Coming Out - your stories
Andrew's story, 43, gay man.
"The signs were there from the earliest age.
I was a very camp child, the kind of young person that just had to express myself, whether it was dressing up the dolls, playing with girls or make-up. There really wasn’t any other way I could be and everyone told me I was gay before I even knew it myself, but my first relationship was with a girl.
I even got engaged at 19. Nothing was down to me it was just me going along with everything. I understand how people get into relationships, get married and have kids if someone you like really wants to go down that road, but as a late developer (17 first sexual encounter with a girl, 24 with a boy) I just wasn’t ready for all that stuff.
I remember at the age of 21 going to see a counsellor (because I thought you had to confess that you were gay) and he was brilliant. He told me that it really wasn’t anyone else’s business and I didn’t have to tell anybody anything, only if I wanted to. He reassured me that the people who knew me would probably know already and those who didn’t (if such a person existed) wouldn’t be bothered, and if they were bothered they really weren’t friends I should waste any time on anyway."
Adam, 25, gay man.
"The way I spoke, walked and behaved just seemed natural to me. I’d always been called names ever since primary school. It made me feel upset and isolated from everyone else.
It wasn’t until we were all about 12 that I realised what that difference was. Everyone else started passing notes in class and going on ‘dates’ in the playground but I was left out again.
Being a teenager is hard for most people. But being ginger, camp and having glasses didn’t exactly help matters either!
They say coming out to yourself is the hardest thing but I disagree. When you just know something in your own head I found it easy to just bury the feelings of shame and difference I felt.
It took until I was 16, I went to the cinema with my friend Sophie and we watched a film about a boy who writes an anonymous article in his school magazine about being gay. In the resulting scandal, he outs himself in assembly.
I wish my flair for the dramatic had been as highly developed. In the end I just broke down at the end of the film and my friend guessed. I knew once I’d admitted to one person it wouldn’t take long, and once back at school the next time someone asked if I was gay (as happened quite regularly) I would have to say yes. So I did.
I was really pleased I came out at school. I felt it brought the issue ‘out’ into the open and my headmaster was very supportive. Lots of gay boys and girls who come out or are forced out at school are not as lucky.
I didn’t tell my parents until I was 21. I didn’t want to upset or disappoint them as they’d always been so good to me. But in the end I didn’t have anything to worry about. My then boyfriend was welcome back home at my Dad’s 60th birthday which I will always remember as one of the best days of my life.”
Julie, 42, lesbian woman.
"I had often thought I was 'different' as I was growing up, but being a strict Catholic meant that being gay was not something I could even consider.
So I ignored my feelings and hoped they would go away. Unsurprisingly, they didn't and when I was 22 and travelling in the U.S. I met a woman who dragged me out of the closet and changed my life forever.
It took me about five years to pluck up the courage to tell my parents I was gay and even then, instead of a face to face conversation, I wrote it all down in a letter because I wanted to be able to say everything I needed to.
It took them about two weeks to get in touch following that letter - it seemed like a life time. They asked me to come and visit and sat me down and just said 'We love you. You're our daughter and we just want you to be happy. Are you sure this life will make you happy?'
That was 15 years ago and they have seen how fulfilled and happy my life has been. They have completely accepted how I live my life, are open with people about my sexuality and they absolutely adore my partner."
Chris, 57, gay man.
"My name is Chris and I grew up in north London, I'm 57 years old.
I knew I was gay from about the age of 11 but at that age I couldn't make sense of what I was feeling and thinking and certainly couldn't talk to anyone.
From about the age of 12 I remember experimenting sexually with my best friend, mutual masturbation mostly, but I think I was far more interested in it than he was!
By the time I was 15 I remember feeling puzzled by how all my friends seemed really keen on getting girlfriends. Whilst I liked girls, I was very aware I didn't experience the same drives or urges that most of my friends appeared too. I did have one or two girlfriends and remember whilst at college doing A levels going out with one girl for about a year, but we never had sex as I could never maintain an erection, not surprisingly she dumped me.
In my later teens early 20's I had more girlfriends and this time had sex! I enjoyed my time with girlfriends and enjoyed the sex but still deep down inside I knew I was gay.
In my mid to late 20's I started to have girlfriends and boyfriends which was rather fun, a bit like having your cake and eating it!
I started to tell a few close friends I was bisexual. By my late 20's early 30's I was aware I was having far more sex with men than with women and thought it was time I came out as gay to all my friends.
I was uncertain what response I would get and felt fairly anxious about telling them. Only one person was negative, everyone else told me they had known for years! When I told my mum she simply said, as long as you are happy.
In my mid 30's I settled down with a man and we brought our first flat together. But in London in the mid to late 1980s AIDS started to appear and my partner died in 1989 from AIDS; he was 38.
After this I eventually went through a period of my life where I think I made up for all those lost confused years and was highly promiscuous.
I throughly enjoyed this period of time in my life but after a while I wanted to settle down with someone again. Then in my early 40's, whilst cruising Hampstead Heath in London one sunny afternoon, I met my current partner and we have been together now for over 15 years."
Mark, 27, gay man.
"I was walking into the kitchen when my mum was washing up and told her, she said as long as I am happy she is, and then my mum told the rest of my family. That’s it!"
Kate, 28, lesbian woman.
"I actually started telling people when I was around 15, I remember inviting my friends out one by one for a drink to tell them, and I built it up to be a big revelation in my head. In actual fact, they either knew of weren’t bothered anyway. It’s not like they didn’t acknowledge it, but they just weren’t that surprised! I originally told them I was bi-sexual, which I think a lot of people do at first as a safety net just incase you decided to be straight.
Somewhere along the way I told my siblings, but to be honest the only people who I cared about them knowing was my parents. I promised myself I would tell them when I was in a long term relationship, almost like as soon as I had proof, I would be confirmed as a gay person. Looking back this was silly. It actually took about 10 years to tell them, despite me having relationships, I absolutely could not raise the subject with them. Not because I was scared of them being homophobic, but because I just was not used to speaking to them in that way. Our family would do anything for each other but we don’t really have big heart to hearts.
I eventually told them, not out of my own willingness, but because I found out that my dad was asking my brother about it. I knew he knew so I just had to tell them both to avoid being uncomfortable. I regret it happening like that actually as I think it’s a bit of a wimps way. It was over quite quick and the conversation just went on to something else. They said they had kind of known and that they just wanted me to be happy. I left asking myself why I didn’t tell them all those years ago, but also felt quite liberated.
You do have to come out every day, and sometimes it’s tricky in the workplace, I had a job once where I actually lied about it. My work colleagues thought I was a single straight girl, where in fact I was gay and in a serious relationship at the time. I was there for a year and when I left, I promised myself I would never lie about it again. I think that experience helped me realise how important my sexuality is in every day situations. It’s ridiculous to think I lied about what I did at the weekend because I was scared someone would know I was gay."
Rob, 32, gay man.
"For me coming out was weird because I didn’t think I would ever do it! I had hidden it from my friends, my family, at school, college, university and work for so long that I thought I would never need to come out.
I came out at the moment my world was caving in; I thought I would split up with the love of my life. So there was no preparation, just lots of fear, confusion and worry swirling round in my head.
I blurted it out to my Mother. My Mum cried and hugged me. The overwhelming feeling was the sense of relief. Since then I’ve told lots of my family and friends I am gay and they are all really fine about it."
Sam, 32, gay man.
"I spent a lot of time at school being bullied for being gay when I wasn’t fully aware of it myself, dating girls to try and prove the bullies wrong.
Not taking part in the sports groups so I could spend more time in the drama club and being the only boy in the school dance group, I suppose looking back now it was pretty obvious!
When I did realise I was gay at 18, I decided to tell my family and began with my mum who I told through the bathroom door while she was having a bath, her reply was that she knew and that she loved me no matter what my sexuality was. I was more nervous telling my very straight older brother but yet again he didn’t have a problem with it, though was very quick to bring it up in arguments. My dad on the other hand, I never got chance to tell as we fell out before I had chance to tell him but in our last argument he did call me a shirt lifter so I guess he already knew!
In my first full time job in an office I felt I had to keep my sexuality a secret in order to fit in, after a few weeks of making a best friend I came out to her and she was totally fine about it and she became my confidante. A few months later I wore a spice girls t-shirt on a dress down day and completely outed myself, after that people never asked me if I was gay anymore they just asked if I had a boyfriend and no one had a problem with it. After that I was always more confident about being out in the work place and I’ve never had problems because of it."
Lia, 38, bisexual woman.
"I knew I wasn't hetrosexual as a young girl of 7 years of age. What I found confusing for a long time, was that I found both women and men attractive, with no particular rhyme or reason as to which gender I was likely to prefer.
At 14 I became involved with a girl, and decided to tell my mum, who I had always been close to, about how I was attracted to women as well as men. She seemed very supportive, and just wanted me to be happy.
However, on splitting up with my girlfriend I then dated a guy - which seemed to cement the idea in my mum's head that I was not a lesbian and so must be straight. This pattern continued for years, which meant that I have had to "come out" to my mum on more than one occasion!
The presumption always seemed to be that if I am dating a guy I am suddenly straight, rather than the truth, which is that I am bisexual. This presumption of my sexual orientation being judged on my current partner annoys me greatly; if I choose not to have a partner, then what am I? Invisible?!
Similarly, I have had pressure from lesbian friends that I must be a lesbian if I am dating a woman, and then if I date a guy it must be because it is "easier" or more acceptable.
Quite often, when I have come out to guys, they presume a threesome must be on the agenda, and some have been quite hostile after we have split up if I subsequently date a woman. Being bisexual isn't an "easy choice", because for me, it isn't a choice at all."
Josh, 20, gay man.
"My own coming out story is a little different than normal. I didn’t really come out of the closet, my Mum dragged me out of it. I had woken up after a night out and my Mum spotted a mark on my neck which was a love bite and asked me what it was, and my mind went into overload trying to think of what to say.
I was stuttering trying to buy time to think of a plausible explanation but the game was up when she said she knew what it was, then she asked if it was from a girl or a boy?
I sheepishly said it was from a boy, and she just looked at me, she thought I was just going through a phase, which I guess a lot of parents say when they find out their child is gay.
With me it was hardly a phase; if you looked around my room you could see I was gay, as I have posters of The Spice Girls, Celine Dion, Girls Aloud & Britney Spears plastered all over my bedroom.
My Dad took it fine, he seemed to take it better than my Mum did which surprised me, he said he had always had a feeling with all the stuff I am into which made me laugh.
That happened last July (2008) and since they've found out I was gay it’s lifted a huge weight off me, even though my Mum backed me into a corner with it. I think it was better because I don’t think I would’ve had the courage to sit down with them and tell them I was gay.
I’ve always known I was different even from an early age. When I was 6 years old and the Spice Girls first came out I just became obsessed with them, and wanted to be the sixth girl and would play the Spice Girls with four other girls at break-times and lunchtimes at school.
I would always be Melanie C, but if you asked me now I would have to be Victoria of course. I have had the same level of obsession with Celine Dion and Britney Spears from an early age too.
I first realised I was gay when I was about 14 and I developed a crush on one of the PE teachers at school.
When I was 18 and was hanging around with two straight guys, I tried to deny to myself that I was gay and would try and pretend I was straight, and if you know me then you’ll know how hard that would be, but when an old school friend took me out for the very first time in Manchester's Gay village, it was really liberating not to have to pretend to be something I wasn’t and that night I had my first gay kiss albeit a drunken one.
Since being out for the past year I have learnt a lot, and been through a lot, but wouldn’t have got to the place I am now without my best friend."