that your child wants to die just because she is gay is heart-breaking.
I received a lot of support through my service manager at the time, and my colleagues were amazing. It was so great to feel support in my workplace. I cannot even begin to tell you how important that was for me to feel that my colleagues were in my corner. Every time I got a dreaded school phone call, I knew I was not alone.
Brighton is a wonderfully inclusive and diverse place anyway, but I certainly feel that the Bupa values we live by here in the business are at the very heart of human diversity and the embracing of culture. I am very proud to work here. I also used the Bupa health benefits line to talk to someone about the stress the situation had caused me and this support, in turn, helped me to support my daughter. It was invaluable.
Ellie has recently passed a two-year Level 3 art course at the Brighton MET, and has really come out of her shell.
This year was her first Pride. I was proud to go with her as her most staunch ally along with her partner Katie.
I would be lying if I said the bullying hasn’t left its awful mark on her. But with love and patience you really can achieve anything. I am so proud of her I could burst."