“Defeating my anxiety”
“ So, when did you know?
How did your parents react?
Are you sure it’s not a phase? ”
On introduction, members of the LGBT+ community get asked the inevitable questions about their coming out stories. As well as some ridiculous and intrusive questions, such as my personal favourite “So, how do two girls do “it”“?
We all have our unique stories, some incredibly difficult, some easier than others. However good or bad, funny or emotional, they all share similarities. Our coming out stories shape us into the individuals we are today. They help us grow and make us stronger, enabling us to grow into our true authentic selves and, with that, the happiest versions of ourselves.
When the word ‘gay’ first came to my knowledge, it was presented as a bad word, as disgusting and wrong. My brother is gay. He would go first for the tutu and fairy wings in our fancy-dress box when we were younger, despite my dad’s disapproval. I always looked up to him for having the courage to be himself. When I moved up to high school, the boys would tease me by telling me that my brother was gay, that he “wasn’t normal”.
I defended him, not knowing if he was or not. Throughout the time he was bullied, he always denied it. The bullying got to the point where he had to move school. What was meant to be a fresh start actually turned into the same situation, and he had to move back. It seemed to me that wherever you go, being gay was something to be ashamed of.
My story is very different to my brothers, surprisingly.
Like many people I know, my coming out story involved being obsessed with two fictional characters. I remember finding my brother’s Skins box-set when I was 15, with the dramatic and racy story lines- I was hooked. But it was two particular characters from the second generation who changed my entire view of myself and my possible future.
The series follows the characters of Naomi and Emily, two individuals exploring their sexuality and ultimately falling in love. I watched these two girls, and I wanted to be them. I wanted what they had. From then on I was obsessed! I could not tell you how many times I have watched the episode where Naomi and Emily finally ‘get it on’, how many hours I spent watching fan made YouTube videos, or reading cast interviews. I could no longer deny it, or hide it from myself.
Looking back, coming out to my closest friends seems quite innocent. I excitedly typed the words ‘I think I like girls’ into my phone to show my best friend because I couldn’t say the words out loud. I then came out gradually to more and more friends, mostly drunk at parties and occasionally through being found hiding in a closet kissing a girl. The irony!
I’ve never seen my sexuality as something I need to announce to everyone. So, after I had told immediate friends, I let people find out by themselves. Unlike my brother, I haven’t been bullied for my sexuality. Instead, most people have shown intrigue, as well as multiple boys commenting….
“ That's so hot! ”
When I was 18 I had my first girlfriend. It was like most first loves, however, it had a different element to what I had experienced with boys. There was another level of intimacy, another understanding for one another’s bodies and emotions. Telling my family and friends about my new relationship also required more than I had experienced with previous relationships.
I wasn’t scared to tell my Mum, for we had discussed the possibility of my brother being gay beforehand, and she seemed very accepting of him. I was surprised and devastated to receive a very different reaction. My Mum told me that I was not to put it online where people could see, that she wished I could be ‘normal’, and that I would fall in love with a man.
I was devastated. I couldn’t understand why my brother was so easily accepted; yet I had to justify my feelings. I was made to feel ashamed. Later, she asked why I was so upset and I told her how excited I was to have met somebody special, yet she couldn’t share that happiness with me. Upset, she told me she loved me unconditionally and apologised. After that point she was just what you’d wish for from your Mum, and treated our relationship as I would wish for her to do whether my partner is male or female. However, after her reaction, I was terrified to tell my Dad who is of an older generation and doesn’t quite understand the LGBT+ community, and/or people with tattoos, piercings, coloured hair.
Sorry Dad, I fit all categories.
I wrote my Dad a letter, and his reaction was also a surprise to me. He was much more calm and rational. He was honest about his feeling and asked questions, reassuring me ultimately that he loves me unconditionally.
Yet, during my 11-month relationship, he always treated my girlfriend as a friend of mine. Some people have told me that they would have protested, yet he was always generous to us. I believe that you should be patient with people around you when coming out, as they too have their own process. They must come to terms with your sexuality, and take time to adapt to this new perception of you. People, through my experience, tend to be a lot more accepting than I initially thought they would be. Be patient, honest, and strong.
I should probably clarify that I identify as pansexual. No, this does not mean I’m sexually attracted to pans. For those who don’t know, this means that I am attracted to people irrespective of their gender identity.
Whilst avoiding labelling myself for a long time, I found pansexual to be the best fit. You don’t have to feel pressured to label yourself. I personally never want to completely close the door on any sex, to limit myself of any possibility. However, that is not to say that I’m uncertain of my sexuality, and that certainly doesn’t mean I ‘just haven’t found the right man yet’. I am certain that people are changeable, that love is unpredictable, and I am certain that I currently love a girl. I still have to come out to people all of the time, however, each time I do, I do it with my head a little higher.
“ I believe that you should be patient with people around you when coming out, as they too have their own process ”
Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t change one detail about my coming out experience. I couldn’t wish for better parents, who accepted my current girlfriend with open arms. As we grow, we see our experiences differently. Bad times can become blessings in disguise and can prepare us for future obstacles. Everyone deserves to fall in love and everyone deserves to love themselves. Do not be afraid and do not deprive others from knowing your true self. Most importantly, do not deny yourself of living the life you desire. Do not hide and stand proud. Despite this, it is important to come out at the right time, in a safe environment, when you feel ready.
For those seeking support regarding the issues discussed in this article, most Universities have LGBT+ societies, and other support services concerning student well-being. Alternatively, there are online and over the phone support networks, including the confidential Switchboard LGBT+ helpline, available 10am-10pm every day on 03003 300630.
“ I still have to come out to people all of the time, however, each time I do, I do it with my head a little higher. ”