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.
I had always felt different. It’s such a cliché, I know, but I just KNEW there was something staring me right in the face – I just didn’t know what I was looking for. I was upset a lot of the time for a reason I didn’t understand, but now I can see how blindingly obvious it was: I wasn’t a girl, but everyone kept calling me one.
I felt so wrong and alone.
PE was always difficult. I would loathe every second of the girls’ changing rooms, always leaving them in a bad mood or with tears brimming. The worst part about it was that no one, not even me, understood. We’re raised in binaries, as either male or female depending on what you were born with, and this is reinforced so heavily in our society that transgender or gender variant youth can feel so cut-off and isolated from the rest of the world. I hated my long hair. I hated the feminine school uniform trousers. I hated how people called me “she” or “dear” or “young lady”. I felt so wrong and alone.
It was probably in Year 9 when I first typed “I feel like a boy” into a search engine, and the results confused me. There was a whole universe of genders out there that I’d never heard of. I thought you could only be a girl or a boy, and that for me to be a boy, I had to like girls (which I didn’t!) – I couldn’t have been more wrong. I learnt about non-binary, two-spirit, genderfluid, to name but a few, and I also learnt that to be transgender there is no requirement for your sexuality. So, a person of any gender can have any sexuality. It was an eye-opening experience.
I was so desperate for me to make my mind up
I spent a lot of time after my internet discoveries thinking. I would go to secluded places at school and think. Think about the label I should use for my gender, about the label I should use for my sexuality. I was in a phase of confusion, which was honestly one of the most agonising times of my life. I hated seeing everyone so happy with their identity around me, so happy to be divided into male or female, when I was so desperate for me to make my mind up about this thing that’s deemed so important in our culture. I’d wake up one day and announce: “I’m a boy! I’m definitely male – I’ve finally decided!” only to then realise within a few hours that I was in fact genderless again, or sometimes even female. I would venture to YouTube and watch trans videos which definitely helped, but it drained me: they all seemed so sure in themselves, talking about how they’d always played with boys and action figures. Although I considered myself masculine, I didn’t really do those things, and that seemed to contradict what I was feeling at the time.
I came out to my parents as being confused about my gender, and to my luck, they were 100% accepting. We tried different names and pronouns at home – one day I was Liam, the next I was Phoenix – but nothing quite felt right and this made me more confused. “They” pronouns made me feel awkward, and “he” pronouns felt sort of forced.
I just had to accept that my identity would take time
This continued for a long time and it took me equally as long to realise: I was trying too hard to label myself. I was forcing feelings and thoughts before allowing them to surface naturally, and I was smothering my femininity because I felt it contradicted the male identity I wanted to have. I finally realised that I just had to accept that my identity would take time and I slowly began to embrace every part of myself. I accepted that I was sometimes feminine, sometimes masculine, and although I wasn’t happy about it, I accepted that I might always be genderfluid. And that’s okay.
It’s true what they say: things do get better. Feelings take time to understand. It was the summer of 2014 when I came out publicly after years of confusion and waiting for my feelings to settle – and since then, I haven’t looked back. I waited until I was certain that this was what I wanted, and coming out over the summer was just perfect for me. Some days I’m feminine, other days I’m masculine, and I like men – but I am male. This is me, and although it took a while to get here, I’ve finally found myself.
Take your time
So, if there’s any moral to learn from my story, I guess it would be this: take your time. Don’t rush so much to give yourself a label, because sometimes, it takes feelings a while to settle, and are often far too complicated to define by a single word. But, most important of all: don’t try to suppress parts of yourself because society dictates that you should feel a certain way. This is something I wish I’d realised soon.
Now that I’ve learnt this, I am me, and I couldn’t be happier.
Very few people’s coming out stories are easy. Those whose are are the incredibly lucky ones. I always knew my parents would have absolutely no problem with my sexuality, but that didn’t stop it being incredibly difficult to actually tell them. There was always there tiny thought in the back of my head that my parents would kick their then 14 year old son out of the house when he told them he liked boys and girls. I probably wouldn’t have told them until some years later, had they not noticed I’d been self-harming because of homophobic bullying at my school and online.
I was always more attracted to boys
At the time, I identified as bisexual. I was told by near countless people that “bi people don’t exist” and that “bisexuals are just in denial of being gay”. For such a long time I was determined to prove them wrong, and I was attracted to girls for some time after coming out. I was always more attracted to boys, the ratio being around 80:20 boys to girls. I only dated two more girls after coming out, and have exclusively dated boys since 2010 or thereabouts.
The people who told me that bisexuality didn’t exist did almost as much damage as those who told me I was a freak of nature and that I should die for being bisexual in the first place. Whilst I overcame those who bullied me with help from my parents and teachers, the unwillingness to change the definition of my sexual identity remained with me right up until June 2014, aged 19. I’d known I was gay for a long time before this, but denied it to myself and others, instead saying “I could have a sexual relationship with a woman, but not an intimate/emotional one”. I knew this was rubbish, the ratio of my attractions was now more like 99:1 boys to girls, but I didn’t want those who didn’t respect my sexuality to win. It was a very big deal to start openly identifying as gay, even something as simple as unticking women from my ‘interested in’ on my facebook profile took some doing.
It’s okay to change your definition
I live very happily as an openly gay man, and even just after being bullied I started doing charity work to combat homophobia. I didn’t have a problem accepting myself until people starting making me believe I was wrong, but the one thing I did have to learn was that it’s okay to change your definition of your sexual identity. At 14-16 years old I was terrified that changing said definition was to give in, but I’ve now learned that very few people care if you change it – as long as you’re happy with who you are and how you define yourself, that’s all that matters. I know it sounds massively clichéd, but it’s an absolute truth.
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.
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 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.