As part of Belong To’s Stand Up Awareness Week, Irish celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons, who now works with clients like the Kardashians and Mariah Carey, has opened up about his experiences facing bullying as an LGBTQ+ person.
In an interview with The Irish Sun, Fitzsimons reported: “I was bullied at school because of who I am.
“I just remember a time where I locked myself in the bathroom and I was just shaking with fear. I was 11 or 12 years old, but literally feeling physically ill. I was so scared to go out of the bathroom because I knew it’s just going to be back to my torturous life.”
As a child, Fitzsimons attended an all-boys secondary school in Ballinteer, Dublin. It was there, the celebrity hairstylist reported, that he was subjected to daily bullying at the hands of his peers.
“It was constant name calling. It was honestly from the moment I walked in,” Fitzsimons reported.
“I used to dread going into school every single day because I knew it would be torture.”
Fitzsimons similarly told The Irish Sun that he spent his day “living in the shadows just to make everyone else feel comfortable, specifically boys.”
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After Fitzsimons completed first year, however, he was able to find some solace working a summer job at a local hair salon.
“I felt wanted and felt like I had something to contribute. When I talked to people they didn’t laugh at me. I just felt like a human being for the first time,” said Fitzsimons.
As the summer reached its end and second year approached, Fitzsimons recalled thinking of returning to school as a “prison sentence.”
“It felt like such an oppressive thing to put back on that uniform that represented so much pain to me.”
A mere day and a half into second year, Fitzsimons remembered feeling like a “walking target” and subsequently made the difficult decision to leave school entirely.
“Luckily I had an incredibly compassionate mother who was my first ally,” he said.
“She could tell that I wouldn’t have survived in school. And a lot of LGBTQ+ kids don’t survive school unfortunately. The rates of young people who self-harm, commit suicide, drop out of school is incredibly high with LGBTQ+ people. Disproportionately high.”
After leaving school, Fitzsimon was able to follow his passion, moving to Paris at the age of 16 to pursue hairdressing. By 21, the Dubliner had moved to New York and found his “own tribe”.
Fitzsimons continued: “The weirder and crazier and more creative and queer you are in New York, the better.
“So I was like ‘Oh, wait, all the things that were told to me were problems…the things that were wrong about me – they are the things that make me loved, make me successful, make me happy.’ That’s when I realized that I was right all along, that they were wrong.”
At 36, Andrew Fitzsimons is working as a full-time celebrity hairstylist for clients like Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Kylie Jenner and Megan Fox.
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Following his success, Fitzsimons is hoping to use his platform to help LGBTQ+ youth who are going through the same struggles he went through.
“School is hard enough,” Fitzsimons said. “It’s hard for everyone but when you have a target on your back, it’s a whole other thing.
“So that’s why I’m so excited to be home for Stand Up Awareness Week to really try to make our schools a positive place for LGBTQ+ people and kids. And a safe place for them because I was that kid in school that had to leave because it was so bad.”
Fitzsimons concluded his interview with The Irish Sun by saying: “I would like to say to kids now in Ireland, if they are LGBTQ+ and they are hiding in the bathroom in school, you were right, they’re wrong. You need to hold on.
“There are resources out there for your parents, for your school, for your community and for yourself. And you’re not alone.”
Stand Up Awareness Week, an anti-LGBTQ+ bullying initiative from the minds at Belong To comes to its conclusion today, November 10. As part of the event, every second-level Irish school, youth service, and Youthreach has been given a free resource pack from Belong To with information and activities designed to create an LGBTQ+ inclusive learning environment.
“It’s an honour for me to join Belong To for this campaign and emphasise the importance of allyship for the queer community,” hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons added.
“This Stand Up Awareness Week, we are asking students and teachers alike to be an ally and stand up for the LGBTQ+ community.”
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