Growing up Gay in quite a small town like Pickering was never easy and brought with it it’s difficulties as I tried to navigate my way through my teenage years whilst working out who I was.
It probably was not until around year 9/10 (14/15 years old) of secondary school that I had started to have these feelings. It confused me to start with, at school there was no education or awareness around LGBT+ nor did I really see anything through the media be it TV or magazines. So initially, the easiest thing to do was hide these feelings and thoughts. I say easy, it was unbelievably difficult and the opposite of living a happy life. Another thing that made this so difficult was I didn’t know anyone else that was gay, no role models to look up to and life at school wasn’t always easy.
I went through my GCSE years hiding my sexuality from everyone. I used to cover it up by choosing girls I “fancied”. Rachel from S Club 7 was always a go to. It got to the point where I would investigate ways of not being gay, to turn myself straight. Well, I can see now that was stupid but then when it seemed so unusual, weird, not normal to be gay it seemed like a good idea.
During my two years in sixth form, I had a close group of friends. It was becoming increasingly obvious I was getting very bad at keeping this hidden. Maybe the weight of it was just getting too much. It got to the point where they just asked me out right one day. I replied sharply with a firm ‘no’. Maybe it was still easy for me to lie about this.
Time went on and we left 6th form and most of us took a year out before University. It was that year out that I would finally fully accept myself for who I was. The true me. We had all got jobs at a local country pub and one night after work we had a few drinks. This then led to the question being asked again and I finally said yes, yes, I am. It was a relief I had finally told someone. My small group of friends of course were very happy for me, however, the conversation soon turned to ‘What about your family?’ I again slipped back into denial and I guess stalling for time. Coming out to my friends was one thing but my entire family was a whole different kettle of fish. I promised them not to say anything and I committed to coming out to my parents a week before heading to University in Sheffield. This was still a good 3-4 months away.
It was 2 weeks before I left my family home and moved down to Sheffield and up until now, I had forgotten all about coming out to my family and just enjoyed the summer. But the realisation of coming out had soon crept back into my head. I knew that the time was right, and it was very much a now or never moment. I had convinced myself that by coming out a week before University, if things went badly, I was escaping anyway. My friends gave me lots of advice and basically pepped me up the week leading to it.
It was a Saturday, one week before I was heading to Sheffield Hallam University. I had my coming out plan ready and now it was time to see it through. But before that, a couple of drinks. I guess you can call it Dutch courage. Once that was done, before I knew it, I was back home, and the moment was here. I decided that my dad would maybe struggle with it and my mum would be fine. So, I took my mum upstairs and said “Mum, I’m gay” for some unbeknown reason I fell flat onto my face on the bed. Maybe I didn’t want to see her reaction. My mum sadly didn’t react well which wasn’t what I was expecting, it was not how I thought it was going to play out. I went downstairs and my brother shook my hand and told me he was proud of me and my dad just said “Well, that’s a bombshell” and carried on watching, I think Top Gear. Knowing my dad that is basically him being cool with everything. I went outside to get some fresh air then did the most dramatic and ridiculous diva moment I could. Stormed upstairs grabbed my suitcase and said I was leaving. I got as far as the drive and realised I had dragged out an empty suitcase. Not ideal. I went back in and my mum was just silent, and I just went to my room.
The week leading up to my leaving for University was awkward at times and quite silent. But I felt a massive weight had lifted off my shoulders and felt extremely proud of myself. One day before I left my mum spoke to me in private and said she was very proud of me for going to University and to have a fun and safe time. That wasn’t necessarily her accepting everything, but it was a step in the right direction.
As time went on things became great. My mum fully accepted me for who I truly was, and my family were great about everything. My mum got to the point where she turned a bit embarrassing. We might have been in a restaurant and she would lean over and say “James, Is that waiter your type?” But one of the most touching moments was when my mum and I went to see Love Simon in the cinema. At the end of the film she grabbed my hand, looked at me tearily and said “I am so proud of you. You deserve to be happy. I love you”
This National Coming Out day if you are ready. Come out confidently, come out proud, come out with no apologies. Be who you truly are. Be happy, Be your authentic self.
Whether you're lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, be proud of who you are and your support for LGBTQ equality this Coming Out Day!
Every year on National Coming Out Day, we celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ.) This year, we will mark the 32nd anniversary of National Coming Out Day! – HRC.org