Today is National Coming Out Day and I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about after coming out. It is great that there are so many articles, books, blogs about coming out but what happens after coming out. It is like a fairy tale we only get as far as the happy ending but in truth it can be a bit bumpy after coming out.
That first day after I told the first person that I was gay I was a mixture of emotions and I ain’t going to lie I felt a little sick. I got over it but knew I had more people to tell and each time I did it did get easier but inside I was an emotional mess. It was a lot for friends and family to take in and I understand that as I was still trying to fully take it in myself. You have to understand I had spent my life trying to hide this part of me for so long that once it was out in the open it was a scary feeling and when someone would mention it in the early days I even forgot sometimes that I had told them and was a bit panicky.
The months that followed I became more comfortable in my own skin and it felt good because I was able to be me in public. No more generic answers to questions about dates, finally being able to say that guy is really nice to a friend etc. All little things but by god they make life less stressful and made me feel less alone.
When you are coming to terms with your sexuality it is a lonely place to be. You feel scared, alone, you feel as if you are letting friends and family down, scared you will receive abuse or be rejected by those close to you. What I want to say is that you are anything but alone. There are so many resources out there for you get in touch with other LGBT people. YouTube is a great way to hear other people’s stories about coming out, and there are brilliant resources on the Stonewall website, brilliant books etc. Never feel as if you are alone when you come out.
It is interesting that National Coming Out Day is the day after World Mental Health Day. Coming out is a big thing emotionally and it does affect your mental well-being. In a recent survey by FS magazine 24% of LGBT people surveyed said they had tried to kill themselves and 54% had contemplated suicide. These are scary stats and show that although we have come a long way there is still more that we can do in society in making it easier and safer to be LGBT.
In the same survey some key areas were highlighted that are main factors in depression or mental health issues for LGBT people. 70% listed low self-esteem as main factor. I can identify with this. I have little confidence in myself and abilities. There is a reputation (not always correct one) that all gay men are beautiful and look after themselves. It is not true we are just the same as any other guy. Yes I use some products but anyone who knows me will know I don’t spend much time getting ready. This reputation though does add to my low self-esteem even though I know it is not true. Add in social media, dating websites and apps and your self-esteem is overwhelmed. Someone once said to me they couldn’t come out because they liked their life and didn’t want to spoil it. Although I could see where they were coming from it was very painful thing to hear and hit my confidence as it made me feel as if I had ruined my life. This was not true of course as coming out is the best thing that I have ever done. I still battle with low self-esteem but I hope I am getting better at it. Coming out doesn’t mean you life is going to be all sparkly and wonderful all the time. Life for anyone isn’t like that and being gay is no different.
I only came out 4 years ago (aged 30) and I hope that I am comfortable with my sexuality. Being out at work is a big help for me and has allowed me to get involved in LGBT issues in my place of work. I also hope in some sort of small way that I am a bit of a role model and that I can help others come out. Still sometimes I feel awkward in where I belong at work. Not one of the girls and not one of the lads so I do spend more time on my own than I used to before coming out. My friends and family have all been great and have made coming out a lot easier than I thought it would be. However I still get nervous about talking about it. There are some family members who I have never spoken to about it even though they know I am gay. I was nervous about mentioning my work with the LGBT network at work with senior managers at work, I am nervous about talking to people who have religious/cultural/political views that may mean they have an issue with me being gay, when someone makes a joke about being gay I don’t always feel safe in challenging them so stay quiet, it still hurts not being asked to a lads night out and I try to put on brave face when not asked. Maybe I have a lot more work to do and maybe the closest is still there in some parts of my life.
So coming out is still a tough thing for anyone to go through and we all have a duty to make it easier. For any one reading this who thinks someone they know is going through this then just let them know in some way you are there for them when they are ready. Don’t presume they know this. They don’t know how you will react when they come out. Don’t just sit back and let them suffer alone. Send that text asking how they are or arrange to meet for a coffee, go for lunch just don’t ignore them. Don’t let them be on their own at this vulnerable time. If we can remove some of that feeling of isolation you will help make it easier for that friend or family member. Have that conversation with them I know it will be tough but believe me for the person coming out it is even tougher. I was desperate for some one to ask me just before I came out. I dropped clues in my blog in weeks leading up to it hoping someone would just ask me. I bottled telling people so many times and that person had just asked me then I would have been able to tell them. Employers should talk about it more to colleagues. Coming out isn’t just for teenagers you can come out at any age. When you can be yourself in all parts of your life you can achieve more.
So whether you have come out today or you plan to in the future remember you are not alone and when you feel it is right you will do it. It is still tough afterwards but you have climbed the mountain now it is time to head down and look at the massive achievement you have just made.