National Coming Out Day is celebrated in the UK on 12 October every year. That’s a day later than the rest of the world, for reasons we’re yet to fathom, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant. The ‘It Gets Better’ project avows that things will improve for those who have experienced bullying for their sexuality. It’s an important message, but what about people who haven’t yet had the courage or the opportunity to tell others that they’re gay or lesbian? What will life be like when you do finally make the admission to friends and family? It’s rarely an easy thing to do, but we hope that in sharing our own stories here, anyone thinking of doing the same will be encouraged to take the leap.
When I was a kid, I loved dancing to Kylie, I wanted to be a pop star, I thought football was dull, and the Kylie and Jason wedding made me cry. As I grew into an acne-ridden teen I loved more obscure music but I still loved Kylie and girls never figured; I mean, I never thought once that I wanted to have sex with a girl. When I was 13, the boys in the sixth form were dressed brilliantly, and I wanted to dress like them.
I got to 16, and what was essentially an asexual life exploded. I was dusting my room, so far so camp, and my brain went: ‘oh, you’re gay, did I forget to say?’ I accepted it immediately and realised that I fancied those sixth form boys. This was one of the few times in my life when I just accepted something and refused to question it as it all made perfect sense. If someone didn’t like me for coming out, I wiped them off the map. I called the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and found out about a social group that met up. Within weeks I was eating biscuits in a dodgy underground bar in Birmingham. I never looked back, but as time progressed I got to know myself and realised the gay scene is as alien to me as meat market clubs with blokes in white shirts and girls in mad heels.[pullquote_right]Allow yourself time to be who you want[/pullquote_right]If I had any advice to give, it’d be to allow yourself time to be who you want (there’s a pop song in there somewhere), and go with the flow. Coming out can be scary, but there’s no fun at all in trying to get back into the closet.
I met my first girlfriend the day I came out to myself, on my first day of uni.
I grew up in Switzerland, where there was no gay scene or real mention of gay people at the time. I’d been in the UK for a couple of years before I realised I was gay. I came out in the mid-Nineties at the height of lesbian storylines on major soaps and on the big screen.
I wasn’t shocked, scared or confused. The only difficulty was telling my parents about this first love. The media had crammed my head with stories of parents disowning their children, wanting nothing to do with them. So, for three months, I kept my relationship from my family. I know for many it’s very hard, but I actually never had to come out – say I’m gay – to my family. I am now married to the most wonderful woman.
Coming out could have gone a bit better. My nana had been asking me and asking me if I was gay for a year or so and I’d said no every time. One night I pulled a guy in town and obviously taking him home to nana’s house wasn’t an option. I crept into the house to get the keys to my dad’s while he was away and got busted. Nana left a voicemail on my mobile saying ‘that’s a funny looking girl’. She then kicked me out and didn’t speak to me for three months. She’s over it now.
I was perfectly middle class when it came to coming out of the closet. I actually sat my mother down with a cup of tea and discussed it like adults. Well that was the plan anyway…
My mother was more than a little upset by this turn of events, and it genuinely shocked me. I remember being so afraid, but I wasn’t sure of what at the time. It’s only now that I am a little older and wiser that I am able to articulate this fear: that she would stop loving me, and I would be alone.
It took time, for her, my dad and for me. Then one day, the thing that was so different in our family was suddenly normal and accepted. My family may never be 100 per cent happy with me being gay. But I am 100 per cent certain that they love me, no matter what.
I began to see the light at the end of the closet at the university freshers’ ball. ‘Snakebite’ was the elixir of truth then. My friend Charlie and I opened up to each other while drunkenly slumped on the floor outside the main party. Just a few months later, I had my first date with a guy, and began to find my way around Canterbury’s tiny ‘scene’. My friends accepted me for who I was from day one. I introduced my boyfriend – who’ll shortly be my husband – to my mum on Christmas Eve 2007.
‘Mum, I’d love to bring someone home for Christmas. His name’s Andy.’ I’ve never looked back.
Leo Kristoffersson[pullquote_right]My parents had discussed and ‘come to terms’ with it already[/pullquote_right]I came out to my school friends in sixth form and then to my parents two years later. On neither occasion was anyone particularly surprised. After spending the best part of two years dressed in orange tartan, I decided to confirm what all my friends already knew via a DJ at a nightclub in Walsall. Classy. Three years later I was at home for the summer after a year sampling the delights of Cologne – Germany’s own gay mecca – and decided the time was right to come out to my mum and dad. As I suspected, my parents had discussed and ‘come to terms’ with it already. I feel very lucky from that point of view.
I had to do it. It came down to a point when me and my mum weren’t talking, which is crazy as we’re normally very close.
I took a deep breath and went downstairs while she was having dinner one night. Armed with a Spice Girls book (I was 15!) to fiddle with and calm my nerves, we got into the conversation.
She asked if that guy I was seeing was my boyfriend and if I loved him. I said yes. She was stone cold, more out of shock than anything, I think. It’s as hard for a parent as it is for us. We didn’t talk about it for months, until one day, while dining al fresco, she told me she really didn’t like my (then ex) boyfriend. Things are now amazing – she’s practically my best friend! My advice would be: don’t think about it, just do it – your parents know deep down anyway. And it’s a massive confidence boost when you empower yourself to be who you really are.
Christ, don’t make me go back there! Oh alright, we’re in mummy’s office if you must know, yellowing year planners peeling from the walls, and she’s called ‘A Family Meeting’. Which is kind of a big deal, given the last time mummy, daddy and I could be considered ‘A Family’ was probably at my conception.
‘Who’s ███?’ she demands, wagging a fistful of computer print-outs.
How to answer? ███ is my boyf…? No. ███ is the man whose face I sit on three times a week and who gave me his old Playstation? Definitely not.
‘███,’ I say, ‘is my supervisor at Toys R Us.’
‘Your supervisor?!’ Daddy is incredulous. Mummy weeps gently into a promotional mug from a haulage firm.
‘He’s been groomed!’ she sobs. I am 17 years old.[box_dark]For help and advice on coming to terms with being gay, you can call the Lesbian & Gay Foundation helpline on 0845 3 30 30 30 (local call rate), between 10am and 10pm or use their online contact form to receive a reply within 72 hours. Stonewall also offer advice on coming out.[/box_dark]