Dom | 27 | Coventry, England | PhD Student
Though I’d tell a familiar story of recognizing that I was different from the guys I went to school with who were obsessed with fit girls and straight porn, I didn’t actually manage to accept my own sexuality until I was 22, in my last year of Uni. I had a girlfriend at the time, and though I regret the pain that I caused her when we split up (we’d been friends for years and then an item for eight months) I am also endlessly thankful to her because it was the relationship which led me to accept myself. My inability to communicate and express myself in my relationship with her revealed so much to me. I consider myself the luckiest guy in the world because she’s still one of my closest friends today.
After I split up with her, I didn’t come out for another 18 months. Though I knew I was gay, I was quite uncomfortable with society’s view of homosexuality which was basically one rich in femininity and/or camp; something along the lines of Jack from Will and Grace. I couldn’t understand it and felt that it was not me so I came up with the excuse of waiting for my girlfriend to find a new guy before Coming Out. In the mean time I started to find out more about the gay scene online.
"As it happened, I came out in the end because I was
My oldest friend from school chose that moment to tell me that he was gay – I was surprised, but with retrospect it made so much sense. I was also a bit disappointed because I’d been trying to set him up with my friend… But anyway, he told me that he was gay, and I pretty much responded ‘me too’. Then proceeded to drunkenly tell everyone else at the party before passing out. The next day we went to the beach and not a soul (in a supremely British and repressed manner) mentioned it, for which I was actually grateful at the time! I was so hung-over that walking was hard enough, let alone heart-to-hearts. They came later with my closest friends.
"Even though I’d accepted it myself, saying it out loud was a big deal."
I’d imagined I’d have done it soon enough, but hadn’t really planned it and each time up until then that I’d wanted to come out, I failed to find the words at the words. It became easier each time but I’ve always found it a bit tricky to introduce myself when I meet new people without sounding like I’m shoving it in their faces. My friends were all amazing and for the most part they didn’t make it a big thing which was exactly what I wanted. Some, I suppose naturally, were a bit funny and didn’t know how to manage it, even one of my closest (guy) friends. He wasn’t unpleasant, but I don’t think he knew how to respond (think being over the top ‘fine’ about it) so over the next few years we grew apart a bit. Of course I’m sorry that this happened but I suppose it’s organic. On the other hand, I grew much closer to friends who I saw before as being quite peripheral. I suppose Coming Out does change some relationships but that change is not necessarily negative.
Once I had Come Out to friends I told my brother and then my mum within a few months. I found it hard not to because once I’d found that free space in which I could really be myself, I couldn’t bear being in the closet any longer.
Both my brother and mum were great and aside from my mum’s concerns about homophobia and AIDS (which I took only as a sign of love) things became very quickly normal. I never said the words exactly to my dad, I think my mum did, but it just became a natural part of life and conversations; he never stopped or questioned it. I was a bit worried about him – a religious guy – but I needn’t have been at all.
It wasn’t until after another few months that I had any real interaction with other guys, and while part of me regrets having been so slow and not having enjoyed my teenage years a bit more as a an out gay person, I understand that it was part of my growing up. I can also see how I’ve changed as a person, even in ways that I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago.
I’m still nowhere near Jack from Will & Grace, but I’ve been able to find new corners of life (like wearing eye make-up out to parties, or caring a bit more about my look, even a new confidence in my daily life) that I understand as part of the complexities of my male, gay identity.