Just a Bag …


Brayden Barber

For centuries bags have been used in many different ways for many different uses. They hold memories for each and every one of us. They hold our valuables such as our phones and bank cards. They also contain traces of us as people in such small spaces. In a bag you might find a build-up of receipts and clusters of loose change. You might even find used tissues from a cold you once had. These are all examples of traces of us as people. Bags say a lot about where we have been and who we are. Some more so than others. 

 I bought my first handbag when I was fifteen years old, for fifteen quid. I got it at Gorton Market just down the road from me. It was this cute little clear see-through bag with a matching handle and strap. On the body of the bag was a golden coloured lock and white, I’m guessing French, writing on it. Still to this day I will never understand what it translates to. The thought of buying a handbag was scary for me at the time because I was always aware of the price i’d pay, other than fifteen quid, for even just wearing it out. However this bag I felt comfortable with because the material was quite hard. This meant I was prepared to go black belt on those who made comments.  

 The purchase of my first ever handbag was influenced by my best friend Ethan. He wasn’t scared of anyone or anything, no matter how much the world would tear him down. His confidence was built up on the hate he received. Ethan was this very popular feminine boy filled with fire and attitude. Many people used to threaten him just because he acted out of societal expectations of a boy. Girls used to target him, which surprised me and this often escalated quick because their boyfriends would soon get involved. These incidents used to happen often online, especially Instagram live where hundreds of kids from the area would join and comment unimaginable spitefulness towards him. His attitude was to laugh it off and to find humour in the hate, no matter how many times he was told to kill himself or called a faggot just for being feminine and unashamed of himself, this abuse happened often when we used to go out. There were a couple times where we would go out and because I was with Ethan, would get verbally attacked. “Batty Boy”, “Faggot”, “Queer” “Fatherless.” To me this really hurt and affected the way I valued myself, however to Ethan, no matter how many people wanted to harm him both verbally and physically, he still continued to be himself. With confidence. Ethan had only been in my life for a short period of time. But what I learned from him will stay with me for all of my life. He taught me not to take shit from nobody but also to not let anyone else’s views make me view myself any different.  

 After the first purchase of my handbag my confidence slowly escalated as did my collection of them. The UK was in a lockdown at this time so this was a chance for me to figure out who I was beyond collecting handbags. I was encouraged massively by my amazing family and friends. I tried on fake tan, nail polish and even a full face of make-up which surprisingly, I found I was quite good at. This wasn’t for me though. I even dyed my hair red which when looking back, ew, what was I thinking? To make things even worse I decided to shave all my hair and dye it over with yet another coat of this horrific red. After experimenting with all these new things, the news came out about schools returning and it was at this point I knew I had to leave the country. I was about to return to school looking  like a science experiment gone wrong. I looked such a mess at the time but I was prepared to start the new term confident of who I was. 

 On the day I returned back to school I remember no one would go near me. Especially the boys, the way they would communicate with me is by staring at me in disgust and laughing amongst one another. The girls on the other hand would compete to have a “gay best friend” as one of them labelled me on one of their Instagram stories one time. At the time I thought they were encouraging me but now I look back I realise that they enjoyed that I looked a fool and all the comments that were made towards me. There was this one time I remember overhearing a group of lads in particular and they were calling me a ’faggot’ and using me as an item of their banter. They found it hilarious saying to this one lad in particular that I liked them when I most definitely did not and he would be like “ew lad”, “no way lad”, “Are you dumb bro?” They would fake scream while walking past me and jump away from me as if I was a parasite. This was how it started but it quickly got worse. They would throw things at me and flick things at me. Two of them started to take the same bus as me and would make me feel uncomfortable when I was just trying to take the bus  home.  

 As an outcome to this I rang one of my friends at the time and I just remember breaking down with everything, I was honest and I really trusted her, I really thought she was there for me. She showed me synthetic comfort that night. I figured that out in Science the day after when she got giddy in front of the whole class and told everyone about my breakdown on call to her, which to her was amusing. I remember thinking oh bitch you really want to go there? and made a nasty comment about her forward slash eyebrows and how they were running away from her face. The humiliation she made me feel I returned back to her, the whole class mocked her the way I got mocked that whole academic year, one thing that kept me going were the tik toks I used to make. Most nights after school I would make tik toks on this account I had which were relatable/comedic videos that I used to post. This was one thing I really enjoyed doing, making other people laugh. My account on this app was quite a successful platform to get everyone through their GCSE’s. Luckily those who followed my content really supported me and that to me was a huge confidence boost throughout my time in high school. I used to post videos of me being my true self and even videos with my handbags on. This soon became a joke to everyone in school to the point where people would obsess that much, they even created fake accounts to post nasty comment’s. I wouldn’t mind but the comments are nothing I haven’t heard before. The same old shit I was getting bored of, “faggot” “batty boy” “fatherless” telling me to “kill myself” and speaking about how my family should be ashamed of me. They also used to talk about how my dad is dead, which he isn’t, he is dead to me, but he is very much still alive. Despite all the negatives I really enjoyed high school. My teachers were honestly amazing and without them I would have really struggled to have coped. Especially my old English teacher Miss Frank. She taught me more than just how to be sick at English, she taught me to be proud of myself and not to shy away. I also had my 16th which was a huge milestone and celebration. This day was also a rest for me. We all had takeaway that night, an Indian which my mum found a hair in so definitely won’t be eating from there again. We took lots of photos and there was family all around which was such a lovely day. I wish I could have said the same for the next morning though. The next morning, I get a call from my uncle on my Dad’s side and he was speaking to me about my birthday at first and asking how it went but it soon changed when he questioned me and my life choices. He said, I have heard things from your cousin, I’m sure you know what I’m on about. To which I was oblivious at this point. He then said I grew up in a religious background but I will still love you. At this point I realised my cousins had seen my Tik Tok account and had told my uncle about me. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation but it was probably something religious and his views on blah blah blah. What really got to me was the card that I had got given a day later with homophobic intentions. On the card it had an image of a curvy comedian in latex from a show called little Britain where they imitate stereotypical groups. On the card it had “I’m the only gay in the village” Which at first, I thought what on earth but when I read it I was fuming. The card had no name but addressed to me as my dad used to when he used to write me birthday or Christmas cards, which were very few and far between. The rest of what happened that day was a blur. All I remember next is ringing my Dad and having a toxic screaming match in which he often used to talk about my mum to get to me and I’d talk back about his, he said I’m not his son and Blah Blah Blah. Never known such a horrible man in my life. Why he would go out of his way to do that to me really baffles me. I figured that my cousins had seen my Tik Tok’s with me wearing a handbag and had told their dad who later told mine. After all the nasty arguments with that man I later started receiving no caller id’s during my exams. He needed to have the last word. Till this day my relationship with that side is broken. I’m just grateful I got through that time in my life despite everything that went on and came out with nine GCSE’s.  

 When I finally completed my time at high school I remember feeling this weight lifted off my chest. I could finally escape this constant headache of irritating, low in self-esteem pricks who’s only personality traits are putting other people down to fit in. It was honestly so peaceful for the first few days. And because of everything that high school threw at me I got treated to another handbag. This time it was the black version of the clear one I first bought. Of-course I made Tik Toks wearing this bag too, it was too pretty to not broadcast. When I started making videos again I remember receiving even more no caller Id’s from people from my high school this time that would spread rumours about other people. They would harass me with tons and tons of calls late at night when they were bored. They too were nasty and would take time out of their lived to make my summer miserable. I just remember the anxiety I got whenever there was a no caller id. I remember being told to kill myself yet again no surprises but I remember questioning them saying and if I were suicidal would you be proud that you said that? To which they were ignorant. They would then ask me inappropriate questions related to my sexual orientation, which were non-of their business at all. It took a long time before I could change my number but it eventually happened.  

After summer was over I really started to develop massively, I was still coming to terms with the past and am still now to a degree but when college started everything changed. I finally found comfort in such a diverse environment.  

It’s crazy how much a handbag can offend someone, especially if a boy is wearing it.  My mum always said she’d rather me carry a handbag than a knife.