Paul | 41 | West Country, England | Civil Servant
After reading some of the amazing stories on this website I was inspired to share my experiences of coming out. If it helps just a few people to come to terms with who they really are and realise that they are not alone, then it is worth every second of me secretly typing up my story at work when I am supposed to be updating spread sheets! Here goes…..
My upbringing was idyllic. I lived with two loving and supportive parents and a twin sister who I saw more as a close friend. I was raised on the edge of the Cotswolds and Vale of Evesham and attended a rural school. Everyone knew everyone else.
"I knew that I was ‘different’ when I was at primary school, I didn’t know why but I just knew. I had a few friends but there was always something stopping me from really trying to mix with other pupils."
I didn’t like football much! I moved on to secondary school, pretty sure that I may be gay but that I would surely grow out of it. I was tall and quite sporty so no one would even have considered that I was gay. I went out with girls (for very short time periods just to keep peoples gossip at bay!) and seemed to be like everyone else in my school year – ‘normal’.
By the time I finished ‘A’ levels I knew that I was gay. Until that point I really thought that I could hide it from everyone for the rest of my life. I was so unhappy. I’d had a eureka moment watching the film ‘Maurice’ in secret in my bedroom – there was no ‘phase’ to finish! All my peers were going out, having sexual experiences and generally enjoying themselves. I was always social, but I was the one who always seemed to be the joker – and usually went home alone or ran a mile if a girl paid me any attention. I quickly realised that it was not only unfair on me to lie like this, but that it was also unfair to the girl that I was lying to. I made a resolution to myself to stop and to accept that I would probably be alone for a while
"There was no way that I could come out to my family at that time. I was taking a year out before university and was still at home. My parents are great but they seemed very narrow minded and I wondered if they could accept who I really was."
I didn’t know any other gay people (except the lovely camp chemist down the road!) They would be more worried about what the rest of the village would think……. (I happen to know now that I wasn’t the “Only gay in the village”!)
After another enjoyable summer of parties and socialising with friends in my nineteenth year (working in really dull jobs to earn cash), I started at university. SCARY! I knew from the first day at campus that it was going to be great. In my first lecture I noticed a gorgeous looking man by the notice boards. Suddenly my heart was racing and I couldn’t think straight (no pun intended!) To my horror/ joy he walked over to me and asked what course I was on. I could hardly speak and I honestly thought that I was going to be sick. We walked into the lecture theatre together and I sat there, pretending to listen to the lecturer not knowing what was happening to me! As I walked back home afterwards I wanted to cry. Would I see him again? I was so confused. Was he just being friendly because he was new too? I resolved to be friendly next time I saw him.
It didn’t take long. That weekend we were all out in town. A group of us hit it off and became good friends. We all eventually moved into a shared house and enjoyed being students. I did keep wondering if there was more to this new friend that just friendship though. He seemed very Bohemian and was always keen to do wild things like drive down to Glastonbury and watch the sunset from the top of the Tor (how bloody romantic – it didn’t even register at the time with me!).
University ended and my world seemed to stop dead in it tracks. We kept in contact as we lived fairly close. Within a year we had both got jobs back in the area where we had been to university. We decided to share a flat. This was the late nineties. We lived as ‘friends’ for a bit until an eventful trip to Edinburgh for a weekend with some other friends. I had shared a twin room with my ‘flat mate’ and just wanted to tell him how I felt. I was getting mixed signals from him and was in a real state of confusion. We had driven up separately to our friends so I decided that I would tell him how I felt on the way home in the privacy of his car (this still makes my heart race thinking about it now!)
"As we left Edinburgh I just told my friend that I thought that I was gay. He started saying “oh no, oh no!” I thought the worst and expected to be chucked out of his car."
He then said that he was gay too but didn’t want it to look like he was copying me! We talked all the way home (about five hours) about how we truly felt. All the time at university became clear and it was like a massive jigsaw falling into place. That’s when he told me that he loved me and wanted to be with me. I cried with relief as I felt the same way. From that point onwards we lived together as a couple but told no one else. Another holiday passed with friends the following summer which ended with a big fall out with some of our other friends. I decided on the journey back that I was fed up with always thinking about everyone else and that I needed to think about my happiness and tell my family that I was gay and living with an amazing man (who they already knew really well – and liked).
I was a coward and wrote a letter to my parents. I just couldn’t imagine telling them face to face. As I posted the letter in Glastonbury I just felt relief. I awaited my parent’s reaction on Monday morning with dread. The phone rang, my stomach sank – but I was ready. It was sister shrieking and asking what I was playing at. She said that my Mother has broken down and that dad had been called back from work. I explained my feelings and said that I could not have had a happier childhood and that this was nothing to do with them as parents. They were shocked to the core and said that they had absolutely no idea that I was gay (I’m 6’ 4” and not at all camp). They said that they needed time. Months passed with awkward irregular phone calls and a very uncomfortable Christmas lunch (without boyfriend).
I began popping home for tea once a week in a bid to try and keep things ‘normal’. It all came to a head one tea time when I was phoned by my mother at work and told not to come home that evening as my father was still having trouble coming to terms with everything. I was furious (it had been 6 months). I drove back to my parents to find my dad sat reading with no clue as to what I was ranting to him about. My mother walked in and knew that she’d been rumbled. I went mad and told them that this was not something that I could change and that if they wanted to still see me then they would just have to get over it. I had never spoken so frankly before and it was so liberating.
After that it was as if a switch had flicked. My parents and sister slowly became part of my life again. We now go on trips and holidays together and my partner and I are godparents to my sister’s children (who I love so much!).
"My parents can see that I am happy and love my civil partner so much. It’s been really hard journey, but all has come good in the end."
For any one (of any age) who is reading this and thinking that “I’m different” or that “my circumstances are unique”; don’t! Life is too short and love is all that matters. My partner and I are so happy and have been together for nearly 14 years. We are like an old married couple and find ourselves even now laughing at how domestic we have both become as we discuss wallpaper and shopping lists like any other couple; quite a change from the arty students that we tried to be as ‘friends’ back in the nineties!