Norman | 27 | London, England | Office Manager
I pretty much came to realise I was gay at the age of 12 (although having had minor crushes on boys when I was younger I wasn't yet old enough to know or understand what that meant). I had my first sexual experience when I had just turned 15 and it took another four years for me to begin opening up to people about my sexual preference. At this stage the only people I was confident about opening up to were work colleagues I had only just met. When they assumed I was gay I just went along with it as it felt natural. At school I was bullied and mocked by people who called me ‘King of Gays’, so I had tried to detach myself from as many people, from that time in my life, as possible and find fresh new friends who just accepted me at face value. Over the next couple of years I had found a fresh, confident, new outlook on life and I had a social life I had never experienced as a teenager (most days were just spent in my room at my computer) and by the age of 20 I was ready to come out to my sister. This felt relatively easy as she has always been my best friend and emotionally we were each other's rock. I knew that she already knew really and would be cool with it. The biggest obstacle was yet to come.
"My mother and I have always been extremely close. However, she is an Irish old-fashioned Catholic and very opinionated and set in her ways. I never dared to address my sexuality with her throughout my teenage years."
I would hear her comment that so-and-so was a "puff" on the telly and giggle nervously. I never told her that I was straight as I didn't want to lie, I just skirted around the issue and what I wasn't asked, I didn't answer. My worst fear was that coming out to my mum might involve me having to change my life - cut her off, move out, fend for myself. None of this I was ready for yet, so I just put it off and thought I'd deal with it when I had to.
Some 18 months or so after I'd come out to my sister (I remember the day, 9th November 2006) I was having lunch with my friends when one of them said, "Why don't you just tell her?" I laughed it off but it played on my mind for the rest of the day. My life as a gay adult was almost complete. I was 21, working, going out, had great friends, all that hung over me was this shadow of pretence by not being open with my mum. My dad wasn't a problem. He's so laid back he could fall off his chair. In all honesty I didn't even care what he thought. But something inside told me that I just had to do this - I had to tell her, that night. I thought about it all the way home. I was going to do this, one way or the other. No putting it off any more.
I went straight up to my Mum's room and sat down on her bed with her, explaining that I had something important to tell her. I was so tense and nervous and started clamming up.
"I tried to break it so slowly, telling her it was about me and it was hard to tell her.
I couldn't look at her and I couldn't say the words. The fear was intense.
I shielded myself away from her. My head in my hands, heart beating like crazy, lump in my throat.
She kept asking what was wrong, what was it that I couldn't say? I'd start the sentence then stop."
I just couldn't get the word out. After what felt like an eternity she asked quietly in her quirky Irish accent, "Is it about your sexuality?" Thank God, she said it first. "Yeah?” I said expectantly. I slowly looked up. She asked why I felt I couldn't tell her and I told her it was because she was a strong Catholic. Then she said the immortal words I'll never forget.
"God made you that way."
I was stunned. I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. She said she loved me anyway and I was still her son. I never felt so relieved in my entire life. The hug that followed took a huge weight off my shoulders. We talked like adults about it and when I was finished I took a deep breath, went downstairs and thought, "Right, I'll get Dad out of the way". I went into the front room and Dad was watching The Bill. "I've told her so I might as well tell you”, I said, “I'm gay - get over it!". "I know", he said, not even looking away from the telly, "You don't have to tell me". Sorted!
When I broke the news to my sister and my friends they were like, "No WAY!". Immediate celebratory drinks were called for and I swiftly downed a few well-deserved Stellas. Oh, hold up... I missed the funniest bit. When I was sitting in my room after telling my Dad, coming to terms with what had just happened, I heard a knock on the door. It was my mum. She popped her head through the door and asked gently, "Does this mean you like dressing up in women's clothes?". I grinned, "No mum, that's a transvestite!" "Ohhh, ok", she said and closed the door. I laughed to myself. Bless. It might have gone perfectly but it still naturally took a while for her to get used to the idea. But now I have no qualms in saying "Wow, he's looking gorgeous", when we're watching Ronnie O'Sullivan playing snooker on the telly. I know that I am so, so lucky to have had such a positive experience given the circumstances. I have heard stories from people who have had their lives turned around by coming out to their parents and only wish they had the experience I had. If my story at least gives someone in fear the confidence to think ‘This might not turn out as bad as I expect’ then I really hope they go for it! Who would have guessed an old-fashioned, Irish, Catholic mother at 70 years of age could be so cool and accepting of her son being gay? As far as I'm concerned if she can do it, anyone can!
"If the people who matter in your life can accept you for you, that's all that matters – to hell with the rest."
Follow Norman on Twitter - @_Normski