Pride: My Coming Out Experience

I love this time of year; the sun is out (sometimes), exams are over and all us students can relax, even if only temporarily. However, for me, one thing that I particularly look forward to around this time of year is Pride. Pride means a lot to me, for I am so proud to be considered part of such a diverse, brave and generally inspiring community. But this was not always the case and, like many people who realise they are not straight at a young age, there was a long time where my connection to this wonderful community was blocked by my own fears and shame. Whilst I questioned my sexuality from as soon as I found out what a lesbian was, I only properly came out in 2015, when I was 17. I do feel obliged to admit that, although my coming out experience was very rocky in places, I have generally had an extremely positive experience. However, I did spend many of my teenage years feeling very lonely as a result of not being able to talk to many people about my feelings. Therefore, if I could travel back in time, here are a few things which I would tell my closeted younger self, and anyone else who may currently be in a similar situation.

Although you feel it sometimes, you really are not alone

There is always someone else who is in the same position as you. You may be really lucky and find a close friend or relative who can relate to your situation. If not, just because your friends may not be questioning their sexuality does not mean that you can’t talk to them about it. Whether it be a friend, a family member, a councilor, a teacher or even someone on a hotlines or website, try and open up a dialogue with them, because getting something like this off your chest, even if it is only to one person, is a really good place to start. You may receive advice as to how to come out to other people, and possibly gain the confidence to do so. What is most important, however, is that you have voiced what you are feeling to someone other than yourself. For me personally, this was the turning point where I began to truly accept this huge part of myself.

Try to educate yourself in the right way

Before I came out, I remember watching a lot of LGBTQ+ film – and I mean a lot. It is fantastic that we have a lot of this type of film available to us now but it is wise to be a little selective with what you dedicate yourself to watching. The issue with a lot of LGBT film is that they frequently centre around stories of forbidden love, set in the past or in communities which do not accept people who are LGBT. I cannot stress enough that such movies are imperative in documenting the struggles of LGBTQ+ people in those situations. However, it isn’t always the wisest idea to base your ideas of coming out solely on such demonstrations. For this reason, prior to coming out I found a lot more comfort in watching YouTube couples, personal coming out stories and advice from LGBT people in social media. Whilst obviously such accounts are not always accurate or show the full story, their stories tend to be much more relevant to the average teenager coming out in the UK today, and I personally gained a lot of optimism from them which aided me in building up the courage to come out myself.

The people closest to you probably already know

When I first told a couple of close friends about my sexuality and my resulting anxiety at the thought of telling my family, they immediately said that they  already knew. This for me was not the reaction I was expecting, for I am generally considered to be quite a feminine person, and don’t really fit the 'tomboyish' profile of a lesbian which stereotypes have led us to associate with gay girls. Moreover, acquaintances who have discovered I was gay in more recent years have tended to be quite surprised initially, using delightful phrases such as “You don’t exactly come across as a dyke”, or “Wow, its just so strange…I just thought you were…such a girl!”. Yes, lesbians are girls who like girls, we are not men. But I digress.

I continued in my firm belief that my parents were completely and utterly oblivious to my sexuality. However, before I got the chance to bring my sexuality into conversation, out of the blue my Dad asked me if I was gay. After a good hour of spluttering and stammering I’m pretty sure he inferred a yes as my answer. It was only very recently that he told me that he and my mum had suspected I was gay from a young age and he was slightly concerned that I was less aware of it that he was!

My Parents Reactions

 As demonstrated by my Dad’s reaction, I had a pretty decent coming out experience. It would be extremely harsh to imply that my Mum has been any less great than my Dad. Whilst my Mum may have taken her time to adjust to the thought of my handsome prince being a beautiful princess, it is important to remember that, for me at least, it took several years of contemplating my sexuality before I finally came to accepting myself for who I am. 6 months after I came out to her, she was running the health stand at Bristol Pride and honestly, I could not have been prouder to call her my Mum. I know I have been extremely lucky by being blessed with awesome parents, but the fact is that any truly good parents will love you enough to see that your sexuality, whatever it is, is a big part of your life, accept it accordingly and love you no matter what.

Post-Coming Out

What I learned from my coming out experience is who my real friends were. Obviously, I was lucky enough to have an incredible family who make me feel loved every single day. With my friends however I must admit that a large number of those who I told in the early years were not so accepting, particularly when I was single, as they thought being a lesbian would mean I was automatically going to fall in love with them. I found it really upsetting to think that this was going to be my life from them on but I was so wrong. When I began working and attending sixth form and university, I slowly realised that friends who really love you genuinely do not care if you are gay, straight, bi or trans. They just want you to be you. For me, this has been the most important learning curve from my coming out experience. Of course, as I have grown more confident with my sexuality I have gotten into more serious relationships and have a much better communication with the LGBTQ+ community but learning that I had such a supportive family, as well as amazing friends who would fight anyone who gave me any hate for being gay really was the pinnacle moment for me. It taught me that whilst being LGBT is a big part of my life, it does not dictate my life, nor who I associate with in a non-romantic way.

With that in mind the message I would emphasise to my closeted younger self is that although at the moment you feel horrible, lonely and like no-one understands you and whilst the road to coming out is certainly not easy, it is definitely worth it because, if I’m honest, life now is pretty darn great!