I’ve got a real treat for you today, a guest blog from my friend Sam! As part of our #YouAreYou campign, Sam agreed to share his story of coming out at the age of 27. Having read through this multiple times now I think it’s one of the most well written, honest and straight from the heart pieces I’ve seen in a long time, if you relate to Sam’s story, please consider sharing and using the hashtag ‘YouAreYou’ when you do!
There is a time that is right for everybody to come out, and it’s something that you have to do when you feel most comfortable to broach that sometimes not-so-easy conversation with your friends and family. But furthermore, you have to accept yourself first.
I had known for a few years that I was gay, notably more attracted to boys than I was to girls. In my younger years, growing up as a teenager and even into my early twenties, I’d brush my thoughts and feelings under the carpet, because (and it sounds silly now, but) I didn’t want to believe it was happening. You could say I was in denial.
In school, and growing up, I was never really educated about same-sex relationships and due to that, there was a stigma attached to words such as “gay”, “lesbian”, “bi-sexual”, “transgender”, amongst others which I guess made it challenging for people to be open about who they were and for others to be accepting and understanding. Whilst its been over eleven years since I sat my GCSE exams, and I am sure that attitudes have certainly started to change, I do not think society is quite there yet.
There’d be the typical occasions where my fellow classmates would say “she looks nice” (in reference to a girl), and whilst I’d think maybe, yes, she does… I never really had feelings for somebody of the opposite sex. Having said that, when I was 21, I was asked out by a girl, who I dated for a short period. The relationship didn’t last, partly because we were both unsure what we wanted from it, but looking back now, I realise there was more to it than that.
Years passed with me finding no love interest. One of my elderly neighbours would often ask me if I was “courting yet”, in the hope that I’d give her some good news, but it never materialised. Mum would often try and find me girlfriends, and apparently tried to set me up an online dating profile. I tried it myself, with apps such as Tinder, PlentyOfFish and Match, hoping I’d… well, y’know, meet my match. But I always find it’s better to meet people in person in an environment where you both share mutual interests, which brings me on to how I met my boyfriend.
In 2016, whilst at a hospital radio conference, I met a guy who at the time I did not know would become my boyfriend 18 months later. Shortly after my twenty-sixth birthday, one of my best friends came out. It transpired that we had both been going through the same thought processes and feelings. He did it via Snapchat, so as to have no conversation papertrail with the uncertainty of how his contacts may react. But nonetheless, he did it and it made me feel proud to see him happy and comfortable.
Not long after he came out, and not wanting to gate-crash his news, I waited and waited until Christmas 2016, when I told him I was gay, too, along with a couple of other really close friends who I trust. Thankfully they were really supporting of me and helped me through what would be a struggling few months.
I decided not to tell my family, or anybody else of my thoughts or feelings due to fear of rejection, anger, and also embarrassment that I had not expressed my sexuality sooner. These were all concerns that passed through my mind, and I figured I could handle it better alone. How wrong I was.
In March 2017, I attended my third hospital radio conference in Bolton, and met that guy (who I will now refer to as Dan), and we seemed to get on remarkably well. Dan was 21, but there was a spark, chemistry and excellent (though maybe slightly drunken) conversation. After the Conference, Dan and I began chatting on Messenger, and soon we were talking every day. We later agreed to meet in Oxford, as Dan had never visited the city before and we could be independent.
The first date went so well, that we ended up chatting for hours on end, so much that I missed my last bus back to my Park&Ride to fetch my car. For the first time I had kissed another boy, and I felt this wave of overwhelming relief and happiness. We began dating and then seeing each other on a weekly basis, and he then surprised me and took me out for my 27th birthday. We ended up in The Yard, a well-renowned LGBT friendly bar in Coventry, where we had slightly too much to drink, and caused a bit of a scene with glasses falling over and smashing to the floor (SORRY!).
Soon, Christmas came around again, and my family had began to notice something was amiss. Dan had bought me a Paddington Bear cuddly toy (which now sits proudly on my bed) and my mum kept on asking me where it had come from. Paddington Bear 2 was the first film that Dan and I went to see at the cinema together. I was the one who was sobbing at the end, naturally.
Despite my efforts and wanting to tell my mum, I couldn’t bring myself to; Until New Years Eve. My mum and I were sat in the front room, watching television. She questioned me on the Paddington Bear again, and asked me who the girl was. I replied “there isn’t a girl”, clutching onto the lid from the Quality Street tin. Eventually the penny dropped and she realised that I was hiding something. She then asked “Well, if it isn’t a girl, is it a guy?”. Holding up the Quality Street tin lid, I squealed “Yes”, then came the typical questions, tears, and surprise.
From that moment I knew I had the full support of my family, I was so relieved, thrilled and finally able to relax. Dan and I have never really received any negative comments and are often told how happy we make other people feel when we are together. I have since become a member of Dan’s family, similarly to how he has become a member of mine. We see each other weekly, go out in public & even better is that most of our friendship circles have merged.
My only real regret is not having the courage, emotional support or confidence to talk to my parents sooner about how I was truly feeling. I firmly believe that armed with the right tools, I would have been able to come out sooner. Education is also to blame, however. With individuals in society and indeed religion preaching that homosexuality is wrong, a sin or otherwise, and the stigma associated in the school playground.
One of the other people I spoke to was the founder of this website, Jacob Edward. Jacob presented a radio programme on the same station as me, and I actually found myself talking to Jacob about my own issues with my sexuality. Sometimes it is often easier describing your emotions to someone who doesn’t know you in person, and I owe part of my coming out story to Jacob for helping me.
I read a book by a Youtuber who I discovered, Lucy Sutcliffe, who now lives in Arizona, but is originally from Oxford. Her autobiography, Girl Hearts Girl described her experiences meeting a girl from the other side of the pond, and her emotional experiences, growing up and the struggle to break the news to her family, and feelings which I could relate to.
The book really inspired me to confront who I was and I stayed awake a whole night to finish reading it. By the end I have to say there were tears in my eyes. I would strongly recommend this book to anybody who is going through that stage of coming out.
Sexuality is not something you ever have a personal choice over. It is part of who you are, deep within your persona. Whilst you can brush off those feelings initially, you will find that the older you get, the harder it becomes, particularly in telling your immediate family and relatives.
Why did I come out at 27? The truthful, honest answer is, looking back, I do not know. I guess it was because I was backed into a corner where I had no choice but to open up and be honest. It was a huge weight off my chest, no longer having to bottle it up, or fight those demons on the inside and being able to have those conversations with my family. Therefore I would encourage anybody going through the same thought trains as myself to talk to someone. Whether this is a friend, a relative or even online through forums and websites.
We all wish we could turn back time and change what we have done or how we have done something. But sadly, life is not like your average Word Document, and you cannot press CTRL+Z or Edit, Undo when you want to go back a step and pretend it didn’t happen or change how it did.
No matter your age, background, religious beliefs or otherwise, you should feel comfortable and confident to come out when you feel it is right. Do not let anybody else try to force you to do so, or do it on your behalf, unless you are truly happy to let them. If you have no-one you feel you can talk to, there are charities out there such as Stonewall, who have volunteers and realms of information and tools to support you.
Fundamentally, as long as everybody in this world is happy with who they are, and can have the freedom of expression to be who they want to be, showering this world with love, who is anybody else to judge?
If you want to share your experiences or can relate to my story, or even want some friendly advice, feel free to comment or contact me privately by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Jacob isn’t responsible for anything Sam says if you email him! (Sam is his own person)