Coming Out Stories
Coming out is a personal thing and should only be done when it is safe for you to do so. If you want a chat about coming out safely speak to one of our workers.
Coming out is a personal thing and should only be done when it is safe for you to do so. If you want a chat about coming out safely speak to one of our workers.
Coming out is where an LGBT person tells the people around them about their sexuality or gender identity. Remember that you don’t have to come out until you are ready and it is important that you don’t put your safety a risk. Coming out is an individual decision so do it in your own time and your own way.
I guess I was a bit scared at first, when everyone was talking about it at BLAGY, (what is it, where is it, will it be full of old men?). I was also excited, because it meant I go to go out and be me, in an environment where nobody gives a toss. All I remember thinking on the day of it was will it be full of drag queens? You see, drag queens scare the living shit out of me, same with clowns. I don’t know why they just do.
So I woke up got ready and my mum comes in “Where are you going?” “Just into Leeds with some friends from BLAGY” I said. I wonder why I lied sometimes, because I knew she wouldn’t mind if I had told her the truth, but I was scared about her reaction at the same time. She was going on about random crap then she went “Your going to a gay parade aren’t you”, so I told her the truth, and then she called up Jonathon, who thankfully put her mind to rest, but she refused to talk to me until like 2 hours after I got home!
When we get into Leeds, we went to the viaduct to meet a couple more people and had a laugh, then went up to millennium square where all the real action was happening, me and a mate kept singing Abba all the way there (Muppets!). It was kinda crowded up in Millennium square, but it was still a really good atmosphere, especially when the Shirley Bassey experience went up, we we’re all singing and dancing. I loved it!
Then it was time for the parade, and me and a mate were like right next to the Mr. Gay UK’s! We kept screaming because they were so hot! The parade was really fun too, walking round the streets of Leeds, singing all these really cheesy songs lol. All the people just giving us funny looks, and then going round by the corn exchange where all the people were angry because their bus hadn’t come!
The parade took us down Lower Briggate, and stopped there, where there was stalls, rides, clubs, pubs all that sort of stuff. There was all sorts going on, I’d never been to such a well organized and fun event before.
I think the highlight of my day would have to be the parade and I’m so looking forward to next year!
So, where do I even begin to write about the last year? So much has happened. I guess to really understand the full extent of it, you have to go back a while.
I was a very spunky and happy child. I had a fantastic upbringing. Despites my parents divorce in 1997, my Mum and Dad did an amazing job. My early teens were great too. I’ve always felt like a bit of an outcast but I had my friends and we had fun so that was that. But around 16, things started to change. I lost a lot of my spirit.
As any of my friends at Blagy will tell you, I was so far in the closet, you couldn’t even see me for all the coats, shoes, hats etc that were all at the front (yes, cheesy metaphor I know. But this story would be nothing without them).
I never wanted to be gay. In fact, I was a little scared of it. I spent years denying it and trying to find ways of covering it up. I’ve always just wanted to fit in with people and I kept trying to fit the mold that school social life makes for you.
I would say, I have known deep down that I was gay since I was about 14 or 15. I’ve always felt different to other people. I never really had someone that I had a click with. I had friends that I loved – and most of them I still do. Only now they understand me a little better. I also had some issues with bullying at school as well. So at the time, it was me against the world.
Denying a big part of who I was did me no good. After years of it, I became very depressed and uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn’t want to be what I was becoming and it scared the shit out of me. I would get up, switch on my autopilot for the day, come home and shut myself away. The only thing I had to relate to was my copy of Tori Amos’ “Little Earthquakes” album which I’m sure is on it’s last legs now.
After so long, I couldn’t cope anymore. I got to the point where I didn’t want to get out of bed on a morning. Sometimes I didn’t bother. That got me kicked out of sixth form. I tried college for a while afterwards. I thought a new environment might do me some good. But no. I still had this huge cloud hanging over my head. It’s like when you’re walking home at night in the dark and you think someone is following you. You keep looking over your shoulder all the time just to check.
That same feeling of not wanting to get up everyday came back very quickly and I found myself leaving college. Between everything that was going through my head and college work, I felt so trapped – almost like I couldn’t breathe.
Things went from bad to worse as my days were spent in the house doing nothing. I had a part time job at the time that was the only thing that really kept me going. I was in tears every night and I started finding ways of trying to make the pain go away – stupid ways. Ways that almost finished me off. Something hit me that Christmas when I was sat with my family. This had to change. It had to stop. I had to come out.
The first person I told was my very best friend. She is like a sister to me and always has been. I knew I could trust her. Once she knew, that gave me the support I needed to begin to tell other friends. I told a few more people shortly after.
I only knew one gay person (He knows who he is. I couldn’t have done this without him and I certainly wouldn’t be writing about it). He told me about Blagy and how it could be some well-needed support and a great social opportunity for me. At first, I was very reluctant. I was still emotionally drained and had no confidence at all.
After a few weeks of going, I felt so much better in myself. I finally felt like I had people that I could fit in with and that I could talk to. After that, it was easy going. With the support of my new friends, I told my Mum (who told my Dad and my brothers) and she was fantastic, as was the rest of my family. I knew there was no going back now – that this was it.
A year later, I feel fantastic. My life has never been better. I have a great job now that has a lot of prospects in it. I have great friends who I love to bits (guys, I love you sooo much! I wouldn’t have my life without you all in it) and we have so much fun. But mostly, I feel like for the first time, I can be who I am. I am proud of myself and how far I have come. The days of sitting on my bedroom floor listening to Tori Amos in tears have passed. I am happy with everything in my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Thank you to Tori Amos for the strength your music gave me. Thank you to my Mum and Dad for being the best parents a young puff could ask for. But mostly, thank you to all my friends at Blagy who have been there with me every single step of the way; I couldn’t have done it without you and I will never look back. My name is Chris, I’m 18, I’m from Bradford and I am gay.
But what if Im a mermaid
In these jeans of his with her name still on it
Hey but I dont care cause sometimes, I said sometimes
I hear my voice and its been here
Silent all these years…..
I’ve been here
Silent all these years…..
– Tori Amos, ‘Silent All These Years’, 1992
Writer’s block…Everyone suffers from it at some point, and now is hardly appropriate. If I was writing fiction, I’d be more sympathetic, but the fact I’m writing about myself, who I was, what I am, no excuse would suit. Why I’m writing this? I have no idea.
This is me.
I absolutely love music. Not a day goes by that I don’t listen to it, yet I’m silent now. Need to concentrate. Do I tell you about how I survived teenage life? Or do I tell you my real life? How I was pushed to the edge, nearly didn’t come back, and don’t feel I fit in even now, amongst others like me? Either way I’m sure you’ll find it entertaining.
I was always a naughty child. From putting cake in the video player to ringing the fire brigade “by accident”, I never had any intention of being good. I was raised by my mum, uncle and nana, the most important people to me. My dad made a late entrance, but I never got to know him, as I don’t now, he couldn’t be bothered to show up until I was 4 – I couldn’t be bothered to love him. Ever.
I never shrugged off my naughtiness, going to school and fighting with other people because they made fun, swearing at teachers, usual stuff a potential asbo would do. But starting middle school, I changed.
My mum said I became a teenager too early, meaning I’d sulk and strop for no particular reason. Looking back, I totally agree. I’d rage over the smallest things, and take my anger out on everybody else. Then I’d cry, so much. At school I was so distanced from everyone else, a bus could pass. A particular art teacher made a lasting impression on me though, and to this day I still think of her as the best teacher I ever had. Her grounded look on life calmed me down, and instead of getting angry, I’d make art. I never really had girlfriends at this point, I had the odd few, but never anything serious. My weight and insecurities got in the way. I was, to put it bluntly – the fat art kid. This tag stayed with me until changed myself, and became someone completely different.
Enter high school. It was at high school I changed entirely, from an insecure art child to a boisterous, aggravated man, who had to grow up way before his time. I started school on the worst terms possible – I became goth. Considering I wanted to blend in, I couldn’t have picked anything more vivid and outstanding. Target of bullying, I became more enclosed within myself, moving onto books as my choice of escape. Alternate kingdoms rife with witchcraft became my escape, a chance to live out my life through the words of another.
I had no plan of action regarding the way I would come out. So I plunged head first and said it. Needless to say, ripples were caused in the water. Major ripples I might add – no one had dared do what I did. Yet strangely enough, I took comfort in knowing I’d made a change. People knew who I was, people cared enough to find out about me. It was then I began to change myself. Being gay isn’t a way of life, it’s a performance. Try argue the point in your head, and you’ll see what I say makes perfect sense. The rest of the world have expectations of a gay person, be they lesbian or gay. We are given stereotypes to follow, we can either make our own impression, or become the secluded people who are treated with extreme caution. And I’d been secluded long enough. It was time to make a change.
I binned the black, grew my hair to an acceptable state, and changed my attitude. I was known to the world as gay Jay. Boys feared me, girls wanted to be my friend, all those in between stayed clear. I’d tell stories to shock people, my fascination with fiction growing, all in the aim of fitting in. I lied my way through life so far, this wasn’t any different. Except deep down I knew what I was doing would come back to get me. One day.
It was after a few months the intense bullying began. Boys would wait for me and hurl abuse, offering me fights, or asking for lude acts to be committed on them. Girls would bitch about me, saying I was no good and should die of HIV. I’d give as good as I got, but inside I’d be screaming to stop. I’d made myself into a monster – someone I hardly knew. This wasn’t who I wanted to be. It was then that I’d try different methods of taking my anger out – art and reading did little other than bore me. I waned to feel my anger hurt someone – and that person was me.
I was called by the head of year to her office. It was then she exposed my arms to my mum. 13 gashes across the underside of my arms. One so precise it lay across my vein – the right way too. The look on my mum’s face finished me. The look of disappointment that her little boy could be this cowardly couldn’t be taken off her face. It was not soon after that I was diagnosed with the Bipolar disorder. I was manic depressive and it had got to this point before I realized. With counseling I’d get past certain things about my life, but I’ve never forgotten my mum’s face.
My love life improved slightly, my first boyfriend a close relative of a friend I’d made, but ended with disastrous consequences. A string of failed romances followed, and in the end I gave up. Men were cruel – cheats, liars, anything possible.
I’d say I’m happy with life as it is now, but I’d be lying again. I’ll settle for content. Life is going ok but I’d like things to improve. College, boyfriend, I have everything going for me. But inside I still feel like the boy I left behind year ago; quiet, distanced, and most of all desperate to truly fit in with everyone else. As much as I want to be happy, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. The past few years have made me who I am.
My name is Jay. I am 17, from Bradford, and I’m gay.
My coming out story has a number of layers to it but as coming out stories go, it’s not overly interesting and I don’t think it was ever that hard for me as it has been for other people.
I suppose I have always sort of being aware that I had different tendencies since junior school but I don’t think I ever really gave a label to it other than I was ‘different’. I didn’t and still don’t think I am weird for the way I am because to me it is natural and that’s something I just want to define here.
If I was to talk about myself and my sexuality I would say I am ‘gay’ but I’d also say I’m normal for being that way because to me, it is. I find numerous terms that are supposed to encapsulate who I am offensive, like the word ‘queer’ which to me means weird and that’s something I am not. Anyway, for a long time I never really thought about it; I was a ‘normal’ schoolboy who had girlfriends (two in junior school although I never broke up with the last one).
When I was in the later years of junior school I guess I became more aware of it but I still didn’t have a label for myself. In Secondary school however, everything slipped away and I didn’t really question myself for the first couple of years because I was in a new place. At home I was still the same though and had a sort of ‘boyfriend’ which I don’t think I could ever class as that, it was just someone else who at the time was questioning who they were, but I still hadn’t come out. When it got to the later years of secondary school again, things became more apparent. I had been teased and bullied for ‘being gay’ although I hadn’t said to anyone I was; I went through the whole ‘bisexual’ stage at one point when I realised who I was but I didn’t pull it off. When I got to year eleven, with the looming GCSE exams coming and another transition to college, I finally defined myself as gay and the whole school seemed to know but this was for another reason.
In year eleven, some trouble kicked up with a girl in the year that had referred to me in a derogatory manner and so I referred back to her in the same manner and I got into more trouble for it as it was seen as racist (which in all fairness it was) and that took priority over homophobic remarks. I had illustrated a point but it went unheard and I had completely forgotten about my home situation. I must point out now that my mother knew at this point but my father didn’t. My mother said she always knew and didn’t really mind, she helped me out a lot at that time. My father however, ended up finding out over a phone call from the head mistress at school that rang to tell him of what had happened. Well that didn’t go down well because he was annoyed I hadn’t confided in him and that the whole school knew before he did. I didn’t see a problem in it but in hindsight, after all, my dad has been there for me I should have told him beforehand.
When I got home we had a talk which upset me for the things he said at the time. I think it was primarily the way in which he found out and that I was now something else that in his eyes put me at a disadvantage in life and this is what I still think today. Over time, after countless similar conversations and slight arguments, things seemed to have finally reached a level at which being gay doesn’t define me again. I am me.
It is important that I remember what my father said to me one time when we were having a conversation. “No parent wishes their children to be gay or disadvantaged in anyway and no parent can say they are ever 100% happy about such things, but they can accept it.” It’s true I think. I don’t think any parent wishes for something like that because of the disadvantages certain things may cause, I don’t anyone that finds themselves in this position, of being gay, would choose to be that way for the amount of teasing, bullying and the disadvantages they may face, but everyone can accept it over time.
Now, and always, my father and I are close. I confide in him the things that worry me and we have an awesome father-son relationship I wouldn’t trade for the world. I know he still loves me for who I am even if he would prefer me another way. I guess I had it easy ‘coming out’ because I didn’t have to do it myself. With my mother, she ‘already knew’ so that was easy as it was. I believe that, for those who worry about this topic, your family will always love you for who you are, you can never expect them to be happy for you but they can accept who you are. It probably doesn’t apply to everyone, but in some cases it will and that’s the important part, that some people will go through the same as me.
I know, now I’m 20 that I wouldn’t change who I am for anything or anyone. The thing with being this way, being gay, is that all the bad things, all the nasty comments, just fade into the background and you become strong from that. You become strong because all these things are thrown your way and you can just pass through them. There are certain barrier that still need to be broken down but you have to take things one step at a time. Nothing in life is easy, and if this stage is tough for you, then once it’s over, it will become easy. You always have to go through the shit to get to the good part and that’s what I have found.
I’m primarily a Psychology student at the University of Bradford, not really a writer although it is involved in a lot that I do. Anyway, as part of my course I have to do a module on Developmental Psychology which is basically how we grow up from being children to adults and goes right the way through to death (yes, it’s just as cheery as it sounds). This semester we ended up covering the period of adolescence which starts when puberty starts but the ending is now being disputed, however, within this module and this section of the module, we had to examine identity formation which is a major part of this section of life and behold, sexual identities were included in this.
Usually I find, because my course is majority Muslim and majority female, that issues around sex and sexual identities are glazed over and the idea of homosexuality is very much disputed between them all thinking it is some mental disorder despite it being removed from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in the 1970s. Anyway, this time it wasn’t glazed over as it was seen as something important for this section of the work and I was glad it was finally covered as it brought certain things to my attention that I hadn’t previously really thought about.
Sexual identities are formed from the ages of 10 or 11, and reflecting back I believe this to be true because I was in primary school when my sexuality really started to become apparent to me and when I was 15 or 16, like it was predicted by D’Augelli, (1998) I disclosed and accepted my identity of being gay. Furthermore, between 3% to 8% of the UK population will identify as gay or lesbian by the age of 16 (Rivers & Duncan 2002). On top of that it has been shown by D’Augelli that this group of people, the group I belong to are more likely to engage in risk behaviour such as suicide attempts and self-harm.
I found it quite shocking but I understood all of it. I don’t think anyone finds this period of life particularly good and especially not if you’re identifying as gay or lesbian. It’s a very hard time indeed and I found it hard to come to terms with even though it had been in the back of my mind for around six years, I still found it really hard. This is why it is so crucial that young gay and lesbian people know that there are people that they can rely on and that is why as part of University of Bradford LGBTQ, I am trying to integrate younger people into the circle so they know they have people on which they can rely on to help.
Well, I came out when I was 16 and it was a really big cop out really I suppose. I wrote a letter to my mum and dad and left it in my bedroom and then went out and go totally pissed. And then the next day I had to call my dad to come and collect me because I was totally hungover and it was the awkwardest car journey ever. My dad’s quite an older guy and it was the first time in my life that I’d ever seen him cry and he cried his eyes out and he was really upset. And then my mum and dad didn’t really mention it for a while. And then I suppose I told the rest of my family and then they just became more accepting about it I suppose.
Although I was only 16 so it was quite a big step and my dad seemed to think it was a phase and that I “had lots of girls that were my friends so what was wrong?” type of stuff. But he’s pretty laid back about the issue now. He calls my partner son and he’s quite happy with the situation so there’s no real worries. I suppose any advice is just be open and honest.
My process of coming out wasn’t really a process of coming out, specifically. I moved away from home at the age of 18 and went to university, made a lot of new friends, didn’t really seem to express much of a sexual interest for any of them. And then later on I just decided you know what, it’s up to me who I want to go out with, who I want to date, all of that stuff. So I just decided to go off and do it. I didn’t really talk to many people about it, which was good in some ways, bad in others. But I just went and dated whoever I wanted with little regard to who was around and who would think what. I think what was important to me was having people come to me if they wanted to talk about it. I didn’t really feel like I needed to justify it to anyone or like I had to speak about it specifically. I didn’t feel like it was necessarily my role to come out to them. I felt like, you know, if someone wanted to talk to me about it or someone had a problem with it, that’s up to them. They can come to me. I’m just going to do what I want to do and look after myself.
Eventually I did decide to tell my family but I felt quite confident about it and I just told them exactly the state of affairs- that I’ve been seeing men, I’ve been seeing women but that none of that really mattered to me and that’s just how I was living my life. They were fine with it and came to terms with it in their own way, asking me a lot of questions and I preferred it like that. I preferred other people coming towards me with these things if they wanted to talk about it.
Important advice I’d give to people- it’s not even up to you to come out, really. Some people might not want to, that’s fine. Some people might feel like they do want to tell their family, that’s also fine. Everyone does it differently but some people don’t do it at all. There’s no pressure, it’s entirely your choice. My mother is a Christian, my father is a Muslim so I did have concerns on both sides that they might not actually be okay with it. Part of my dealing with that was in the approach that I chose to take with it. I went in there and just explained that’s who I was. I wasn’t apologetic,
I didn’t want to seek out their approval necessarily, though secretly I think it did affect me to some extent. I was very lucky that my parents accepted it with open arms. In particular I was very concerned about my dad who is quite a devout Muslim but he came and said that, you know, he feels like Islam has a long way to go for tackling homophobia within its religion an, you know, he was very supportive in that respect.
My coming out was a bit difficult because I come from Mexico so my family are quite old fashioned and catholic. Therefore I had to be super cautious. I kept it a secret for many years. This year I went home and I told them everything- I wanted to get everything out. It turned out to be quite the opposite of what I expected. They were very understanding, very loving. They hugged me, they congratulated me and they were so happy because I trusted them with all my stuff because I wanted to include them in my life.
Probably not the rest of the family but at least my main family, they were happy about it. So it was a lot easier than I expected. My advice would be, just to trust your family, know that they’re going to love you anyway and it’s definitely not going to be as bad as you think in your head. It’s going to be a lot more easy and people who love you will love you no matter what.
My coming out story is probably how not to do it. I was in Ibiza, it was a Tuesday night, I was very drunk and it was 5 o’ clock in the morning. And for whatever reason my friend convinced me that it was the right time to go to the toilet and to call my dad at that hour. The response wasn’t great, thankfully I can’t remember that much of the response. However, fortunately the next morning with a massive hangover I did have a chat with my dad and yeah, he seemed to take it pretty well. He was shocked at first but then I think deep down he kind of always knew. So I think that’s quite lucky in the response that I did receive.
My advice would be probably not to do it how I did it. I suppose it’s kind of when you’re ready it’s a case of finding that right time with whoever it is you want to tell and sitting them down and doing it sober, not drunk like I was.
Ok so, I came out to my parents and most of my friends when I was about 18. With my friends it was absolutely fine, there were no issues there. I think my parents took it as a little bit of a shock, especially my mum. I waited until she absolutely had to go out before I told her so that there wasn’t the option there for any actual discussion. I think it took my mum quite a while to get her head around it; we didn’t really talk about it for a couple of years.
We’d never mention anything about my sexuality really and then it just happened that she found out that I was dating somebody. One of my friends had mentioned it while one of her friends was around and she told her. Then she started getting really nosey and we started talking about everything. Since then everything’s been brilliant. So one of the bits of advice I’d probably give to people is if they don’t maybe get the reaction that they want or they were hoping for, maybe just give someone a little bit of time to kind of get used to it and hopefully they’ll come around.
So yeah, I came out a bit older really than I think most people that I know did. So it wasn’t until I went to university and I came across this sexuality awareness week at the university, Leeds University. So I went there and I met other people that were LGBTQ as well and it really gave me the confidence to come out. I met up with one of the women from the group and she said to me, when I said I was bisexual, she said “oh, I used to think I was bisexual but now I realise that I’m not” and I kind of felt quite pressured that I shouldn’t be bisexual because like “it’s just a phase”, that kind of thing. It took me a while to realise that, you know, she felt a lot of pressure to like kind of pick a team and that pressure was on me. But I didn’t want to do that and I really needed to find out who I was really and what my sexuality was and meant to me.
It took me a long time to come out really and I think the reason it took me a long time to come out was because I came from a small town where it felt like there was literally nobody else who wasn’t heterosexual. There was kind of like I think two people who were apparently gay and they were in a relationship and so I knew there must be somebody else in the town who wasn’t straight. So yeah, I didn’t see anyone around me really that was LGBTQ and I got lots of stick for, you know, lots of people seeing me in that way and just like school where there was lots of bullying around gender and sexuality. So it took me a long long time to come out really and it wasn’t until I went off to university that I felt able to.
So for me I think even after I came out that first time to people, I felt this kind of pressure that I should be this really gay person, basically, which didn’t necessarily feel very comfortable with me. I was kind of thinking “who am I?” because I didn’t feel like I was “gay enough” and I wasn’t straight. And I was really aware of kind of the clubs and things that I went to and all of the women who were not heterosexual seemed to look quite masculine and I’m really into like, dresses and lipstick and make-up and kind of girly stuff. So over the years I’ve got very much aware of femme identities and found myself in that really.
And so one of the things that I’d really like to say, you know, is have fun with that identity and enjoy yourself and don’t be afraid of being different, really. Not being afraid of being the only person in the club who’s wearing a dress and just being yourself, whoever that is. And also, you know, just there is so much about sexual identity and gender identity really that it’s like a big playground. I would say to people, whatever you feel your gender or sexual identity is right for you, don’t feel pressured by what other people tell you, you should be. Just be yourself and enjoy it because it can be really fun.
I identify as homoromantic grey-asexual. So I am romantically attracted to women but I’m not sexually attracted to anyone besides under very rare circumstances. So like in grey-asexual the “grey” means that I’m somewhere between sexual and asexual. I first kind of came out when I was 19 but I didn’t really know my identity properly then because I’d never really heard of asexuality before. So at that point I identified as bisexual and ended up texting my parents when I started going out with my girlfriend. And it went fairly okay. I guess my dad reacted to it better than my mum did. It took her a while to get used to it to say the least but like a few months later she said that she saw how happy my girlfriend makes me and that made things easier for her.
And then like a year later, I’d been thing a lot about my identity and thinking that bisexual doesn’t really fit at all but I didn’t really know what did fit. I spoke to one of my friends about it and she just randomly brought up asexuality anyway so I looked into that and found the identity that did fit and I was pretty sure of that. But it was quite difficult to get my head around because in a world where sex is kind of everywhere, like the media and spoken about by everyone. Especially being at university, sex was kind of this big thing and I kind of thought if I came out to people that they wouldn’t want to be around me and so it took me a while to tell anyone.
But it went okay with my girlfriend when she kind of got her head around it and worked out what exactly it meant. It took us a while to kind of get into the swing of things and working out what’s okay and what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not comfortable with. And then after that I told basically everyone, though I haven’t really told my parents yet although they have seen posts on Facebook I think.
I suppose the only advice I can give is not to pressure yourself into things that you’re not comfortable with to kind of make people happy or try and convince yourself that you’re something that you’re not, because it doesn’t work. And there’s forums called AVEN and they can be like really helpful. It’s for sexual people who are going out with asexual people as well. That was really helpful in the early days but yeah, I suppose just generally don’t be ashamed of who you are and find the support you need if you’re struggling with it.
I kind of used to feel like I was a bit late to the party because I didn’t actually come out until the middle of uni. But thinking about it, I guess it made sense for me not to come out at school because I didn’t live in the most diverse town in the world and no one really talked about LGBTQ issues at school. So I really tried not to think about it until uni when I used to hide in my room to read lots of articles and watch LGBTQ YouTubers, particularly coming out videos. This made me feel a lot less lonely at the time but I knew I had to tell someone.
So the first time I actually told someone was when I was walking hom e from a night out with a friend and I was a bit drunk so it just slipped out. So her response was kind of a shock to me. She told me to try and be straight. Excuse me? Um no. Like you don’t just say that to someone who’s just made themselves so vulnerable to you and revealed information about themselves that they might have been building the courage up for years to share. And it was my birthday as well. So yeah, I mean clearly I’m just not trying hard enough to be straight. And that sent me back into the closet for another couple of months- not because I’d taken her advice at all but because I was scared of how other people would react if this was how one of my friends who I trusted was going to treat me.
It was actually my parents and sister who I next came out to. I wasn’t actually even expecting to come out to my parents when I did. We were in a motorway service station having a coffee and my mum was talking about how one of her friend’s daughters had come out as a lesbian. And she just said something along the lines of “you know Jess, if you were gay I really wouldn’t mind…” and I was just like “well now you mention it mum…” and so that was all cool and not the huge drama that I’d built it up in my head to be.
So I then just slowly started to come out to the rest of my friends at uni and I needn’t have worried because everyone was really supportive and I feel so lucky in that respect. I think the best thing I did was joining the Women’s Committee at uni before I was out because I wasn’t ready to go to specific LGBTQ events but it allowed me to go to a really inclusive and lovely space full of people free from prejudice. I actually came out to my course mates in a club because I met my girlfriend for the first time and we were kissing on the dancefloor. They were like “what?” and I was like “surprise!”
Then finally I came out to my old school friends via Facebook message. And that actually leads me on to a bit of advice for anyone thinking of coming out. Coming out to someone via letter, email or message is just as valid and is not a cop out. There are just some circumstances where it’s more appropriate than doing it face to face. For me it was because my school friends were scattered all over the country so we didn’t all meet up at the same time very often. So I just wanted to tell everyone at once so that they’d all hear it from me rather than hearsay from each other. And so the best way of doing that was a Facebook message and it went really well. People don’t come out face to face for so many reasons, whether it’s to give people time to digest the information before they do see them or whether it seems safer in that moment to do it from afar. So yeah, don’t let anyone tell you that you should come out in a certain way- it’s your moment so own it.
I didn’t necessarily come out so much as I was outed. I was at home from school one day, I can’t remember the exact circumstances of it, and I thought that my parents had gone out. Little did I know that my mum had come home early and she discovered me perusing gay pornography on the internet. And as a result of that our relationship kind of broke down for a short time. My mum was quite staunchly Catholic and had some quite hard line views around sex outside of marriage and some less than favourable views around homosexuality and gay stuff. So it was quite difficult actually. You know, she had a lot of questions and quite a few stigmatising attitudes around my vulnerability and susceptibility to HIV. And it caused a significant strain on our relationship for the rest of the time that she was alive really.
However, it kind of got better when I moved to university. Certainly my relationship with my siblings and my dad drastically improved because of that. And it kind of got better when I began to confidently negotiate partners and introduce my parents to my partners. I think probably because it humanised the experience of my sexuality for them a little more.
My advice- be careful what you look at on the internet. Think carefully about your own safety and wellbeing. If you are found in a situation where you find yourself outed, remember there’s lots of support that’s available to you. I think I’d think really carefully about funding somebody in your life who you can talk to safely about what’s going on for you. I mean, I’m really grateful for the support of my really close friends at the time and my friends mum as well. I don’t think I would have come out of that experience he same had it not been for their input. And remember places like MESMAC exist or local agencies to you that exist that could support you. Also think about telling teachers too. I really valued the input of one of my English teachers around that time and her supportiveness in my coming out to some people at school.
So I came out when I was 19. I’d had girlfriends up until that point. Coming out to my friends was really quite easy. I was at university at the time so just the general crowd of people tended to be quite open minded as a result but I found it a lot more difficult to come out to my family. My brother’s gay as well, he’s older than me and he came out like two years earlier to my parents and that hadn’t gone particularly well.
So I was very nervous about talking to them about it so I left it and left it until I was about 21. At that point I was in a very serious relationship. We were planning to move in together and I realised that they would notice if I moved into a one bedroom flat with my boyfriend, that something might be up there. So I thought it was best to have a conversation with them first. We went out for lunch and I told her over lunch, just very matter of fact “oh, I’m moving in somebody”. She was like “right okay”. I said their name and she was like “right okay”. I said it was a one bedroom flat, she was like “right okay”. I don’t think it came as a massive surprise to her and to be honest, she was fine. It was big news obviously and she needed to process it but she was really really okay. She then went away and told my dad about it.
Me and my dad didn’t really discuss it for quite a while, even though he’d come over and visit me and my boyfriend at the time, it was just never a subject of conversation. And I think the only person that built it up to be an issue was me- none of my friends had an issue at the time and parents didn’t when I eventually came out to them but the not telling them had a much bigger effect than not telling them. I actually got quite anxious about the whole thing and the anxiety actually built up to the point where I had to go and visit the doctor about anxiety and depression.
I found that when I actually did come out to them, that anxiety lessened so much that it was the best thing I ever did, both for me mentally and just for the relationship with my parents. From that my parents were involved in every part, well, not every part of my relationship but like it’d have been the same if I’d have had a girlfriend or a wife. Nothing was different. So all in all, the coming out is the good bit, it was the hiding everything for me that was the difficult and painful bit