Steve | 43 | Manchester, England | I.T. Systems Manager
Many gay men say they're straight acting. Until I was about 25, I really thought I was straight but just not interested in girls. Looking back, it was more an act of denial so I guess I was straight acting? At secondary school I was teased mercilessly as being the ‘gay boy’ or ‘queer’. It didn't help that I was one of the least sporty boys in the year and that the towels my mother gave me for P.E. were pink or pale orange. It does nothing to help the confidence of a teenage boy at an inner city comprehensive school! I wasn't the only one who was teased though, as a mate of mine was similarly well-spoken, similarly well turned out by his parents and was equally teased. He did turn out straight as his wife will confirm!
As I went through studying for my degree in Mechanical Engineering I was no longer teased (that doesn't happen at Polytechnic (college) well, not to your face anyway) but I started to realise that the girls on the course held no real attraction to me. I looked at some of the guys, but didn't understand what it was. I thought maybe it was more wanting to be like them than actually wanting to be with them or being attracted to them.
Looking back, I'm sure I developed some ‘schoolboy crushes’, but I didn't realise that's what it was at the time. After a post-graduate degree I went to work at a University in the east Midlands where I worked with the first openly gay man I ever met. This was uncomfortable for me and I guess I was more homophobic to him than any of the straight guys in the workplace were.
I can't apologise to him now though as he passed away some years ago. To his memory, I can only say, ‘Sorry Peter’.
"When I was about 30 I tried going into a pub in Soho, London (a traditionally gay area) and felt totally alone and totally at odds with everyone around me. It seemed like an alien environment."
A few months after that I talked to a friend and told her that I thought I might be gay. We talked about it for about an hour then didn't speak about it again until few months later. "So, you like chaps instead of girls", was her reaction. Not quite the reaction I'd expected. I talked to another friend about it and she asked a guy she worked with where the local gay pub was. I walked in there and it just felt like home. I was (and still am) terribly shy so it took someone else to make the move to speak to me rather than me going and speaking to them. A few disastrous nights between the sheets and I was in a position to be able to confirm to myself that I was gay.
I didn't have to face the challenge the of having to Come Out to my parents since my Dad passed away when I was still a boy and my mother and I never saw each other after I had moved away. When I rang my sister to tell her, she said that she'd discussed it with her partner and he'd already guessed I was gay. When I came out to one of my mates he said, "Of course you are!”. I asked him how long he had known and he said that he kind of knew ever since he first met me. Why can't mates that realise we're gay tell us so that it makes life easier?! Just before he moved abroad he thanked me for showing him that gay guys are no different to anybody else and that hey just like different people. I think it was a bit of a shock to him knowing someone who is (now openly) gay.
"I think the real turning point for me came when I moved back up north.
I met a good group of gay mates that I could chat to without need to put
up a front or pretend that I was someone that I wasn’t."
I had already come out to friends and family but it gave me the confidence to be me; a bit like the idea of ‘bringing your whole self to work’. I was able to be the 100% version of me. One other thing has changed too. I used to be able to walk down a street without seeing anyone and without registering that my best mate may be walking towards me. Now my sister tells me off for pointing out all of the cute and attractive guys. I just tell her that I've got a lot of catching up to do with only coming out when I was in my 30s!