At 23 years of age, I stand as a confident homosexual man in 2016. I am proud of who I am, I am comfortable (for the most part) in my own skin. I have spent the last 23 years learning about myself, who I am, what I stand for, what I believe in and most importantly, the life I surround my existence with.
Growing up, I always knew I was different. I used to play with my next door neighbours Barbie Dolls. I was always Sporty Spice and even had the doll (until one day I threw up on her, and the local toy shop had sold out!). I never took part in football, and I remember my first love was Zac Efron in High School Musical (I know, I know, I promise you my taste in men has improved!).
At 15, I stood a little less tall, with a huge secret weighing down on my shoulders. I thought at the time, that I would be this way forever. That for as long as I lived, I would never be able to be who I truly was. I would only be able to explore within the walls of defence I had built around myself. One night, during an argument, I told my mum and dad that they would never understand. They would never know who I really was, because I was gay. There. I said it. I had come out of the closet. Honestly, it wasn’t as I had planned. What I had planned was a letter, a place to stay whilst they got their head around it..and what had happened was that it had burst out of my mouth as word vomit.
I stormed upstairs and packed my suitcase, I sat on the stairs and cried my eyes out. I was ashamed. I felt like a less worthy child. That my parents, who had spent 15 years raising me, would feel like they had failed at their job. My dad, a very quiet man when it comes to his emotions, sat in silence. My mum, the greatest emotional call I have ever known, welled up. It wasn’t disappointment in my sexuality that had filled her eyes. It wasn’t that she felt she had failed as a mother. It was tears of sadness that I would ever question their reaction. She didn’t scream at me, she didn’t laugh at me, or kick me out onto the streets. No, she held me, she told me that she would forever be happy if she could see me being happy.
I had spent so long tearing myself up inside, scared because of the bullies that I had faced throughout all of my life. Fearing that I would lose the two rocks I called my safe place, I sat on my secret for many years.
My dad was my biggest fear. He grew up in a rough area, and was the typical lad in his younger years, stealing from the corner shop and getting the belt at the hands of his father whenever he stood a toe out of line. As the youngest in his family, he was expected to get out of bed on a cold winters morning and light the fire so that the rest of the house could wake up warm. He once went forward with the plan to get a group tattoo with his friends, but chickened out and now has a dodgy smudge on his arm. He left educations with no qualifications and lived his life the old school way – that he should, as a man, be opposed to deep feelings and anything ‘gay’.
We never got on whilst I was growing up, and upon reflection, I feel like it was because deep down we both knew we would never agree on our ways of life. I would never agree with his stern, old fashioned ways, and he would never, ever sit comfortably knowing that I was in touch with my emotions and lie in a marital bed with a fellow man. But, as my secret came crashing down on our precious home, he sat in silence. He didn’t understand it, and still to this day, he will admit he doesn’t fully get it. But, he was very calm, and very collected as he hugged me, telling me that he loved me, and he would never, ever hate me. He has since told me that, deep down his knee jerk reaction was to protect me. Ever since he has had felt this need to protect me from the harsh realities of being gay. The homophobia, the criticism, the harsh realities of the world that I officially stepped into aged just 15.
For me, one of the greatest moments of my life, that filled me with utmost pride and just generally made me ooze ‘aww-ness’ (is that a real thing?! If not, why!?) was the day me and my boyfriend at the time were going on a journey to Leeds. My mum, dropping us off at the train station, gave me her usual ‘see you in a week’ hug, and then, turned to my boyfriend, and gave him a ‘see you in a week’ hug. That was the moment I knew that my life was okay. That it was okay to be who I was, and for me, it was my green light to live my life proudly, with no holding back, and certainly no shame.
My coming out story is perhaps one of the less dramatic, it is probably one that doesn’t pull at the heart strings of its readers, but I live an average life so what do you expect?! All joking aside, as today is National Coming Out Day, I want to tell you all what I learnt from my story. That when it comes to strutting out of that closet, you should do it with confidence and pride. Don’t do what I did and blurt it out in an argument (although that did go well in hindsight), don’t write yourself off before you have even tried, because the worst part of what I did was that I built it up in my head to be a lot worse. Sure, it’s going to be a big step, and sure it’s going to be the biggest thing you will ever do in life, but it doesn’t have to be a negative.
We are very lucky that we are on the cusp of equality. We have come a long way since the days of my parents childhood, yet we still have so much further to go. A lot of parents these days will admit that they would be okay with their child being gay, mainly because there a lot worse things that a child can be, but mainly because they know it wouldn’t be their choice, it would be just who their child was born to be.
If you don’t know how to do it, then that is okay. Don’t, whatever you do, come out because you feel you have to, or you feel you are being forced to by society. This isn’t a race, you don’t have to cross the finish line until you feel you have enough energy to sprint! Write a letter, send an email, draw a picture, sit your family down or just sing it out like a musical, because to quote GaGa, baby, you were born this way.
As always, my Twitter is open to each and everyone of you, whether you are a man or a woman, aged 16 or 37. If you need to talk, then I am here. @DanCooleDaily