After coming out Nikki Mullen was subjected to such bullying at the hands of her classmates, she was forced to leave school early. Determined not to let the bullies win, she went on to become a Youth Worker with Sligo’s SMILY group and now helps LGBT young people.
I came out when I was 13 years-old. There was no resistance from my family at all.
School times, though, weren’t the best. It was an all-girl, Catholic school and I wasn’t perceived very well. It was stressful and hard to imagine that it was going to get easier, that I was going to be accepted in time.
Teachers and my principal didn’t make life easy for me at school either and I was completely alienated. Basically I ended up leaving and not getting a Leaving Cert because of the bullying.
I got myself a little job and put myself through a number of training courses in different areas. It got me where I am today.
Working with LGBT young people is a new thing for me. It was never something I thought I was going to go into.
When the LGBT youth group SMILY was set up last year in Sligo, I volunteered to be involved and really enjoyed it.
The guy who was running it left for America, so they offered me the job.
I first volunteered with SMILY because I was going through a bit of a bad time in my life.
I felt I needed to get out there and try and meet more people, to snap myself out of it, so when I heard about SMIlY and working with youth, I thought, ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I can guide them through the tough times they’re heading towards’.
It was a decision made on a personal level, but now it’s turned into much, much more.
It’s not about me anymore, it’s about the kids and the struggles they’re going through.
It was very hard for me to realise that the troubles I went through all those years ago are still the same ones that my kids deal with today on a daily basis.
It is emotionally demanding work, but it’s very rewarding. I have a lot of life experience with many of issues that the kids are going through, and I’ve come out on the positive side of them.
In my role I kind of have to ‘self-care’, to look after myself as well as trying to advise and direct kids in the best possible way that I can.
I try and give my kids the best advice that I can. I dropped out of school, and that was the best thing for me at the time, but I know that education is so important for young people.
Life After School
All of life is not like school – that’s the way I focus it to them, that it’s only a few years and yeah, it is tough and it is hard, but there’s loads of support out there for them.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do but I’ve had a lot of positive feedback in the last few months from the kids, the schools and the parents too.
I can’t imagine ever walking away from this job. I love being a Youth Worker. My main objective now is setting up a second group in Leitrim.
However, we’re having a problem getting enough volunteers to keep the Sligo group going, which is making it hard set up the second group, but we’re working on that.
For more details about how to get involved or volunteer with SMILY, contact [email protected]
© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.