For me coming out happened in stages. I spent a long time floundering in the depths of denial because of the expectations I was brought up with, and the initial reception I got from close friends when I came out to them at school. It’s taken me a long time to get to grip with who I am and what being gay means to me, not to anyone else.
I first came out when I was 14 to two of my good friends. Neither of them were homophobic – indeed, it was considered ‘cool’ at my secondary school to be bisexual and to have had a lesbian experience – but they both reacted to my coming out in very different ways. One friend was absolutely fine, said that she’d suspected for some time and had been waiting for me to tell her. The other completely rejected me: she told me I couldn’t possible be gay, I was too ‘straight’ and only wanted to be ‘cool’. At 14 I had thought myself in love with her and her outright rejection of the fact I fancied women, even before I told her how I felt towards her, shattered my already fragile idea of self. I was incredibly hurt and confused, and that led to denying I even found anyone attractive for years.
Things changed when I went to university and met people who knew nothing about me. I was able to build my life and identity for the first time, instead of being bound by what others wanted me to be. I had my first relationship and there it didn’t feel so much like coming out, as just being free to be myself. It was like living in a bubble, one that popped every time I had to go home for the holidays.
Coming out to my family was hard. There were tears, shouting, silence, questions, and finally a kind of grudging acceptance. Even now, and I’ve been out for 6 years, I still feel that they expect my ‘phase’ (their words, not mine) to come to end and that I will settle down with a nice man and have two children. In my extended family, I have two gay (male) cousins. We have talked about our experiences of coming out in quite a traditional, conservative family. None of us found it easy, but they say they didn’t feel the same pressure to have a family and conform to the familial ideal as I did.
I don’t think you ever stop coming out. There is always someone, somewhere who doesn’t know, or hasn’t got it, or you have to explain things to. The responses I get now generally fall into two categories. Either it’s ‘Of course you’re a lesbian, it’s obvious’ or ‘Really?! I’d never have guess, you look straight.’ I tend to get the latter more than the former, and it’s infuriating. I didn’t realise that when I identified as a gay woman I had to start looking a certain way, acting and talking in a certain manner, and change the way I dressed! It doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of the word ‘lesbian’ so I will always refer to myself as being gay or queer, which confuses people. I think people have a stereotypical idea of what a lesbian is, and when I don’t match up they assume that I can’t be gay.
I’m out in every area of my life now. It’s not a big deal for me anymore, and only become difficult when other people make it difficult. Coming out to myself, completely and honestly, was the best thing I ever did. Coming out to other people was like taking off a pair of jeans that were the wrong shape and two sizes too small. Once I’d done both, I could be me, absolutely
Thank you Jay #Happyout
If you have a question for Jay you can tweet her @MedievalMmeMim
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