Hello and welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, the weekly spot on the site where we have a natter about issues, challenges, problems and, well, stuff, that may be affecting you, or people who you know. We deploy a standard disclaimer here: we can’t promise miracles, and not everything we cover will be of interest or use to every person. But hopefully, something will pop up that may be of assistance somewhere along the line
This week, we’re handing over to Daniel Langrish-Beard. And he’s going to talk about sexuality, and coming out. Over to the mighty Daniel…
Coming out is something most LGTB+ people think about doing at one point or another. It can feel like the biggest thing that you’ll ever do. Saying the words “I’m gay” can take weeks, months or even years of deciding if, when, how and where you should do it.
www.Wikihow.com suggests the following coming out technique:
- Make sure you’re comfortable with your sexuality first.
- Consider telling a friend you trust before talking to your family.
- Find the right place and time to say it.
- Write a letter if that seems less intimidating.
- Keep it simple.
- Wait for a reaction.
For me personally it was one of the scariest things that I have ever done. It was a Saturday night in 1996. I had been with my boyfriend for two years. I was alone in my bedroom and just finished reading Boy George’s autobiography Take It Like A Man. As I turned the last page, it suddenly popped into my head, “I’m going to tell mum and dad tonight”. I had told my friend Anne a couple of months after I realised I was gay in 1994 (I think I always knew but it all clicked into place when I met Matthew). She was so nice, accepting and totally made me feel okay about it.
I had no idea how my parents would take the news, however. They liked Matthew – my boyfriend – but of course, to them, he was just a friend of mine. My mother was the one to worry about. In the 80s when Boy George was on top of the pops, she used to comment, “he’s weird”, followed by a tut or a shake of the head. She also didn’t like my friend Michael either. He was very camp so that meant he was weird, apparently.
So here I was in my room, just about to tell my parents the biggest thing I could ever tell anyone, and I had no idea how either of them would take it. I decided to dress up into my smartest clothes. I thought if I did get thrown out of the house then I’m going to look good.
I then sat down in the lounge and waited for the right moment to tell them. I waited and waited. Mum decided to go to bed, so change of plan, I was going to tell just dad.
I decided to go with the ‘let’s get dad to guess to save me telling him’ technique.
“Dad”, I said nervously, “there is something I need to tell you, what do you think it is?”
You’re in debt? You’ve got someone pregnant? These were all suggestions before the question I’d been hoping for… “Are you gay?”. After a very strained conversation about ‘picking a difficult road to travel’ and that the music of Kylie Minogue has confused me, I asked him to tell my mother and then he changed the subject.
My mother took it badly. She cried for a couple of days and told me she never wanted to see my boyfriend again. Eight years later (she can be very stubborn my mother), she finally came around and invited him for dinner. So I think I had quite an easy coming out. Things could have been a lot different.
It’s not the same for everybody of course.
Phillip came out to his mother first
“… my mother told me she had subconsciously always knew, and it wasn’t until about a year later that I told my father (he is an old-school, traditional type of man) in a drunken text message which my boyfriend at the time kindly reminded me of the following morning. Fortunately, a couple of weeks later, once it had sunk in, I received a very supportive phone call from my father and he has been supportive ever since; so much so that he attended me and my husband’s wedding last year which was a momentous day.”
A good friend Stephen decided to do it over the Christmas dinner…
“18 was an important year for me back in 1998; my cousin was gay and I thought ‘I’m no longer wanting to hide who I was and my feelings’. After a family Christmas and New Year, I was at home with family, and after a conversation over the New Year’s Day traditional roast, my father was complaining I was running up the land line bill. I didn’t have my own mobile, so was chatting to the BF, gay friends etc. – which was important as I had left the college people behind me. After a long discussion of ‘Why do you need to be on the phone all the time?’, I got frustrated. My Nan was with us and I thought, ‘she knows her Nephew is gay’ so the time felt right at that moment. I told Dad and co in tears. The feeling of course was scary, though knowing my family I thought that I would be OK, and thankfully I was. In the words of Kylie Minogue, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’.”
Of course it’s not always that smooth, Lewis’s coming out wasn’t all positive…
“I came out to myself at 17, and to my friends and family at 18. Coming out to my father was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I regret how I did it. He was quite cruel to me and I felt rejected when he said we would never speak of it again. However, once I had a long term partner in my 20s, he eventually came to terms with it and we built a new relationship.”
In the UK, gay men and women can get married and LGBT+ people have as much rights as heterosexuals. However, some people still find it tough to deal with their own sexuality. A survey in FS magazine recently found that 24% of gay men admitted to trying to kill themselves, while 54% admitted to having suicidal thoughts. A further 70% said low self-esteem was the main reason for their depression and suicidal thoughts.
You don’t have to face things alone. There are people out there who can help and can listen. For example, in Hampshire there is a group called ‘Breakout Youth’ (http://www.breakoutyouth.org.uk/). They run a youth group for people ages 13 to 21 years old; a place where they can be themselves and also a place to talk about whatever is happening in their lives.
There are many more organisations, people who have been through it all themselves. I have listed a few phone lines and organisations of people who you can talk to.
Please, please, please remember: you are not alone.
- SupportLine Telephone Helpline: 01708 765200 email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Provides emotional support and details of agencies, counsellors, helplines, support groups across the UK.
- Cara-Friend (Area served N.Ireland): 028 9032 2023 gay men, 028 9023 8668 lesbians – Helpline for anyone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual or has concerns about sexual orientation. Counselling, befriending, information, including details of social events and venues in N. Ireland. Face to face befriending and social support groups.
- EACH – Educational Action Challenging Homophobia: 0808 100 0143, www.eachaction.org.uk – Helpline offering support for young people affected by homophobia. Help and support for people concerned about a school pupil or college student affected by homophobia. Supports lesbian and gay young people in challenging homophobic bullying and helps teachers offer support to lesbian and gay pupils.
- FFLAG 0845 652 0311, www.fflag.org.uk – National voluntary organisation which supports lesbians and gay men and their families. Helplines throughout UK and parents groups. Run by parents of gays and lesbians
- LGBT Foundation:0345 330 3030www.lgbt.foundation Wide range of services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) communities.
- LGBT Helpline Scotland:0300 123 2523www.lgbt-helpline-scotland.org.uk/ Open every Tuesday and Wednesday from 12-9pm. Information and emotional support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, friends and supporters across Scotland.
- LGBT Youth Scotland: (Area served Scotland) www.lgbtyouth.org.uk – Helpline and other information, advice and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people under 26. Advice on range of issues including housing. Scotland wide network of events for young people and group leaders.
- PFLAG UK www.pflag.co.uk Support for parents, family, friends of lesbian and gay people in the UK through information, links and resources on their website. PFLAG do not directly provide counselling or Helpline services.
- Switchboard. The LGBT+ Helpline0300 330 0630 www.switchboard.lgbt A one-stop listening service for LGBT+ people on the phone, email and instant messaging service.
Thanks, as always, for reading.