National Coming Out Day 2018
Coming out can be hard, but also so rewarding. For many it’s easy for many more, it isn’t. This year we asked some of our Ambassadors to tell their story.
My ‘Coming Out’ was a bit…staggered. Social media took over my early teens and I thought that it was a good opportunity to try and reach out to those that had already come out.
It was just my luck that my classmates happened to stumble onto the profile and identified me. My world had been blown open and I was not prepared in the slightest for it. It honestly felt like my world was over. Not being in control of who knew what. Not knowing who knew what. Then, the person I expected the least to accept who I was approached me. My Catholic school chaplain, of all people. He was one of the first people to teach me that family doesn’t need to be blood. That it really doesn’t last forever, as cliche as it sounds, and that once the storm is over, life really does improve.
Gaymers is literally my second family now. The coming out process in and of itself doesn’t stop but I promise it gets a lot easier!
Coming out as trans is difficult process, and there are many questions that come up along the way. When do I come out? Before I start transition or during? Who do I come out to first? Do I ask the people I come out to to use different pronouns and a new name? Oh my god I haven’t even chosen a name yet!
I decided to pace myself. After 25 years of denying who I was and living in fear of how people would react, I could take a bit of time with this. I started by coming out to a few close friends that I knew I could trust. I hadn’t even chosen a name yet, but this actually proved to be a good way to ask for opinions!
One of the first people I came out to was a close female friend I had gone to university with. I had decided to tell her I would be transitioning, and so we met for dinner to chat. I was too nervous to tell her at dinner, and so afterwards we drove around town listening to music. I drove aimlessly, partly delaying the conversation, and partly looking for the right place to tell her. Eventually I pulled up next to the river, and we walked along the embankment. I was nervous as hell, and in a fumble of words I told her that I kinda-maybe-sorta-definitely am trans and I would be starting my transition soon. What has stayed with me until this day was her reaction. As soon as I’d said the words, she looked at me with a big smile on her face, and said “oh my god, I am so excited for you!” immediately I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders and I smiled back at her. That was the moment of my transition that I knew that in the end, everything would be okay.
Coming out wasn’t the end of the world, but the start of an exciting new chapter of my life.
It took me a long time to fully come out. It happened in stages – first to myself, then to my friends and lastly to my family – over the course of more than a decade. When people ask me why it took so long, it’s hard for me to answer. I don’t have a simple reason.
Part of it is due to growing up in rural Yorkshire, where the common attitude to any sort of difference was, at best, confusion, or at worst, outright hostility. I was ostracised for things as simple as wearing my hair a little long or having no interest in football, let alone my sexuality. “Gay” was the slur of choice on the playground and I have a vivid memory of a friend telling me, “I would probably like Will Young’s music if he wasn’t gay.” I was told, again and again, that gay is the worst thing to be. Without realising, I absorbed this mentality. And by the time I finally accepted my feelings weren’t a phase, it wasn’t so easy to switch that off.
That said, I had lots to counter this attitude. Being half Dutch, I had experience of a culture different to the one at school, so I knew it was possible for everyone to be wrong, even if they all agreed. I never heard any anti-gay sentiments from my parents and never suspected that they might react poorly to it. So why did it take me so long to come out to them? I told myself it was due to circumstance. They were divorced and living in separate counties, so it was rare to see them both together. I didn’t want to choose which parent to come out to first. Nevertheless, the opportunities came and I kept letting them sail by. I stayed closeted simply because it was easy.
At uni, I was out. Nobody knew me in London, which made coming out a doddle. People mostly didn’t care, but there were some who made assumptions about me because of my sexuality. They were surprised when they learned I was an avid gamer or that I was disinterested in fashion. And it was this reaction, most of all, which made me afraid of coming out to my family. I was scared they would see my gayness first and my personality second. Society and the media had repeatedly told me that all gay men were a particular way. And though I knew I was living proof that this wasn’t true, I was afraid of other people making those assumptions about me. Especially the people I was closest to. It was wrong of me to fear this, because there’s nothing wrong with any type of gayness – effeminate or masculine, scene or alternative – so it shouldn’t have bothered me to be compared to this. But, like I said, when you absorb a bad mentality it’s not always so easy to switch it off.
In the end, I got exactly the coming out I wanted – tardiness notwithstanding. My family accepted it with just the right amount of indifference. I’d spent so long fearing that other people would make a fuss over it I ended up doing that myself. When I come out now – because we never really stop, do we? – I treat it as the most commonplace thing in the world. If I don’t make a big deal about it, neither does anyone else.
I can lay the finger of blame at lots of injustices and social ills, but the truth is it’s my own fault I took so long. The reality of coming out was nothing like my fears. And the best way I can challenge people’s perceptions of homosexuality is by living my own personal brand of gayness as visibly and unapologetically as I can. And I can’t do that from the inside of a closet.
Of course not every coming out story ends as well as these. In a similar post this time last year, we mentioned that The Albert Kennedy Trust reported in 2015, around a quarter of young homeless people were LGBT, and nearly all of them were either fleeing a hostile situation at home or were rejected by their family after coming out.
LGBT communities need to make sure that we do everything we can to not only empower allies to speak up and out, but provide support for our peers who may not be as fortunate as us with our coming out stories.
If you need support with coming out advice you can contact one of the following organisations:
- Stonewall Youth
- Fflag (helpful advice on how to come out in addition to resources for friends and family too)
- Queen Mary University London have a good page of resources too.