Following the attack in Orlando many in the LGBT community around the world felt stunned, hurt, numb I could go on but what I suppose I am trying to say is that it touched us and affected us all in some way. All week I have been trying to decide whether I should write anything about how it has made me feel but I was worried it would sound angry or preachy. But on a train home from a conference I find myself writing this.
Even before I came out I knew that when I did finally come to terms with it there would be people who I meet who wouldn’t accept it. From the very first time I heard the word gay at school and some in class started sniggering I knew homophobia wasn’t far away.This sense of fear can be enough to stop people coming out and this can go on to affect both their physical and mental wellbeing. I realised that although there was a chance of receiving hostility from people this was nothing compared to hiding from the real me and pretending to friends and family.
When I came out I was lucky to have supportive friends and family but I also knew that now that I was out they would be concerned for my wellbeing. I didn’t want them to worry about me anymore they already did and I had put them through enough anyway. They were fab though and said if I ever experienced any homophobia they would have my back. This helped especially at work as I felt it was a big risk to decide to be out at work that early on (some people never come out at work). My Mam and dad were also really good and said they would support me if I received any homophobia. When my mum said this I knew it was true but could also tell that she would be even more worried about me than before coming out. This was true and she admits to worrying if I go to Newcastle, gay night in Darlington or a Pride event. When she said this she said I should still go to them because it was important I did. I was worried though that it might affect their relationships with friends and family but thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I’m not a confident person anyway and coming to terms with my sexuality has been a struggle and still is sometimes. Many LGBT people suffer with anxiety and depression because it is a lot come to terms with. Coming out happens in stages. First you come out to yourself, then friends and family, then possibly out at work, and then acquaintances. It all comes down to personal safety and you should only ever come out as long as you feel safe. All of these groups of people have one thing in common – me. I know them so I feel safe being out to them. This doesn’t mean I don’t filter things though. This is party habit from hiding away for so long and because my own insecurities make me question how much can I say without making them feel uncomfortable. Some family and friends I am totally relaxed with but others I am not. This is either because I can’t tell how comfortable they are or I know they feel uncomfortable because subject changes quickly. I am not offended they do this as it is their opinion and I respect that. Some of it is because I didn’t get the chance to speak to them directly when I came out as I let others do that. This was an error on my behalf as by doing so I made it awkward to discuss and it may have suggested that I had a problem telling them which wasn’t the case. Once again I was letting my insecurities get to me.
The one area that has always worried me are people I don’t know. This is totally rational as you don’t know what they are thinking. My social media accounts all state I am gay and that was a decision I came to because I knew I could always block people and report if I experienced any abuse. I do worry about people saying something in the street though. Part of me thinks this is sensible but then part also thinks why should I worry. I’m not particularly camp in public and don’t think I do draw attention while out and about but I don’t know really. I didn’t even wear anything colourful at Pride as someone said to me I was in great need of glitter. I also haven’t been in the position where I am in a relationship in public so haven’t experienced that.
This week though following the Orlando events I realised that I should be proud to be out as a gay man. So I put a badge on my bag I carry to work. It might sound irrelevant and pointless to some people but it is a way of saying something. The badge I have says “Keep Calm and love who you want” It also has rainbow flag on. I was nervous doing it more so in Darlington than Durham but I felt it was important to do. I can’t stop people thinking what they think or what they say or may say but I have a right to be happy being myself and others shouldn’t stop me doing that. Also by overcoming my own insecurities and allowing myself to be happy in my own skin I can help others who are struggling. The phrase role model can be daunting but it is one that I know I have to carry . If being myself helps at least one other person then that is worth more than any fear. I have noticed this week that I am not alone in being more visible. Many people on Twitter have mentioned what they are doing and I have seen more gay couples showing affection in public more than usual. The best thing is no one gives it a second thought.
At the start of this week the LGBT rainbow dimmed but now it is getting brighter again now. Let’s hope the world starts to become brighter as well and more accepting.