Come and relate with me as we look into some tales over the years of gay people coming out and rediscovering a sense of self…
Firstly, you get a call and run across town to your friend’s flat. You knock in agitation and worry.
She keeps her crying muffled, but it shakes the floor when you cross the threshold. You stride into the room and slide to the floor with her.
She cries and you try to string together the story.
Okay, her boyfriend is MIA, but you think to yourself that she is probably 83% in the wrong. But that’s not the right thing to say, so you don’t.
‘But anyway’ she breathes deeply and shudderingly, like a guttered engine on the highway. ‘How’s your love life?’.
It’s a half-joke, but somewhere deep below, you decide that this is The Moment. On reflection, you didn’t really intend to let the words depart your brain into your mouth. But they do.
‘Well most days I’m gay’, I say, utterly without conviction.
What the hell
Why did I say that then, and more importantly and horrendously, why did I phrase it like that? No tone change or indication of its importance.
Other than looking at the floor in confusion, I might as well have discussed the bus schedule home.
An appropriately loaded silence ensues.
The friend struggles to find the right thing to respond with and does a decent job. You sit together with the other housemate and all hate-watch an episode of ‘Riverdale.’
On your walk home, you cringe and breathe a little deeper. A question mark hovers over the night, but it is not addressed until the backend of that term when you all get drunk.
Before that, the only time I had admitted to being gay, a friend thought it was common knowledge and was shocked when I recalled and anecdotal (singular) male conquest in a club. ‘Oh, LOL, I thought you liked girls!’ she exploded.
To this I sort of shrugged and grinned and said, ‘well, yeah’.
Not quite Hollywood
There it was, though. I came out (or really just agreed with her) for the first time in a sticky, leathery café booth in Durham and said those immortal words.
It didn’t matter that I addressed my scone when I said it, the words were out. Great. Sorted.
The fact that she and her friends had a conspiracy theory that I was secretly dating my best friend also helped validate my first experience of being out in the world.
I’ve only seen that girl twice since then, and I sincerely doubt she realizes quite how much of my life she changed on that day.
She saved me from great struggle, debating where I fit in with gay people, moving from the classic ‘bisexual teens’ to an out and proud lesbian, secure in my orientation and gender identity.
From there, I researched a resource center and found a web site that could make me feel at home with other LGBT children and to live healthy lives, supporting each other.
Now, back to the third time, I came out – this was perhaps the most successful, announcing my lesbian relationship while still promoting my usual levels of health and wellbeing. As a consequence, this will be the shortest story.
I was visiting my best, oldest friend from home at her uni and steeled to come out. We went to a pub in November and sat in a courtyard by a fiery furnace, shivering but pretending to be warm in the crisp air.
After breaking the conversation I looked at earthwards and skywards and started to inefficiently approach the topic. Several ‘I have news’s and ‘it’s big but chill’ introductory statements later, I breathed out what I had to say.
She took a beat and smiled
I sat back and let my lungs sustain me for a few minutes while my heart listened to her response.
Then we liked arms and got dumplings and churros because life is hard, but it can be sweet and soft and the right sort of sticky.
I still have my train ticket from that weekend pinned to my noticeboard with a biro heart looped around the date.
It took me a while to be less awkward and embarrassed by the process of being vulnerable to the world.
But god, coming out is worth the messy first drafts.