“it is very foolish to shut oneself into any wardrobe” (From The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) C.S.Lewis
As a 7-year-old child reading this I didn’t realise how much this line would mean to me as a 30-year-old man about to come out of the closet. Now I’m 32 and I want others who are struggling with their sexuality to realise that it’s not worth shutting yourself in the wardrobe/closet with regards to sexuality.
OK I know coming out is not easy and yes it is probably going to be the biggest and scariest thing in you life and this what often stops people from making this step. There are lots of reasons why people don’t want to come out and I want to take this chance to say I understand, I’ve been there and used every reason possible not to do but at some point in your life you need to address the issue it doesn’t go away. I pushed it to the back of my but after a while it comes back and you have to deal with it. I left it until I was 30 and this was too late and regret not doing it sooner. I have missed out on a lot of things and all because I talked myself out of it. Here are some things that might go through your head when you are addressing your sexuality and may stop you from coming out but actually you can overcome.
Probably the biggest fear any gay person will have. No one wants to be alone and isolated do they? You have friends and family and have probably wonder how they will react. You have probably even tried to second guess their reaction. You might be right about these guesses but in reality you don’t know and trying to guess doesn’t make it any easier. For me I broke it down in my head that it was unlikely that everyone would reject me so whatever happened I would have some sort of support network to work from. I just didn’t know how big the safety net would be but there would still be a net there. I did think about what I would do if I was rejected by close friends and family and this involved possibility of moving out, end of friendships etc. Basically it was all negative ‘what if’s’ and the only way to know is to do it and see who is their to catch you and there will be someone but maybe not who you think.
This is the tough one. How do you tell the two most important people in your life that all their hopes for your future are not going to happen quite the way they thought. If you are an only child like me you also feel you are letting down the family and not doing the family duty of having a family to carry on the family name. This anxiety I am afraid never really goes (well not from my experience anyway). What you forget is that no matter how your parents react, at the end of the day they want you to be happy and settled ,the rest is a bonus. For some parents this takes a long time for them to accept and it is true they may not be on your side at the start. You have to give them that time to accept it. I realise I was lucky that my parents really supported me and still do. Yes a bit of me dies inside every time I see them with some of my cousins children and I know I can’t give them grandchildren like that. However I could have been straight and still not provided grandchildren. My biggest hope is that I can meet someone special so they know I will be ok and you never know have a wedding with them there. Oh and one last thing the chances are they already know you are gay, honestly they do. You can’t hide anything from a mum. My mum said she knew since I was eleven. Just as you have gaydar they know everything about you even if they think you don’t.
To tell or not to tell that is the question. You have no obligation to come out at work and depending on the job you do you may feel it is best kept private. If you are ever asked about your sexuality in an interview then they are not someone to work for. I was lucky the organization I work for has a great support network for LGBT staff and have their own network where we meet up for drinks and chat. I did have doubts telling people I work with though. Some more than others. The thing is some of my closest friends are also work colleagues and in fact I told this group of friends first before my parents. It was these friends who gave me the strength to come out. I knew if I wanted to they would keep it to themselves and they did until I was ready which was a few weeks later. I didn’t quite but it in the staff newsletter but I did use this blog to come out to a wider circle of friends and acquaintances. The day after I posted my coming out blog was a Monday which is normally quiet for views. This time my views went through the roof. This did seem to cover my work colleagues and with the exception of a couple of people who came up to me and offered encouragement no one said anything, which is the best reaction really. So for me I felt it was the right thing to but I also understand why some of you may not and that’s fine just don’t let this stop you from coming out to the rest of the world. Coming out at work has actually been a good thing. I have met some great people through work which would not have happened if I had not been out at work.
4)What if I’m not? Is it just a phase?
Yeah we have all asked ourselves this usually when we are a lot younger and questioning ourselves. Yes some people do experiment with their sexuality but you know who you are attracted to. Some people are also bisexual so are attracted to both men and women. You need to trust your instinct. After I came out people asked me ‘how long have you known?’ and I answered I ‘I suppose I always have. You just know within yourself. IT is hard to explain and even harder to accept but it is true. I know there is a debate about do gay people chose their sexuality or are they born that way. Well I am well and truly in the Lady Gaga camp that you are born this way. I wouldn’t have chosen to be gay and I don’t mean this in a negative way just that because of how society is there are more obstacles to face although they are getting less and less. However I am proud I am a gay man. I know it is not a phase or a fashion statement it’s just me and always has been it just took me a long time to accept this.
I grew up in the 1980’s at the same time of the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign which had the scary tombstone like image. The media at the time wrongly scared people into thinking that victims of this were either gay or drug users. Growing up as a child seeing images and stories like this really scares you. No one was saying the truth but I didn’t realise this until I was a bit older. I am sure a lot of gay people were and are still scared because of this wrong stigma. Thankfully more people are aware of the truth now about HIV/AIDS but this campaign did a lot of harm to a generation. It should have been handled a lot better.
This is another tough one. I am not deeply religious but believe there is something but not sure what. For people who are religious I can only imagine what internal conflict you have. On the one hand you are trying to be true to yourself but also want to be respectful to your Faith and sometimes this doesn’t work. Although same-sex couples can now get married they can’t get married in Church of England buildings. Some religions say it is evil, and a major sin. Only you can make the decision when it comes to your sexuality and religion. Both are important to making you the person you are.
Looking at all of these reasons why we all try to put off coming to terms with our sexuality there is one common theme runs through all of the above things – YOU! At the end of the day the decision about when and why you decide to come out is down to you. You are never going to get that perfect moment to do it. that only happens in movies. You have to make it happen but when you are ready. Promise me one thing though you won’t leave it as late as me.
So You have decided to Do It…
Making this decision is the first tough part. Theres no right way to come out and there is certainly no ‘right time’ to do it. From my experience I talked to friends first so that I had the safety net to catch me if it all went bad with my parents. I first spoke about it to an old school friend who had been through it and I got in touch with him. I have said it before but this chat was the most important talk I have had with anyone and I will always be truly grateful to him for this. After telling this first person the following morning I wanted to be sick and wondered what have I done (maybe it was the McDonalds I had after that had made me sick I don’t know). All the fears mentioned above went whizzing through my head but after a few moments of panic I knew I had done the right thing. However for the first time it was out there in the world and not just my head and that is a big deal. Someone else knew and this is an exciting but scary feeling. If you feel like this don’t worry it is a common reaction. I then told some close friends who were great and I still have the text messages after that night out. Once I told my close friends I then set a date in my head of a week to tell my parents which I stuck to. Having that conversation with my parents was the toughest thing I have done and nothing prepares you for it. Hopefully your parents react in a supportive way but sometimes they may need some time and space to accept it and you might need to prepare for this in advance.
From here it does get a bit easier and for me I found I wanted to keep the ball rolling and keep telling people. You never really stop coming out. When you meet new people at some point the conversation will come up and each time it gets that little bit easier.
Coming out has changed my life. It has allowed me to be myself which for many years I couldn’t be. By coming out I have met so many new and fantastic people, experienced new things and become a stronger person all because I allowed myself to be me.
Here is a video by someone who comes out to their mum. This might not be the reaction or the same experience for you but it does help to see that someone else has gone through it.
Benefits of coming out
- Being yourself
After I came out a friend said to me they could see that a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The 12 months before I came out were the toughest 12 months I have had and I could feel it taking its toll on me and other people could see this. I was really moody, emotional, not sleeping, starting to get withdrawn form social situations etc. This is why I came out as I couldn’t carry on like this I had to sort myself out. Now I don’t have to be cautious when saying to a friend I have a date and when asked about the date I don’t have to avoid the issue of their gender. I feel comfortable talking to friends about guys I like which was odd the first couple of times but now its ok.
- Becoming a role model
This was something I didn’t think about and still don’t full see myself in this role. However when you come out it will make other people view you in different ways and one of the many positive things is as a role model. I’m not famous but I do feel a sense of responsibility in my job and I want to develop my career. By doing just this I am becoming a role model as it shows it is not a barrier to my job or to me.
For more information about coming out and being gay I suggest visiting the following sites as they have great information about all of this and probably put better than I have done with this.
Remember you do not have to do this alone there will be someone already in your life who will help you with this. Talk to them, cry with them, do whatever you feel and need to do. Then when the time is right open that door fully and step out.