Ollie | 28 | London, England | Events and PR Manager
Until you take a moment to consider your personal coming out story, I’m not sure you ever realise just quite how many chapters there actually are. I’m surprised those closet doors aren’t hanging off their hinges.
Family, friends, schoolmates, work colleagues, the fact is you don’t just come out the once.
In recollection of these experiences it’s equally notable how personal and draining they can be. For many, throughout their time coming to terms with being gay, aspersions are cast upon their masculinity and strength of character. To front up to this and cast your anchor into the choppy waters of the rainbow sea can be tough.
"My mum asked me recently if there was a particular point when I knew - a gay-piphany if you will. I can’t recall there being a defining moment, more a growing sense that I was a little bit different from my peers. In some ways I believe the extent to which I repressed my feelings just gradually dulled over time."
As a youngster I didn’t like Britney because she was ‘fit’, rather I liked her knack of bringing to life a killer pop hook with supple choreography, on top of her witty anecdotes about some fierce gal called Lucky. Whilst the GCSE years were tough for a multitude of reasons, it was actually college where I experienced my first coming out, forcibly in this instance. I shan’t colour the story too heavily but, in short, a confidence I had bestowed upon a close friend was filtered through to my peers. This was unbeknownst to me until, during a game of football, a comment was made which made it clear that what I held most private was now common knowledge. I literally ran away. My own Forrest Gump moment, albeit prematurely, ended by my hideous level of teenage fitness.
On this occasion what hurt more than people knowing was the betrayal. Not that I wasn’t hugely upset about my shoving out.
Upon reflection it’s clear to me now how intensely this affected how I dealt with my sexuality from that point onwards and how it still gets to me to this day. In that moment I lost control of the situation and that, I believe, is what you cling onto the most in such an uncertain time.
University would surely be easier, so I thought. Whilst I wasn’t closed about my sexuality, I didn’t go out of my way to accept it as part of me. I made a very definite vow in my first year not to be ‘that gay’ who buys gay magazines, goes to gay bars, IS GAY. I hadn’t conjured so much of a cloud of gay shame but a full on marine layer of the stuff, which lasted four years.
"In this time I let myself go. In part I was caught up in University life but there was also a sense that there was nothing for me romantically so why bother. I ate, I drank and, don’t get me wrong, was merry for much of the time. I was 18 and a half stones of merriness."
By 2012 I’d come out multiple times. The liberation that London brought meant that I’d embraced who and what I was. To friends, workmates and, at points, even strangers. That being said, I didn’t go out of my way to tell people. If they assumed then that was up to them. It’s still my business. My business I chose to keep whilst reading Attitude magazine and frequenting The Two Brewers (a well-known gay bar in Clapham, South London. The clouds had well and truly parted. However, I was yet to tell my family. I thought my mum would be fine with it, in fact, truly, I knew she would. It was only by the age of 26 though, that I myself had fully come to terms with being gay. In preceding years I had struggled even to say the word in public.
"Everyone will find a different way of telling their family. My warped logic? No one can be angry with you on your birthday, them’s the rules."
And so, in a restaurant on the South Bank in London, out to celebrate my 26th birthday with a special Mum-date, I blurted it out. She already knew. The signs had been there in childhood - through Eternal concerts, badass shapes on the dancefloor and, at one point in 1997, a breakdown in Boots because she wouldn’t buy me the Mel B special edition Impulse spray. Apparently it’s not ‘just like Lynx’.
It went well. I led with, ‘So, I’ve got something to tell you...’ and Mum gave a knowing look. Kind of stole my thunder, thinking about it. Rude.
It was, and is, no big deal. We talked for a while and that was that. I was happy to finally get it out there. And I continue to be very happy.
Except I still don’t have that Mel B Impulse spray.
Follow Ollie on Twitter @OllieBeGood