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I’m lucky

I was actually very happy

In the summer I came to the realisation that I was, as I probably should’ve realised sooner, very gay. It was in the middle of the night and I was watching videos of Kate Mckinnon. I wasn’t appealed or afraid. I was actually very happy.

I was confused at first

I was confused at first and didn’t want to come out to my parents and then change my mind. But I felt I had to tell someone, so I told my best friend. I knew that I could change my mind and she wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I told her I was bisexual and she was great about it. I eventually told some of my other friends and they seemed to feel the same. It wasn’t until I started referring to myself in my own mind as gay and not bi that I thought I had told them the wrong thing.

I kept it inside

There were a lot of times that it would’ve been really great to tell my parents but every time the moment passed and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know why because I was pretty certain they would be fine with it. Instead I kept it inside. It wasn’t until my homophobic uncle asked if I had a boyfriend yet that my mum told me to tell him I wanted a girlfriend that I told her. I was incredibly scared but she was wonderful and we had a ten minute conversation about it. The next day we decided that I would leave the room while she told my dad. Again I don’t know why I didn’t want to tell my dad it just felt awkward to bring it up. I came back into the room and all he said was “as long as you’re happy” then we sat there in silence for what must have been 30 seconds but felt like an hour. Then I got up and left again.

Come out when it’s right for you

I know that my coming out was incredibly easy compared to a lot of people. And I was, and am, so so lucky to have so much support and love around me that it has made me even more aware of the people who don’t have that. But I just want to say. Come out when it’s right for you. You don’t need to. But you don’t need to keep it to yourself either.

It’s not always so dramatic

I came out a little less then a year ago when I was thirteen, about a month after I worked out that I wasn’t straight. I’ve always been open minded and so I didn’t freak out or worry about my future, because I knew that it was natural. I knew that I wouldn’t allow people to bully me. I was secure in myself and that really helped me. The only reason why it took me a month was because I wanted to do it right. I wanted to come out to my family first, then my best friends and then organise a time when I could get all- well most of my friends in one place at one time and I did. It also needed extra organisation because one of my other friends wanted to come out at the same time. Support from friends makes a big difference. Did my friends reject me? No. Did everyone in the hallways stop, stare and whisper? No. Has it lead to horrible depression-inducing bullying? No. I know that my story is pretty unique but not all coming out stories are bad. I guess what I’m saying is the saying “it gets better” is a brilliant saying but sometimes “it” isn’t bad to start with. Be happy with yourself.

Coming out to a Catholic Family

I realised I was gay when I was about eleven. Well, it wasn’t so much that I realised, I already knew – but I finally admitted it to myself around then. I didn’t tell a single person until I left secondary school at the age of 15. School would have been completely unbearable if anyone had found out. It was bad enough as it was. I was also convinced my parents would disown me when they found out. My mum is Catholic and I’d heard her say that being gay was a sin, that it was evil.

I used to self-harm a lot and I smoked a lot of cannabis

I was really, really unhappy as a teenager. It was hard keeping a secret and living in my own head for so many years. I used to self-harm a lot and I smoked a lot of cannabis. I still worked hard at school and eventually I found some good friends who made things easier. I told one of them I was gay when I was 16.

One of them had read my diary

I went to a sixth form college to do my A Levels. Around about then, my sister told me my mum was downstairs crying because she thought I might be gay. Great. It turned out one of them had read my diary and found out I was seeing someone (I’d met and started dating my first girlfriend by this point) and doing God knows what else (Drugs? Smoking? Sex?). It was awful – I knew they knew and we just didn’t talk about it. I moved out as soon as I could, after my last A Level exam. I moved about an hour away from where my girlfriend was studying and I got a series of rubbish jobs that paid enough for rent and eventually for a bit more too. That was when I was 17, and my parents and I didn’t talk about me being gay until I was 21. I brought it up. My parents just didn’t talk about that stuff, I don’t know why. But I had to break the ice. And actually, it was okay. I found it excruciating at first, I still do sometimes. But they didn’t disown me. It turned out my dad really didn’t care and my mum got used to it, I think. She’s met a few girlfriends and liked most of them. I think she’s had to change her mind about what being gay means but we have a great relationship now.

Don’t assume the worst will happen

A few years later I had to come out to my parents again as transgender. It was hard, but I had more resources to talk to them about it. I’ve really had to be the one to push the boundaries and that’s been uncomfortable, but it wasn’t the disaster I always thought it was going to be. So I guess I’d say don’t assume the worst will happen, but make sure you have a plan for if it does. There are loads more organisations that can help now, that you can reach out to. I almost couldn’t imagine being happy when I was a teenager, I was convinced I’d end up killing myself. But actually I am happy – things got so much better, I got through it. I’m doing okay.

Starting testosterone

My mum came with me, not because I felt that I needed her there, but because I thought it would be useful for her. She has a lot of questions, as I do, and I wanted to give her the opportunity to ask them. The appointment went well, the ideal outcome as far as I’m concerned: I’m walking through reception with a prescription for Testim gel clutched in my hand. These little tubes of magic will allow the world to see me in the same light as I see myself.

These little tubes of magic are going to change everything for me.

A friend of mine told me not long ago that I never seem happy when I get what I want, but things are never really that straight forward are they? These little tubes of magic are going to change everything for me. Don’t get me wrong I want that change so badly I could burst, but gains come with losses, and the great landscape of the unknown lies right out in front of me, and I certainly don’t have a map. I know how the world needs me to be as a ‘woman’. How people want me to behave and how habitually I take up those roles. But I don’t know how to be a man, and I certainly don’t know how to be a good man.

The future is laid out with far more questions than answers, and there aren’t that many people to ask anyway. I have many caring supportive people beside me, but I still feel like I’m going at this alone. As much as I may feel like a thirteen year old, I’m not. I’m a thirty two year old with a job, responsibilities, and friends who are miles away from puberty. Yet I’m about to have mood swings, acne, and god knows what else.

Can I really step into the vast unknown with no stabilisers and no control?

It’s the anger I fear, how my emotions may change. Will I turn into my father? Will I become someone I have tried so hard to separate myself from? Can I really do this? Can I really step into the vast unknown with no stabilisers and no control? I’m overcome with the need to hide away, to take myself away from the world, to feel safe.

Its takes a few days to cash in my prescription: Testim gel is not the most commonly requested product, and it has to be ordered in. When I arrive at the pharmacy to pick up my little tubes of magic I’m yet again accompanied by tears. ‘Happy tears’, I tell the person who asks me if I have used said product before. ‘I’ve been waiting a long long time for that little box’ I continue ‘Today is a good day’. They pass me my box as I am consumed by more and more tears. I walk through the shopping centre with pride, joy, and a sense of adventure. I can face the challenges that are coming, I have more strength than I realise, I just need to harness it. As I continue to walk through the shopping centre I realise how close I’m holding my box to my chest. ‘My box….my little tubes of magic…my future.’

I am honoured by the knowledge and privilege that this is not a journey that I embark on alone.

I have to wait till the next morning to apply it, that’s the instructions I have been given. I feel giddy and high, I can feel my heart beat strong in my chest. I attend for uni classes and various people there know how much of a significant day this is for me. We break for coffee and my friends mark this turning point with me. ‘I have a man bag for you’ my friend tells me. ‘Full of manly things’. I am honoured with Mens Health magazine, Yorkie chocolate, Lynx body spray, tobacco sauce. I am honoured by the knowledge and privilege that this is not a journey that I embark on alone. I have comrades and companions who are ready to get on this ship with me. Who will sail alongside me, guide me through the dark storms and help me find my way again if I have navigated off course along the way.

The internet is good when your family isn’t

I think my grand revelation happened after watching that one episode of the X files when Dana Scully goes to Africa and spends the whole time wearing a tank top and henley wielding a machete and, well, I had to take a cold shower afterwards.

I was terrified. I’d always believed that attraction to the same sex was a bad thing, and here I was clearly infatuated. I locked the door and opened an incognito window on my laptop, just in case. “Signs you’re a lesbian.” I took quizzes, read blogs, I did them all. Some of them said yes and some said no, but none of it helped. I looked up pictures of attractive men to “make sure” I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t. I stumbled across a quiz that told me I was bisexual. I’d only ever pictured bisexual as a thing that teenage girls say when they want to be more attractive to guys. I was really wrong. I looked it up. “Bisexuality” “What is bisexual” “Am I bisexual”. Well, I guess I was queer.

I told myself I was bisexual for the first time

It was months later when a really pretty girl complimented my shirt and I got so flustered that I told myself I was bisexual for the first time. It was only a few weeks after that that I accidentally came out at school when during a discussion about dress code I said I liked girls but didn’t get distracted by their yoga pants. I was ignored, because it’s high school,  but the people around me heard and it spread around.

I came out to my family on April fool’s day (just in case) and got three responses: NO, it’s a phase, sexual orientations aren’t a real thing, people just sleep with who they like. None of them are exactly positive. My brothers are still dicks about it, and my dad likes to pretend I’m his heterosexual daughter, but no one has disowned me for which I’m lucky.

I found several internet communities which were super cool about sexuality and gender, and yeah, there’s always assholes out there, but sometimes it’s easier to find acceptance in online anonymity. Fantasy is also great for that, and one thing I learned from fantasy is that family isn’t about blood relation, it’s about love. Any family that doesn’t accept you is just shit. You’ll find your real family, trust me.

Coming out feels impossibly hard

I realised I was gay when I was about 21 and kissed my male roommate whilst drunk. Although not attracted to him, I did start to contemplate the idea of kissing guys more and more. This lead to me starting to talk to more gay guys and becoming comfortable around them, knowing that inside I may be the same. A few months from that first kiss I came to terms that I could be gay, or at least bi. A few years after, I told my friend – the one who I initially kissed – that I thought I was gay. He was incredibly supportive and told me about coming out.

I’m yet to tell my parents and I’m scared of what they might think or do

This year (2015), I went to Edinburgh for New Year’s Eve with my closest family member (a cousin of the same age), his girlfriend (a close friend) and another close friend from University. I decided to tell them when we were there because I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I told myself that when we were in a coffee shop I would just come out with it. I was scared as hell and could feel my heart pumping out my chess. I told them “Guys, I have something important to say. I’m gay,” and to my relief they were all okay with it, as I had expected and hoped. I’m yet to tell my parents and I’m scared of what they might think and do, especially given their Catholic background.

There is more acceptance now than you might think

One piece of advice I will say is that although fear and terror will overcome you, don’t let them win. There is more acceptance now than you might think. It will get better. Not just for you but for all in your position. So when and if you decide to come out, raise that flag high and represent the LGBT community because without struggle there can be no progress.

Even after coming out, confusion is normal

I always knew I was gay. I pretended I wasn’t until I was 14, but I always knew. I enjoyed behaving like the girls and not having to conform. I was confident in myself and enjoyed the attention of being different. At 14 or 15, I came out properly to my parents and any friends that didn’t already know and was immediately filled with excitement and a sense of freedom.

I couldn’t talk to my parents or teachers because I was embarrassed

I had always known that I fancied boys and wanted more than anything to have a boyfriend, who I could kiss and hold, be with and who would love me. I was terrified of sex. I didn’t know anything about it! The little I did know about gay sex scared the life out of me and I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. What made this even more difficult was that when I came out some people presumed that I knew everything that gay men did, both in and out of the bedroom. I found this difficult and didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I couldn’t talk to my parents or teachers because I was embarrassed and my friends knew even less than me so they weren’t going to be helpful. Obviously the internet exists now to chat to other gay teens but that presents its own problems as well.

As I’ve got older I have realised that everyone felt like this for a while. Yes, gay teens have much less information and support but the truth is a lot of young people are scared of sex. Very few people know what they want or what they like when they are young. I realised this doesn’t make you any less gay or less valid in your feelings or your desires. I became scared of physical relationships, even though I wanted them, as I was worried I would be rejected for not knowing how to have sex and this subsequently stopped me exploring my sexuality for years.

Coming out doesn’t happen overnight

Now, I have realised the importance of being proud in your sexuality and your decisions and to never feel the need to be pressured into anything that you’re not comfortable with. Coming out doesn’t happen overnight. Just because you have told people you fancy boys, doesn’t mean you don’t still have questions and confusions about what having a same-sex relationship might mean. The most important thing is is that you do what makes you happy and comfortable and trust that others will be accepting of this.

I secretly read books about sexuality in the library toilet

I think I was about 11 years old when I feared the worst, that I might be gay. I was desperate to fit in at school so I told nobody.  I kissed boys like everyone else was but secretly found it traumatic and agonized all the time about how I could avoid having to have sex.  My family were very functional, as long as dinner was on the table at 6 and nobody ever talked about their emotions, that was fine.  My brother managed to hide the fact that he was a heroin addict from my parents because they would do absolutely anything to avoid having to address an emotional issue.

I didn’t want to admit it to myself

I went to live in Brighton and, even there, I still couldn’t face the whole “coming out” thing.  I had lots of gay friends but it wasn’t about anyone else, I didn’t want to admit it to myself.  I used to go to the library and take books about sexuality to the toilet to read them in private, I was too scared to take them home in case the librarian told someone.  As if she cared?  She didn’t even know who  I was!  The next five or six years passed in a haze of university, boyfriends, drugs and alcohol, but surprisingly, despite all this, I got a degree and a masters degree.  However, just after I graduated, the dot com bubble burst and I couldn’t find a job in IT.  I worked in bars with the cool people in Brighton and after we would go out, take ecstasy and drink.  I was miserable, paranoid and exhausted.  After a while I felt really tired and I looked at the people around me, still living the same life as me but in their 40s and I quit my job and threw all my efforts into getting a job in IT.
I got one, in the civil service, barely enough to live on but something, and there I met my ex-civil partner, Sally.  Sally was extremely obviously a lesbian, older than me, didn’t care about social conventions, she didn’t care what anyone though of her, I was fascinated by her.  By then I was so desperate to find an answer to my problems, I threw myself into the relationship with Sally and told everyone who would listen that I was gay, and I mean EVERYONE.  I was so angry, I went looking for conflict wherever I could find it.  The truth is, and it really is, that most people couldn’t have cared less that I was gay but I’d argue with them anyway, no matter how nice they were.  Sally and I had a civil partnership ceremony, all the people from my boring, conservative management consultancy job came to the wedding and I realized the day after that social acceptance of my sexuality was not my problem.  I was my problem.

I started to have uncontrollable panic attacks

Two years later Sally and I split up and entered into a bitter war over our stuff.  Then, the best thing that has ever happened to me happened.  I started to have uncontrollable panic attacks.  I couldn’t work, I couldn’t see friends, I couldn’t see anyone, I couldn’t do anything.  Grudgingly I went to a psychologist, I was lucky, my employer insisted, and paid.  There, I learnt firstly how to control the panic, and then about myself.  I started to heal.  The anger and the paranoia started to leave me, leaving in their place something kinder, something calmer.
I went back to work, just to prove to myself that I could, and then went travelling for a year and a half.  In the last week I met my now boyfriend.  I told him immediately about my sexuality and he was fine with it.  I moved to Argentina and started seeing another psychologist who helped me learn even more about myself, my past and my sexuality.  Now I’m training to be a psychologist myself so I can help people too.  I love my life, I accept myself and others for who they are and now I can enjoy my relationships with people without anger and fear getting in the way.

Just because I’m with a man doesn’t mean I’m “cured”

He’s a great guy but it’s not easy being with a straight man.  I’m also not really a big fan of the term bisexual, when I’m with a man I’m with that man, when I’m with a woman, I’m with that woman.  If it’s relevant to the conversation I tell people, if it isn’t I don’t.  However, if I witness any kind of homophobia I always confront it, just as I would if I witnessed racism or any other kind of prejudice.  I feel it’s my duty to the community but now I try not to do it with anger, I just try to make people think a bit more.  That said, most people don’t feel very strongly one way or the other, most of what is difficult about being gay is accepting yourself.
I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with my boyfriend and two dogs.

I was married when I realised that I was gay

I was born in an Irish Catholic family and my uncle is a Catholic priest with a parish in North Dublin. So it was preached into me from a young age that being homosexual and loving men like you’re ‘meant’ to love women is a sin.

Growing up, I was taught that being gay was wrong and like pretty much all Christians, I would frown upon gays or lesbians.

“I got along better with girls”

I didn’t have many male friends; a common thing in gay guys, we find friends easier in females because we can relate a lot more easily to them. But, I didn’t know that at the time that it was because I was gay.

I didn’t go to high school very much because I was sent to live with my uncle, to go to the school near to where he lived. His home ended up feeling like boarding school cause I hated my uncle. So, instead of going to school, my friends and I spent all day in the city. I didn’t really get caught up in the boyfriend/girlfriend thing in high school because I didn’t really go.

“At 15, I ran away from home”

Instead of going to school, I worked and saved enough to travel. At 15, I ran away from home, met my wife, had some kids and became a chef. I began to hate my wife after a while, so I ended up leaving her. So I moved to London  where I lived above a pub, and it was there that I met Andy.

When we had saved enough and I had got a proper job, we moved into a flat with two girls, so Andy and I became pretty good mates. Then I began to realize that what I felt for my wife wasn’t love, it wasn’t even close because what I felt for Andy was just something amazing that I’d never felt before. I’d been told all of my life that love is when you have a connection with an awesome girl.

“I loved my wife, but only as a best friend.”

I didn’t know that at the time though, because I’d never been in love before. What I’d been feeling for my wife was what I’d assumed to be love because I’d been told all of my life that having some sort of connection with a woman is how it’s supposed to be. But I realized that I was just totally in love with Andy, and luckily, Andy felt the same way.

I told my wife that I had found someone really special in London that made me really happy, and that they were a man not a woman. She went mental at me, left and that was one of the last times that I saw her for a while.

“They tried to pray for me.

I went to my parents to tell them about Andy, but I didn’t tell them at first, I left them and was driving to my uncle’s house to pick my children up, when I realized that I just had to tell them, so I drove all the way back and told them. They just hugged and tried to pray for me. My dad yelled at me and tried to pray for me again although I tried to convince him that it wouldn’t work.

I moved to Australia, and since that move, I’ve been really open about my sexuality. In Melbourne especially, they have a lot of good support for the gay community.

I didn’t know how my conservative Christian family would react

At 14 I knew I was not like the other girls. I ran around and played sports and games with the boys but I was more attracted to girls. I didn’t even know the word lesbian until I was 15 when my mother demanded to know if I was one. Of course, I denied it.

‘The church was not friendly towards homosexuals’

We belonged to a very conservative church. Any socialising I did was through the church youth groups. The church was not friendly towards homosexuals, and was even protesting against the legalising it in New Zealand.

The dictionary at school was not much help, and in my little conservative suburban world, the chapters on homosexuality were cut from our text books (this was in the 1980s), and there was no one I could turn to.

‘I started to read a lot’

I kept my sexuality buried for a long time – but I started to read a lot, and became a good theology student. Through reading people like Bishop Shelbey Spong and Dominic Crossan (which are heavy theology reads), I came to understand that the debate wasn’t as simple as my church had made out.

I then moved out of home at 20, found a new congregation that were more positive towards difference. I continued to throw myself into my degree and theology, and I dealt with the grief of my grandmother passing away.

Then I fell for someone, head over heels in love. It didn’t work out – but it did confirm the feelings I had felt at 14. She didn’t make me feel dumb for loving her, so I felt I could start to come out.

‘Good things take time’

Coming out to myself had taken almost ten years, and it took me almost another ten years to come out as genderqueer.

Telling my friends was easy, they were all supportive and encouraging, both within the church and my secular friends. Most of them had thought I was gay for a long time and put my non-dating down to my shyness.

Coming out to my family was more problematic as my mother and brother still attend the church I grew up in. One afternoon (on my 25th Birthday after watching the rugby) I told my mum and dad that I was gay. My dad was so positive, he turned and said “that’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen you do”. My mother wasn’t quite so positive, and for the next couple of weeks my dad mediated the conversation and helped mum through understanding that it wasn’t me changing –  it was me showing who I was.

How does this end? My mother has told most of the church that I am gay. This hasn’t had any repercussions; she still holds a position of responsibility. The relationship with my dad became much stronger he has been an incredibly positive unconditional supporter.  I kept my faith for a long time. Moving to another country I still study theology in my spare time and occasionally try and find a congregation I fit in with.