Tom | 27 | Birmingham, UK | HIV Awareness/Writer
I’ve known I was gay from a very young age. Around the age of seven I knew something was different about me. I wasn’t interested in playing ‘kiss chase’ with the girls – instead I’d rather hang out in the library with a good book. By the age of nine I was already being gently teased for being gay even though I wasn’t sure what the other children even meant by that. I had a couple of girlfriends (as much as any nine year old can) but they never felt right.
"At the age of twelve I had my first gay kiss with a neighbour of mine, he was a year older than me."
I was over at his on a particularly hot summer’s day; we were playing in the garden and at one point sought shelter from the sun in a tent that we had put up earlier that day. We were talking in the tent when all of a sudden he grabbed me and kissed me. It was a moment of realisation for me. It just felt right, everything clicked into place and suddenly the previous few years started to make sense to me. The next year however was a confusing one for me. I know knew what I was; that I was ‘gay’, but I wasn’t willing to accept it yet.
"I was certain that my friends and family would be ashamed and upset that I wasn’t ‘normal’ and so I tried to hide it."
I got myself another girlfriend and I started getting more involved with sports at school even though I didn’t enjoy them – I wanted to be one of the lads. Despite this the teasing progressed into bullying, things got more difficult for me at school and my grades started to suffer as a result. I even stopped going to P.E. lessons (gym and sports class for overseas readers) and simply skipped the lessons and went and hid in the library or I.T. room.
"Things got too much for me. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate
at school and I didn’t feel like I could confide in anyone."
One evening I snuck out of the house and wandered up the country lane to a phone-box and called ChildLine – I wanted to know what I should do. They put me in touch with the local Gay & Lesbian Switchboard. I spoke to the guy at the end of the phone for what felt like hours. He told me of his own coming out story and I was stuck by how similar it was to my own. He also told me that no one could make me ‘come out’ (the first time I’d heard that phrase) and only I could do that for myself when the time was right – but the sooner I got it off my chest the better I would feel. I owe a lot to that gentleman.
A few weeks later, not long after my thirteenth birthday, I was in a chemistry lesson and another boy in my class was picked on for being gay. I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier. I couldn’t hold it back any longer, the words were coming up like a tsunami then I yelled across the room:
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING GAY? LEAVE HIM ALONE!”.
“Shit” I thought to myself, as I noticed them turn their attention away from the other lad and towards me. The girl next to me asked, “So you are gay?” The silence seemed to go on forever,; you could hear a pin drop – even the chemistry teacher had stopped what he was doing to listen in.
Eventually I simply said, “Yes, I am gay” then turned to the teacher and said, “Can we get back on with the lesson?”
"That was the first proper time I’d come out to anyone and I’d
done it to an entire classroom of my fellow students."
Naturally the news made it around the school in minutes via text message, absolutely everyone knew by the end of the lesson. But oddly enough that’s when the bullying stopped. No more insults or shoving in the corridors, it was like I’d taken the power away from them by doing it myself.
Now that 1,200 kids knew I thought it was probably wise to tell my parents as soon as possible before they heard from anyone else. I went into the living room after we’d had our dinner, Mum & Dad were there reading the papers.
“Mum, Dad, I’ve got something to tell you” – they put down the papers and turned to me. I froze; I just couldn’t do it. Announcing it to thirty kids in an adrenaline-fuelled rage was one thing, but calmly telling my parents was something else. I ran. I grabbed my coat and trainers and ran for what seemed like an eternity until I ended up in a field next to the park in the next village over. I lay there in the field staring at the night sky, my analytical mind trying to come up with every combination of words and how they’d be received. Nothing felt right. But my parents knew something was up now. What do I do?
Another couple of hours of star-gazing and thinking passed before I decided to head home. Maybe they wouldn’t ask? Maybe it’d just be forgotten? As I walked home I saw it, the same phone-box I’d used before. It was glowing like a beacon of light and hope on the pitch black country lane. I don’t know what possessed me, but I just ran to it – I picked up the phone and dialled home.
Mum answered, she sounded worried, and she asked where I was and what was wrong? I felt it again, the tsunami… out it came “Mum, I’m gay, I’m sorry”. Immediately she replied “Don’t be silly, there’s nothing to be sorry about. Where are you? Your father has been driving around looking for you!” I told her where I was and a few minutes later Dad pulled up in the car and took me home. It was a silent car ride, not awkwardly though – just a ‘nothing needs to be said’ silence. When I got home Mum gave me a hug, Dad gave me a hug and I just excused myself and went to bed. I had school the next morning and nothing was going to get in my way any more.
"I don’t think I’d ever slept as soundly as I did that night."
Coming out was one of the most positive things I ever did for myself. It let me be happy again and stopped me feeling like I was hiding secrets from those who loved and cared about me. Thank you to my friends and my mum and dad for being so supportive. Love Tom.
You can follow Tom on Twitter - @UKPositiveLad and check out his blog UKPositiveLad.com
Tom also writes for Attitude Magazine every month which you can pick up from your newsagents.