I'm Coming Out. Slowly. Painfully
10 Oct 2019
I can recall the feelings I had at a very young age, but for the longest time it didn’t dawn on me what they were; that they were because I was gay. My realisation took many more years.
My lack of romantic feelings towards girls, the boy I had a crush on, the advances of a handsome man on a Club 18-30 holiday – it dawned on me that the sum of those parts was that I was a gay dude. And I had to deal with those feelings.
When I did deal with them, boy did it hurt. I pretty much had a breakdown. I spent several weeks indoors. I barely ate, I didn't talk with my family and I refused to go out. I had no idea what was happening to me.
The punchline is that my sexuality was clear to others before it was to me. I was bullied at school; they called me gay. I don’t think I overtly was, but because I didn’t want to hang out with the lads in the park after school, flirting with girls, it was an easy go-to.
When I told my best friend Vanessa, she'd known it forever. But when I told others, it dropped like a bomb. My mum struggled greatly when I asked if could bring home a boyfriend - it led to 18 months of no contact. We finally broke the deadlock and things gradually improved. She now welcomes partners into the family home - and happily walks arm-in-arm with them.
I’m hugely proud to volunteer at an organisation in Brighton called The Rainbow Hub, a drop-in advice centre for our LGBTQ+ community. I grew up in a time when you were either gay or straight, so meeting all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds who identify as all kinds of things has been so educational. It has helped and challenged my perspectives on the modern world.
Things have moved on since I came out, acceptance has grown. But the fight isn’t over.
Last weekend I had lunch with Joshua, a 26 year old guy who identifies as queer. That's a word the community now celebrate after reclaiming its once-offensive meaning.
Joshua makes me smile - the way he dresses, the way he carries himself, the confidence he has. But at least once a week he’s spat at, punched or verbally abused in the street. Even in a diverse and cosmopolitan hub like Brighton, prejudice is alive and well.
I’m proud to play a small part in trying to improve things.
Since my teens, I’ve not experienced hate or harassment. Maybe I’m a bit too big to rile up. Me being gay just hasn’t been an issue for 20-plus years, since I left those dark times behind. Today, it’s just a bit of who I am: I’m tall, I like coffee, I love a power ballad. I'm gay.
Here’s hoping that before too long, every coming out story can be a positive, freeing one.
Tom's Opening Words
1 Feb 2021
We meet as if on a sunny little island in the middle of a vast sea of trouble and sadness