Today is National Coming Out Day, which as you can probably imagine, is an annual awareness day designed to drive the notion that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance. Most people probably know someone who is LGBT, but don’t actually know that they are, and once they find out that they have sons, daughters or loved ones who are then they are much less likely to have that homophobic view.
It’s an interesting concept and one pretty much lived out by many LGBT people, but this isn’t always the case. I would never wish for anyone to be forced out of the metaphorical ‘closet’ but in my case, it’s the best decision I have ever made!!
Too many times we have all probably heard about people having a terrible ‘coming out’ experience, but then, on the other hand, you hear great stories of people being honest with their loved ones and truly opening up so they can be themselves. It’s inspiring and emotional to see people being so honest, and equally as upsetting to see people scared to take that leap of faith, to be able to trust that people can be accepting and loving.
See, I tried to live a lie (and pretty much failed), it eventually wears you down, living the life of another, pretending you’re one person and in secret being a completely different person entirely. I remember trying to act the straight stereotype of being into girls, rugby and having the banter with the lads, when really I wanted to talk about my favourite member of Girls Aloud, which rugby player I fancied the most and chatting guys with the girls. Now don’t get me wrong, all gay guys aren’t into the same things but I generally tried to act straight to take people of the scent.
The fear you get, the possible rejection, that mental image scarred into my mind that I would be kicked out onto the streets, ruin my family, my friendships, my life. It was all too real to me and it stopped me ‘coming out’ for so long.
I remember coming home from university on occasions for the weekend, my mum being my mum would see the truth behind my eyes, but would never ask. I would get upset often, and when she asked me why I would simply blame university, or some other lie to avoid that painful truth.
I had actually come out to my friends a year before when I was 17. Well, I say come out, they said they knew before even I did, which is more than likely true as for those who know me I am not exactly subtle. They motivated me to tell my family the truth, and the time then came to tell my sister.
Understandably so, my sister was upset and shocked, I had just told her something so personal and life changing about me, and I don’t blame her for it. Everyone has different reactions to such news and I would never hold it against her. However, it did stop me telling my parents for another year, seeing how upset my sister was made me avoid the difficult conversation I needed to have with my parents.
My ‘coming out’ to my parents was not planned at all, I was home for the summer break from university and had a lot of time on my hands. All of a sudden I had that upset feeling again and broke down in front of my mum, she asked me what was wrong and I just couldn’t say it. ‘I am gay’, three simple words but the most difficult thing to say to those that you love and don’t want to hurt.
My mum said it for me so I didn’t have to, I looked at her and nodded my head in agreement and it all changed from there, a hug and a reassuring look that everything was going to be alright.
The awkward conversation with my dad was took away from me thankfully by mum, I think that was the first time I saw my dad cry properly when he came into see me, but I knew from that day on that I was done with the tears, and feeling down about everything, the difficult part was over. I felt a great surge of relief and acceptance by my family, I could see a happier time coming.
Like I said at the start of this blog, I would never force someone to come out, you have to do it when the time is right for you. All I can do is tell you that it will not be as bad as you have visualised in your mind, sure you might not get the exact reaction you are hoping for but you have to give people the time to take it in, everybody takes a different amount of time but they will get there. And if they don’t then you are probably best without them in your life.
What you need to remember is that there will always be someone close by ready to support you, give you advice, be that shoulder to cry on, or simply just listen. That could be a friend, family, a co-worker, twitter, or your nearest LGBT group. Stonewall offer some great services and advice for those struggling, you can even search your area for what’s around. Also there is the LGBT Switchboard that offers a great service to chat to someone who can offer help and support, or even the Samaritans. The most important thing though is to talk to someone, whoever it may be to offload a little of how you’re feeling to someone who can help.
On National Coming Out Day, let’s not wait in anticipation for that celebrity who we’ve always suspected to reveal themselves, but let us celebrate how brilliant we all are in our own unique individuality, life would be boring if we were all the same. Pause for a moment and think how grateful you are to be surrounded by people who love you, people who accept you for who you are, and people who will always be there for you no matter who you love.
To finish this blog, I quote those ever eternal words of the Queen that is Lady Gaga:
“I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way”
Until next time…