“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots because its okay to be boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think being a girl degrading”
It’s a Monday morning in grey and rainy Oldport, a small town in South Wales. Cory James, who is in his last year of school is getting ready for school in his small box bedroom, which is the typical size for a semi detached on a council estate. Posters of pop star Ariana Grande and drag queens from Rupaul drag race TV show are plastered over his bedroom wall.
Cory is what the gay community would call a “twink”, he’s naturally pretty with blonde, green eyes and has always had a slim build.
Cory opens up the TikTok app on his iPhone and sends out a live feed of himself doing his make up in his bedroom. He waited around 30 seconds for enough followers to join his live feed before getting started. Cory loves going online as there’s not many fabulous people living in his small bleak town of Oldport so having access to the world at his finger tips allows him to connect to more people like himself. And it’s a boast to his confidence that 4 thousand people are also subscribed his TikTok page.
"Hi everyone, I'm going to be doing a quick make up look and I just thought that you could ask me questions so I don't feel so daft just doing my make up live on camera" Cory explained.
"How old are you?" asked a new follower.
"I’m fifteen! I'm going to be sixteen this August, I'm really excited" replied Cory as he started applying some of his half used tub of No7 moisturiser.
"Are you going to stay on at Cartridge High or do college" asked a pupil at Cory’s school.
"I'm definitely not going to stay at Cartridge, I just really dislike going to school. I'd either like to get a job at a makeup counter or I might go on and do beauty level 2 in college" Cory replied.
"Cory are you gay or bi, you are so beautiful OMG LOL!!!" an excited, cringe worthy follower asked.
"Yes I'm gay, I came out last year and no, I don't have a boyfriend. Actually, I don't think many gay guys will ever fancy me as I like to wear a bit of makeup. It kinda puts guys off if they're gay" Cory replied while applying some Khiel’s eye cream.
"Fave singer/band?" Asked another follower.
"Ariana Grande!" Cory answered, as he pointed to a poster above his head.
"Who's your favourite, most best friend ever?" Asked Lizzie.
"Lizzie you are my best friend" Cory giggled.
At this point over 250 people had joined the live video chat and Cory glanced at the growing numbers and started getting a bit nervous.
"Does your parents know U R gay?" Asked a viewer.
"Yeh, I just have my mum but yep she’s fine, she has always known deep down" Cory replied, who was now applying his favourite light coverage Nars foundation which he had for Christmas.
The comments were coming in so fast, it was hard for Cory to catch up with reading the questions without them disappearing. And not all the messages were positive either, some fake profiles were writing "Gay boy!!!" "What a bender" this attention made a little bit Cory nervous but he did his best to ignore it, after all he was starting to get use to being called names like that. And then one negative message did get Cory's back up.
"You tried it on with Lewis Jackson at the house party, you deserve a slap" someone commented.
"Actually I'd rather not talk about that, I never tried to kiss anyone, I'm not like that" said Cory, who was now applying his Hoola bronzer from Benefit, contouring his cheekbones. He tried to act like it wasn’t bothering him but inside, it made him panic.
The comment section was now flooded with messages like "Who is Lewis Jackson?"
"Why did you try to kiss a straight boy thats so wrong!"
The viewer count was now over 500 people watching, with the difficult messages and the viewers getting higher Cory decided to end the live feed prematurely.
"Listen guys, I have to go to school in 30 minutes. So I’ve got to go, sorry um, eh, bye!" Cory said as he closed the live feed.
Last year Cory had come out as gay to school and hardly no one was surprised especially because he had been wearing makeup for a while at this point and he has never been one of the lads - he always hung out with his only friend Lizzie. And everyone was fine about Cory being gay until he went to a house party one weekend, quite a few people in his year was also there and once almost everyone had fallen asleep, Cory was kissed by a popular straight boy Lewis Jackson. Cory was taken back by the kiss and because Cory gave Lewis a look of confusion, Lewis Jackson then got angry and woke people up to say Cory had tried it on with him instead. The thing is when you’re gay, some straight boys who have toxic masculinity will think any gay male will just fancy them and this helped Lewis’s false narrative about Cory at the house party. After that people would tease Cory in school about this rumour and made his school life more difficult.
“Lizzie!” Cory shouted as he could see his best friend in the hallway distance. The school bell had rang and they both had Maths together.
“Those idiots on the live stream, are you okay?” Lizzie asked.
“Of course I am, I’m used to all that now. I’m dreading the Maths test results today though” Cory said.
“I’m actually really excited” squealed Lizzie.
“Sure you are” laughed Cory. Both knowing full well that Lizzie had properly scored the highest.
Standing in the hallway chatting to art teacher Miss Bush was head of year Mr Harris, whom Cory and Lizzie nicknamed Sergeant Major. Cory instantly started to panic, like a Zebra who has spotted a hungry Lion coming towards them.
“Cory James, what is that muck your face?!” Shouted Mr Harris in his stern voice. He was built like a rugby player and was a lot taller than Cory and Lizzie.
“I’m-“ said Cory, before being cut off.
“You will wash it off immediately, you are a boy not a clown!”
“Yes sir” Cory said sheepishly.
Cory’s heart was beating fast and he felt embarrassed incase any of the other pupils around could hear. Lizzie couldn’t believe the way Mr Harris spoke to Cory, although she wished she could stick up for her best friend, she wouldn’t ever want to be in the firing line of Sergeant Major.
“Why doesn’t Miss Bush ever intervene? Mr Harris can’t just talk to a student like that, it’s so rude” said Lizzie.
“I don’t know but I do know I need to go wash all this off now” said Cory. Wishing he hadn’t applied his makeup so generously that Mr Harris could notice.
“And waste your expensive makeup you’ve just applied? What would Rupaul do?” Asked Lizzie.
“He’d probably see Mr Harris and then lip sync for his dear life?” Cory replied.
“No, he would tell Mr Harris to sashay away” said Lizzie.
“I wish I could be that bold” said Cory, who had now decided to keep his makeup on even if it was just for Maths. It would be a waste after all. Plus he didn’t want to risk being late for Mrs Powell.
Mrs Powell started her Maths class. Mrs Powell was one of those teachers you could tell actually really loved her job. Her nature was free spirited and she loved spending her holidays at either festivals or travelling through places like Thailand. She saw Cartridge High as a challenge, with it being a school with a bad reputation. And after briefly being a substitute at the school first she grew to love the pupils, even the more challenging ones. Cory and Lizzie affectionately nicknamed her “Honey” like the lovable teacher Miss Honey from Matilda.
“I’m not going to read out your scores out loud as that would be unkind. However, there are some disappointing results to say the least” Mrs Powell explained as she handed everyone their results individually.
“Yes! I’m really happy with my predicted grade” Lizzie said to Cory.
“I actually scored higher than I thought too” Cory replied smiling. Maths wasn’t Cory’s strongest subject but he always made more of effort due to it being Mrs Powell’s class.
The noise of the room lifted as everyone asked their table neighbour what result they had.
“Quiet year 12!” Mrs Powell shouted and the room went silent. She had authority and respect down to a tee.
“Mrs?… I’m not sure mine is correct” asked Ben Roberts. Who looked very worried indeed.
“Come and have a chat with me after class Ben” Mrs Powell said, looking genuinely concerned.
Ben Roberts is well respected at Cartridge for his football skills, which have been documented in the local newspaper Echo, Echo dubbed Ben as a future rising football star for Oldport. He’s a typical popular straight lad but he doesn’t hang out with the rebels who underage drink in the local park at the weekend. He was also voted head boy because people knew he would be fair and wouldn’t an annoying snitch just because he’s the head boy.
After class Mr Harris spots Cory and Lizzie walking past his office window, to his dismay Cory is still wearing the makeup he demanded he should remove earlier. Ben Roberts was walking past Mr Harris office door at this point in time and Mr Harris shouted after Ben.
“Ben, go and tell Cory James that Mr Harris said he must remove his makeup immediately otherwise he’ll have detention” Mr Harris was furious.
“But I thought people were allowed to wear makeup in school Sir?” Ben was confused.
“No, women are allowed to wear makeup Ben. Don’t question me, just do it!” Mr Harris snapped back and he looked absolutely furious regarding the situation.
Ben was having a bad day as it was, he didn’t want any drama so he asked Mr Harris which direction Cory went and then went off to search for him to relay the message from Mr Harris.
While Cory and Lizzie were walking through school Lewis Jackson came up to Cory and started teasing him about his makeup and slyly asked Cory if he was doing it just to get Lewis’s attention.
“Get a grip” said Lizzie, sticking up for Cory.
Lewis grabbed hold of Cory’s bag and before he could go inside the bag Ben Roberts came from no where and snatched it back off Lewis.
“Leave him alone Lewis!” Ben looked Lewis in the eye while handing the bag back to Cory.
“I was only messing about” replied Lewis who had coward down.
Lewis backed away and Cory was thankful for the intervention from Ben.
“Mr Harris has-“ Ben started to speak.
“It’s no worries Ben, I’ll remove it now” said Cory, knowing full well what was going to be said. He knew as the head boy he would be informed to ensure that Cory removed his makeup.
“I need a favour” said Ben.
“Honestly I’ll remove the makeup in the toilets” replied Cory. Cory knew Ben was just being the messenger and to not shoot him down.
“Thanks but its not that, I’m really struggling with Maths and Mrs Powell pointed out that if I fail my Maths GCSE I won’t be able to do the football academy next year” Ben said, looking really concerned. Football is his everything and if he didn’t make the sixth form academy then a lot of people would see it as a massive failure for Ben so he really did need Cory’s support.
“Oh right, well Lizzie-“ Cory was interrupted before he could pass the favour onto Lizzie.
“Please help me Cory, I just saved that nice bag from that butt head Lewis” Ben replied. Ben had big puppy dog eyes.
Cory didn’t mind helping anyone with Maths but he felt slightly awkward around straight boys especially after the Lewis Jackson incident. He also thought Lizzie being more of the Mathematician that she would be the better person to help Ben but in this instance, he felt obliged to agree.
“Yeh sure, I will try my best to help you” said Cory.
“Cheers Cory, I’m also sorry you have to remove your makeup I bet it took quite a while to do?” Ben apologised.
“I’m used to it” Cory knew he took a gamble applying his makeup this morning.
Before heading to his next class Cory stuck to his words and washed off his makeup in the boys toilets. All through the next lesson he couldn’t stop thinking about how lovely Ben was to get Lewis to back off. He was slightly nervous to help Ben with his Maths but the more he thought about it, the more he fancied the idea and Ben.
During lunch breaks Lizzie would go home for food, as her parents were on a tight budget and it meant she could let her dog out for the toilet. This meant lunch time was the perfect opportunity for Cory to help Ben with Maths revision in Mrs Powell’s empty class room.
“Hey Cory, thanks for agreeing to help me out. Mrs Powell is allowing me to resit the test the week after next so I’ve got just two weeks to get my head around all of this” Ben said. “You removed your makeup? Your skin is beautiful” “Sorry I don’t even know why I said that?” Said Ben now feeling awkward as he knew that sounded like he was flirting with Cory.
“Cheers” Cory smiled.
“I just don’t get why people don’t allow guys to wear make up too. It must be hard to be judged on the way you look” Ben trying to sympathise.
“Hey, I choose to express myself with makeup and I can wash it off. It must be a lot worse for someone of colour in football?” Asked Cory on the topic of racism in football.
“Actually I’ve been one of the lucky ones so far, racism in football very much exists but I think it happens to be a problem for those higher in the premier league. Football fans can be the worse” Ben explained.
As they’re revising, Cory simplifies Maths to Ben in a way that he starts to understand what he needs to do. Then Cory notices that he has a phone notification from his Mum Michelle.
MAKE SURE YOU COME STRAIGHT HOME TODAY TO LOOK AFTER RY’ AS IVE GOT WORK, SHEPPARDS PIE IN MICROWAVE LOVE U MUM XXX
“Ugh I forgot I had to look after my little brother after school, he’s only 5 years old” Cory sighs.
“What’s so bad about that?” Ben asks.
“Nothing, he’s easy to look after actually but it’s a nightmare just keeping him entertained. Rather than look after a hyper five years old I’d much rather be doing something else” Cory explained.
“Like what?” Ben asked.
“-Like reapplying my makeup” Cory joked.
“Let me help you baby sit then?” Ben offered.
“What? No, plus you’re going to start getting a name for yourself being associated with me” said Cory.
“Listen I still feel bad for having to tell you to remove your makeup and your doing a good job at getting my head around this course work” smiled Ben.
“But you’re going to be bored in my house, I don’t have a games console or anything” said Cory.
“Theres more to me than just game consoles. Plus I can teach the little man some football tricks, I’m great with kids. I wish I had a sibling” Ben explained.
“Yeh sure, it would be nice to have your company” Cory replied. Although inside he was cringing, he didn’t have any time to even clean his bedroom and THE Ben Roberts was coming around to his house!
During the next lesson Lizzie couldn’t believe it when Cory told her that Ben Roberts was going around his house later. She also warned Cory to be extra careful as everyone had given Cory a tough time since the whole “kissing Lewis Jackson at the house party” rumour. He couldn’t afford to have another negative rumour about a straight boy go around school again...