When I was about 15 I knew that I didn't fancy girls. I didn't think I was gay, I just thought that I wasn't really that bothered about girls. My best mates Ben and Ian didn't have girlfriends at school either so I assumed that people just develop at different rates and that I would start to notice boobs and stuff later on in life. Three years later at a sixth form party I had my first kiss. It was with a girl, a pretty girl, and I was 18 years old. I was so nervous I thought I was going to be sick. I wasn't sick, the kiss wasn't that disgusting but it didn't really make me feel good because by the time I was 18 I knew I was gay. It's hard to explain how I knew, after all, I hadn't ever done anything with any lads but I just knew. Even though I was pretty sure that I was gay at this point I knew that it was going to be a long time before I would experiment with boys and even longer until I would come out. In fact, I had a crazy idea (one that at the time I thought was the best idea in the world) that I would never come out, I would just ignore my feelings and maybe get married one day, to a girl, and be happy! It was during my first Christmas break from university when I came home that I met the person who would give me the courage to be honest with myself.
My first term at university was brilliant. I pushed the gay thing to the back of my mind and when girls chatted me up I just made out that I had a very specific type and this seemed to throw them off the scent. I met loads of great people with different life experiences who were in to different music and wore different clothes. However, I didn't meet any gay people. I thought I would. I thought that I could make friends with them and this would help me to become comfortable with my own feelings and that I would be able to come out to them slowly. I only knew of one gay person at university within my wider circle of friends and that was Andy (see April's stories for his coming out account) who was one of the barmen at the student union. We spoke and we knew the same people but I never got close to him. Looking back I think I stopped myself becoming good friends with Andy because I wasn't ready to deal with my true feelings regarding my sexuality and I assumed that Andy would be able to tell I was a secret gay because gay people just know don't they? I often regret my decision not to become friends with Andy because I know we would have had such a laugh! I have actually reconnected with Andy over the last few years and we keep in touch. It’s nice to know that I had that second chance to be able to call him a friend.
So back home, after three months of university life, I met Anderson. Anderson would change my perception of gay people and play a massive part in shaping me into the person I am today. I met Anderson in my local pub during the Christmas period of 1999. I had seen him in there a few times before we first spoke and I knew he was gay. In fact everyone knew he was gay. And the most important thing to me, the thing that really gave me hope was that everyone knew he was gay and they still loved him. Anderson was the most popular guy in the pub. Girls loved him, other gay people loved him and more importantly to me at the time, straight blokes loved him. I had never met anyone who was so open and honest about his sexuality. I soon realised that this is why everyone loved him. They saw past the fact that he fancied men instead of women and were more interested in the fact that he was simply awesome! Funny, kind, thoughtful, excitable; the kind of person I knew I was too but was not allowing myself to be. However, the difference between us was that he was happy with whom he was and although I was a smiley, popular guy to the outside world, I was miserable and sad inside. I think Anderson knew that I was gay but he never asked me and never made me feel awkward. He simply helped me by being himself and showing me that being gay does not have to define you as a human being. People didn't like Anderson because he was gay, they liked him because he was (and still is) a remarkable human being. Ten years on and I still think about the role that he played in my life and I wonder how things may have worked out if I wasn't lucky enough to have met him. He remains one of best friends and always will.
Despite Anderson showing me that being a good person was more important to others than being straight or gay, it would be another three years until I decided I would come out.
Although it wasn't until I was 21 that I told my friends I was gay, I had my first conversation about my feelings towards the same sex with my best friend Ben when I was 19. Whenever our university courses started a new term Ben and I used to catch the same train to Derby before swapping and getting on different ones to our own destinations. Sometimes we use to go for a drink in a local pub for an hour or so before heading back; a final chat before we went off to our other new circle of friends. It was during one of these chats in a small pub in Derby that I thought I would test the water and gauge Ben's reaction, after all, he was my best friend and his opinion was really important to me. I told Ben that I wasn't sure if I liked girls or boys. I fell short of saying I was gay or bisexual (even though I knew I was actually gay) but I gave him just enough information to form an opinion. Ben's reaction shocked me. He didn't look surprised or disgusted or uncomfortable. He said very matter-of-factly, "Well I guess you will work it out and it won't matter to any of us, your friends, anyway." The reason I was shocked was because I was at least expecting Ben to be surprised or to say he thought I was joking. But he wasn't and he didn't. Looking back I think I was actually a little gutted that it wasn't a big deal to Ben! After all, it's always nice when people make a fuss over you!
So the rest of my time at university passed with no gay experiences at all. Despite the fact I gave Ben the heads up that I may very well be gay one day, I continued to hide my feelings from everyone else including my other friends, university housemates and family.
Even though my conversation with Ben reassured me that he would be fine if I came out, I still wasn't ready to live as an openly gay man.
After all, hinting to one friend that you 'might' be gay is miles away from telling the whole world.
In my final year at university I remember lying in bed one night fighting with my thoughts about what I should do. By this point I knew that I could not hide my sexuality for much longer. I wanted to be happy again and not continue to pretend that I hadn't met the right girl yet. I had a feeling that most of my friends at university already had their suspicions that I was gay but I lay in bed that night and felt that I was completely alone in the world. I felt that I couldn't speak to anyone about what I was going through and I honestly did not know what to do. I flirted with the idea of continuing the pretence and imagined marrying and having kids. When I pictured this life I also pictured the happy faces of my family, my Grandmother and my wife (who didn't and would never exist). I haven't mentioned yet that I come from a mixed race background. My Dad's side of my family is Indian and my Grandmother was born in India and so was her eldest daughter. Her other four kids (including my Dad) were born in England after she moved here. I had already decided that if I was ever to come out I would never be able to tell my Grandmother as it would mean the end of our relationship. It never crossed my mind that anyone on my Indian side of my family would accept me if I was gay. Lying in my bed that night, with my three housemates in their rooms just feet away from me, I didn't know what I was going to do, so I just carried on crying.
A few weeks later it was time for me to return home after my time at university had finished. I was now 21. I ended up graduating with a 2:1 but I have always wondered if I could have achieved a 1st if I had not had other things on my mind throughout my time there. I guess I will never know the answer to that. When I returned back to my home town I moved in with a friend of mine, Jo. I had worked with Jo during a part time summer job and she was going through a rough time health wise so we decided I would live with her for a bit. Jo was older than me and had been married and divorced. She is a very outspoken woman with strong opinions and a really brilliant person; the life and soul of the party and if there isn’t a party, she’ll just create one! I introduced Jo to my friends and we all started socialising together. We used to go to the pub at the weekends and have a brilliant time talking about music, football and life in general. I began to strengthen my friendships that had weakened while I was away at university as well as making new friends, some of whom happened to be gay. I started seeing more of Anderson and his circle of friends and I became more confident in myself. It was during this time that I met a guy. I knew that he liked me and some of our friends had made this clear during conversations in the pub. I always brushed these comments off with a laugh until the night we ended up kissing.
I never felt under any pressure to do anything with him. I was excited, nervous and of course scared. I asked him not to tell anyone as I wasn't ready for everyone to know yet and he respected my choice.
A few months after my first kiss with this guy I was out with my friend Michelle in a bar. She introduced me to Carl. Carl was gay. I got on well with Carl and decided that I wanted to spend more time with him. We swapped numbers and met up a few times. Carl became my first boyfriend and inadvertently my way of coming out. Jo, who I was living with, one night asked me how my love life was. I told her that I had started seeing someone. When she asked me who that someone was I told her that it was someone called Carl. I was petrified of her reaction! I knew that Jo was cool and that she was a good friend of mine but I had no idea how she would react. Jo simply said, "Oh, well you weren't really that into that girl you were seeing were you?” referring to a girl I had kissed a few times to divert attention away from my true feelings towards boys. Again, very much like the conversation I had with Ben in the pub in Derby, I was shocked at the lack of fuss and bother. Jo clearly had her suspicions and wasn't surprised to hear that I was now seeing a boy. The situation repeated itself with the rest of my friends. I had conversations with them individually and in small groups when we were out and it was never a big deal. When I spoke to Anderson, the guy who made me realise that you could be happy inside and out as well as being gay, he told me that he always knew I was but he knew it was important for me to take things in my own time and do things when I felt ready. I honestly had no idea he knew. I had no idea any of my friends knew. They had clearly worked it out before I was ready to tell them but gave me space and time to do things at my own pace as and when I wanted to. I love my friends for this.
One of the biggest reliefs for me after coming out was realising that I did not have to fit into a stereotype of a gay man. These stereotypes do exist but it is rubbish! You could walk by ten gay men in the street and assume they were all straight because of they way they ‘carried themselves’. This doesn’t mean that they don’t exist!
I've been to a few Gay Pride events but not because I feel I need to wear a costume and wave a flag. It's a great excuse for a weekend long party! I live my life the way I choose, I just happen to like men rather than women. It's pretty boring when you look at it that way I guess! I had five year relationship with some one who I thought was the one for me but it ended up not working out. The issues we had were issues that any couple, gay or straight could have and we decided to end things. After being single for a few months I met Dan.
I've been with Dan for almost three years now and we're really happy. Like any relationship we have our problems and we have our arguments. But unlike straight couples we can share our clothes which means I basically have two wardrobes!
I go to gay pubs and bars but not all the time. My straight friends come with me; in fact some of them say they prefer them to straight clubs. My friend Stuart actually met his girlfriend Mimi in a gay bar in Birmingham! I like watching football, drinking beer and watching soaps. I don't like Glee, Katy Perry or computer games. I love concerts and I've been to see Madonna and Kylie. Why do I think that is information is important? Well I don't which is why I guess I'm mentioning it. I like the things that I like because I am me. I'd probably like the same things if I was straight.
I used to think that coming out would mean I would be defined by my sexuality. I thought that my life would change and my friends would drift away from me because they felt that we would no longer have anything in common. This didn't happen. When I came out and realised that it was actually no big deal to my friends it gave me the confidence to be myself in other ways. I had always loved music and the idea of maybe being a DJ one day. Experiencing the acceptance of my friends by coming out made me more confident in my abilities and so I began to DJ at a local bar. Ten years later I'm still djing and I think I'm pretty good at it!
My family know I'm gay. I told them around about the same time I began to tell my friends. My Auntie was the first person I told and this was by phone because I thought it would be easier and it was. She was surprised because she didn't know already but she wasn't sad or angry or disappointed. In fact I was able to open up to her more about my life after I told her and we became much closer than we were before. My Auntie and my cousins Lauren and Natalie have met my partner and they all get along really well. Lauren said it was cool having a gay cousin!
My Grandma knows. We don't ever talk about it but I don't feel we need to. I wouldn't talk to my 78 year old Grandma about the details of my relationship if I was going out with a girl to be honest, I would be so embarrassed! But knowing she knows and still loves me and enjoys spending time with me is enough for me.
My Mum knows and is also fine with it. She was annoyed that I didn't tell her sooner but she soon got over that and reassured me that it wasn't an issue for her. Again, I get embarrassed talking to my Mum about my relationships but I am pretty sure that this would also be the way if I was straight.
I never got the chance to tell my Dad that I am gay because he died with my elder brother in a car accident when I was 15 years old. For many years I guiltily saw that as a blessing in disguise. I know this sounds extremely selfish but I thought I'd gotten away with having to tell the two people who I thought would probably have the biggest issue with it. 15 years on from the car accident I actually feel sad that they never got the chance to know the real me. I know they would have found it weird and might have taken a bit of time to get used to the idea but honestly, despite both of them being very stereotypically straight, I know deep down that they would have accepted me. It sounds weird to say now, but I really regret the fact I never got to tell them.
I think I knew I would be gay from the age of 14 but I wasn't sure. It took me years to figure things out in my head before I could admit to myself that I was. Some people may think that these were wasted years. I'd disagree. These years gave me the time and space to realise who I was. My friends knew I was probably going to come out one day but they gave me that time and space to come to that conclusion. If you don't feel ready to come out to certain people close to you then simply don't. They can wait until you are ready. It has to be your decision.
You have to appreciate that it will be weird for your friends if you come out to them. I had seven years to prepare myself for coming out. My friends had a split second to give me a reaction when I told them. You have to respect that they may need some time to get their heads around what you tell them. Their silence or facial expressions do not mean that they don't approve, it just means that they need time to absorb what you are telling them.
Coming out was a massive part of my life when I was 21. Being gay is a small, but important part of my life, now I am 30.