In the fifth instalment of our series on ‘coming out stories’, we caught up with one of the Nonchalant contributors. Asking what it was like for them growing up questioning their sexuality and how they ‘came out.’
My first love
My first love was Jojo. No doubt about it, looking back. Get Out (Leave) had just been released after my eighth birthday and it trickled into the radio playing in my bedroom of that summer incessantly, along with Trick Me by Kelis. I didn’t think much of it until I saw Jojo’s music video on Smash Hits. Something about Jojo in the red and white cheerleader top turned my world on its head. Before that, all I ever listened to was my ripped Mcfly tape (yes, cassette tape) which possibly never got played again.
I had a dream that I was in the music video as Jojo’s love interest… I don’t think I had much concept of what being gay was aged eight but I felt very, very strange for the months following, like a peculiar curiosity I couldn’t tell anyone about because I knew something about it seemed ‘wrong’. So I didn’t do anything with the information, but I remember becoming besotted by literally any girl who was older than me or who would boss me around; a dangerous mix that led me to fancying most teachers, unsurprisingly.
Every film or music video I watched, I constantly envied the male love interest, or desired to be in their shoes. I had another dream of being the Romeo character in Taylor Swift’s Love Story music video, and yet was still getting upset about boys at school not talking to me on MSN.
There is so much I could talk about that happened in the next few years, both that are to the knowledge of people in my life and in secret, but some things we have to keep for ourselves, out of self-preservation and protecting other people.
Ignoring the feels
Generally, on the outside I was trying to be a model child, trying to never do anything wrong. Meanwhile, there was an entire private world happening inside of me. I became a workaholic with a very busy schedule of just about every sport or extracurricular activity I could do so as not to be left alone with my mind. I wanted to be the best I could be so I could get out of school and run off to a big city away from just about everything and then decide who I was. I naturally became a very anxious, mixed up person but I never wanted anyone to see that. I was a very smiley person which worked in my favour, for a while. It was when I’d come back to the safety of my bedroom after school and close the door. Then I found Fleetwood Mac and Katy Perry.
Around thirteen, I was spending a lot of time with a friend who I thought liked me, and then she got a boyfriend, so I did too. This pattern continued for a while. At this point I still refused to even think about the possibility of being gay. I had completely blocked it out of my mind. I spent a lot of time with boys. In primary school I was the only girl on the football team until it was no longer allowed to have mixed teams. I grew up with an older brother and lots of guy friends, and always had boyfriends. Having boyfriends felt quite easy to me, perhaps because there was some kind of ceiling on my feelings. I could be very logical about it without realising. Then I developed an awful habit of really liking guys who were unavailable or gay, perhaps subconsciously so I didn’t have to act on it. Convenient much?
I fancied every girl I met, on sports camps, holidays, you name it. If I sat next to a girl on the coach on a school trip I probably fancied her by the end of it. Constantly fancied best friends, getting jealous of their boyfriends, but still didn’t even entertain the idea I could be gay. Any English lesson that involved creative writing, I gravitated towards writing about female love interests from a guy’s perspective. One time I read one aloud to my English class and panicked when I finished because I was worried it was glaringly obvious, but it worked. (My English teacher did later buy me a Sarah Waters book when I left school so perhaps it wasn’t so discrete.)
Katy Perry obsession
I had boyfriends on and off for a while but I knew something about it didn’t fit with me. I was terrified of what that meant. Meanwhile, I had launched into the biggest fangirl phase for Katy Perry, through which, thanks to the internet, I met all these people with who I would go to Katy Perry concerts all over the country or talk to online. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these people were the first people I met who were gay, bi, queer, genderqueer people. It was a whole other world I could escape to. I still didn’t come out though.
Meanwhile, in real life, I went to my first house party and saw the friend I fancied at the time kiss one of our guy friends. I was so upset that when I got home that night, I genuinely tried to pray the gay away.
I came out to my mum the day after I found out I was going to be Head Girl of my school, which gave me the biggest panic attack in the privacy of my own bedroom. By wanting to try to do everything right so as not to draw attention to myself, I had now been labelled with the nickname ‘Golden Girl’ and ‘Lisa Simpson’. I felt lucky that that was my school experience when it could have been so much worse, but now I felt completely trapped. I was living a double life and felt very miserable on the inside. Dealing with compulsive heterosexuality, pressure to not fail, pressure to be private about my life while also trying not to block out my friends completely, trying to balance everything just the right amount so that my mental health wouldn’t explode or worse, out myself, particularly at a time where the word ‘lesbian’ at school sounded like a monstrous, offensive slur. I didn’t want to drink on nights out in case I would come out to someone or try to kiss one of my friends. I remember being on a night out at Ramshackle in Bristol aged 18 with my friends and all these beautiful tattooed girls were around me and all I could think about was how much I wanted to kiss someone. So instead I went home.
By this point my room was covered in posters of Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Blondie and Stevie Nicks. I think for a fleeting moment there was a Rolling Stone poster of a young Zac Efron and a concert poster of Enrique up there, both of whom I still have a soft spot for.
Coming out to Mum
When I came out to my mum it didn’t go as planned. I had spent a year trying to figure out how to tell her. I couldn’t decide if it would be a letter, or if I could just have the nerve to sit her down. One day I made her a cup of tea and asked her to sit in the garden with me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It came out of my mouth in such a sobbing stumble and I saw the smile on her face drop. It was all wrong.
A year later I came back from uni and told her again and her reaction wasn’t good, and it broke my heart, so I didn’t come home for a little while. I’m sharing this because it does have a happy ending. My mum and I had our difficulties but now we’re closer than ever and she makes me feel completely loved and supported that it’s hard to imagine there was ever a time that we had to work at it. I hope this is helpful to people who are afraid of coming out to their parents. They can surprise you, and some people take longer to come around, but do hold out. If it doesn’t work out that way then be gracious, but go live your truth.
I got my A levels and bid farewell to my hometown and ran away to London for university like I planned. I came out to my friend on the bathroom floor of a nightclub after more pretending I was straight and then it was official; this time there would be no going back in the closet.
Coming out to Dad
Dad was the one I was afraid of telling. A year later we were at a Millwall football game, the most toxic male environment I could have chosen. We had a pint outside the ground and I was shaking with nerves. I don’t know why that day chose itself, I think he asked reluctantly if I had a boyfriend and I thought, maybe this is something I can share now. So I said something like, ‘I only date girls’. I waited for a moment as I felt myself start to cry, but he pulled me into a hug and said, ‘Thank God for that, I thought you were about to tell me you were pregnant!’ He said he was really happy and proud of me, and then we finished our pints, ate a Yorkie chocolate bar at half time and enjoyed the game, feeling closer than ever.
I struggled quite a lot in the next few years trying to find my feet in dating women, basically feeling like I’d turned fourteen all over again. I think if you’re gay you have your actual age and then your gay age in dating. I learned so much in my first experiences of dating women and being in real reciprocated love for the first time that dating boys had never taught me. It was completely different. Falling in love with women made me understand why those feelings can make people feel a bit mad.
I’m now 25 and feel like the gayest person I know. It hasn’t been a smooth ride but I am now living a life that fourteen-year-old me could only have dreamed of; a life in London with a gorgeous girlfriend, wonderful friends and a family who supports me. I wear it on my sleeve to make sure anyone who doesn’t like it can leave straight away and save me the time. Luckily, most people are pretty nice these days. Now it’s my favourite thing about me. I’ve been out for six years, I am constantly still having to come out to people, and coming out in new jobs is still a very scary concept for me. You couldn’t pay me to redo school, but every now and then I wish I’d bitten the bullet and come out in school, to tell all the girls I fancied (respectfully) how great they were or to be the first out-lesbian Head Girl at my school, an opportunity missed.
If you are struggling and need some support please reach out, below are a list of helplines and websites you can visit;
Stonewall – you can visit their website or call on FREEPHONE 0800 0502020, lines are open 9:30-4:30.
Switchboard LGBT + Helpline – 0300 330 0630 lines open 10-10 daily.
The Mix – call their helpline on 0808 808 4994.