Happy National Coming Out Day to anyone and everyone! I didn’t actually know this was a thing until I attended a Coming Out Campaign run by University of Glasgow’s LGBTQ+ Society back on Wednesday 28th September. During this event, we discussed why we have a national coming out day, whether there’s a need for it, and what our opinions of it in general were.
Now, I’m not going to lie, this post has been actually quite difficult for me to write. I’m out to my friends, that’s not a problem at all. I’m out to my sister and four of my cousins. But coming out to family is always going to be a struggle, so I’ll talk a little about that in a while. Another slight struggle when writing this was knowing what to actually include and what not to include. I’ve been very careful to not include names of people when talking about what was said during the talk, I’m trying really hard not to misgender anyone, and, finally, I didn’t want this to be a post that people not of the LGBTQ+ society would just scroll past and completely disregard.
When I sat down to write this post, I actually felt like a ‘proper’ blogger for a few minutes – I was researching, gathering images, videos and the likes, and trying to think about the best way to get my message across to so many of you without offending anyone or making anyone feel uncomfortable.
So, for anyone who doesn’t actually know what coming out is, it’s when one person tells another person their sexual orientation or gender identity – something not a lot of people find themselves having to do on a regular basis. However, those of us who do come out, find ourselves coming out multiple times in our lifetime as we choose to tell different people at different times. There’s no one way to go about it, and how you do it or why can change each and every time. Firstly, I wanted to share this video with you. It’s American, as so many of these things are, but then who else leads with equality and the likes when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights?
Starting out back in October 1987, actually 29 years to the day, around 500,000 marched for LGB Rights in Washington D.C. As a result, a number of LGBTQ+ organisations were founded. Since then, every year there has been a National Coming Out Day and there have been themes to go alongside it, the main aim continues to be to promote a safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly.
During our talk at LGBTQ+ on the 28th, we discussed whether or not there’s still a need for this national day as some people feel there is so much more equality now than there was back when they started celebrating National Coming Out Day. Ironically enough, it was a group of white, heterosexual men who came to this conclusion. We however felt we had to disagree. While there are definitely more rights and there’s more equality compared to back in 1987, there is still so much needing to be done to help people all over the world. Just because the Western World is beginning to become more accepting, doesn’t mean the rest of the world is accepting. Another point raised was that it’s unfortunate that not only do we have to ‘come out’ to people but the fact that it’s considered important enough to have a national day specifically for coming out. Someone reminded us that coming out is something a lot of us feel the need to do as societal norms have everyone just assuming that girl likes boy and boy likes girl is it. End of story. They felt maybe it was time people stopped coming out and focused instead on changing the way people think of relationships and gender in general. However, I personally feel like that would take way too long to even consider right now and so am happy to tell anyone that yes, in the future, I would love to settle down with another female and maybe have some kids. But I’m getting off topic for now, we’ll come back to this in a few minutes.
We discussed the pros and cons of coming out, including some people’s stories on how they came out. Obviously the pros include feeling comfortable in yourself, being able to openly introduce your partner (or lack of) without having to answer all the questions, there’s so much support, and finding more people as like-minded as you. Trust me, I’ve never been so happy to be part of GULGBTQ+ as it means there are so many people I would never have met otherwise. However, we have to consider that it’s not always safe for people to come out. They may be scared of people’s reactions, a lot of people have to worry about how their family are going to react. Even here in the U.K., homophobic hate crimes rose by more than 20% between 2014 and 2015. That’s scary considering our government has apparently got the highest number of ‘out’ MPs in the world. A few people admitted to being told “it’s just a phase”, and the usual comment about bisexual people was referred to as well when I was talking to someone before the quiz – “no one likes both, you’re either gay or straight”. Overall, we all were reminded of the not so positive sides to coming out.
I’d tried for a long time to make sense of things in my own head. The way the girls around me talked about boys, that was how I felt about girls. I can remember reading in a magazine at a young age that those feelings were just ‘friendly crushes’ and they’d go away but they didn’t and for a long time I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt different. I knew I didn’t feel or think the same way as the other girls around me but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I even tried forcing myself to like a boy at one stage – that ended up a mess and only now can I laugh at how stupid I was to even think it would work. It took me a long time to come out to people. I tried at an earlier stage and it wasn’t a good response and so I ignored it and just hid from the truth for a while. Two years later, I was 17 years old and had had one of the worst days in a while at school. I went to an all girls school, and so if anyone wanted to make a comment about how much time one girl was spending with her best friend, the common comment was ‘what are you, a lesbian or something?’ I knew it was just a joke but it was said one too many times to me and eventually I just had to tell someone. So, walking to the train, I ended up breaking down in tears to my sister and telling her on a busy main road as everyone around us headed home from school. Rachel was absolutely fine, she hugged me and told me it didn’t matter who I liked and that it would all be okay, however her instant reaction was ‘You can’t tell Mum and Dad’. We both knew our parents are slightly homophobic, and that’s before you even consider the rest of the family. What else do you expect, growing up in Northern Ireland where it’s still illegal to have an abortion or for two people of the same sex to get married? After that, I started to feel slightly more comfortable telling some people. I’d already worked out who would be okay to tell and who wouldn’t. The girls I got the train with were so supportive and happily helped me through some tough stages, other friends weren’t as accepting, spouting religious verses and the likes.
Coming to university was a wake up call. During fresher’s week, I was scared to be 100% honest as here were people who seemed to like me – I didn’t want to give them a reason not to like me! So when we went to the traffic light party (run by the LGBTQ+ society) I had a bit of a panic. The offered colours were green for single, orange for it’s complicated, red for in a relationship, and purple for LGBTQ+. I desperately wanted that purple paint but was afraid to ask for it and so ended up just asking for a mix of all 4 colours as so many other people were doing. A few nights later, I made friends with someone who was happy to be out, we had the same group of friends, and so I began to consider coming out. The week after fresher’s, I was with Nuala and 2 other friends in a friend’s bedroom and we were all talking away about past relationships and current relationships, and one thing lead to another and I came out to the three of them – cue the common question of “do lesbians really scissor and does it actually feel good?”. Over the next few months, I gradually came out to different people, just depending on the situation and the way conversations were going. One of my favourite times was when Jason and Pablo were in my room and eventually Pablo just said ‘Jason and I have been wondering and there’s no easy way to ask this but are you straight? Cos you’ve been saying things and we don’t know if we’re reading this right’.
This time last year, roughly, I came out to my younger cousin. Wish he’d had the decency to do the same with me, as later in the year he came out to everyone as bisexual simply by putting on Facebook that he was in a relationship with another boy. Ah well, we can’t have everything! When I saw him again at Christmas, I came out to his younger siblings too. I’d previously come out to my older cousin who is closest in age to me, and she told me that she’s bi, and one of my other older cousins is asexual – we’re a great mix, aren’t we? The main problem was when my parents found out.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to be the one to tell them. Rachel was having dinner with them one evening when Mum asked had I a boyfriend yet, and Rachel simply answered no, as she had done so many times in the past. Mum then asked was I even interested in boys, and Rachel was stuck. Neither of us can lie to save our lives, but she didn’t want to drop me in it. So what did she say? She told them I’m bi. Great. Thanks, Rachel. Now I’ve to somehow correct that at some stage. But I got a phone call from Rachel who was apologising over and over. She told me that Mum was crying about how she’d never have any grandchildren and that it wasn’t right and all this other stuff. Dad, however, apparently was fine. I was so scared, knowing I had my usual Saturday morning phone call coming the next day. Mum phoned, and we both tried to avoid the topic. I finally caved and went to talk to her, only to be told she didn’t want to discuss it. Her words were something to the effect of she didn’t want to know, I wasn’t to talk to her about any of that ‘stuff’ and she was going to pretend she didn’t know. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t hurt, but at the same time it was better than I had expected. So now, we have a kind of unspoken rule that neither of us will talk about it. If I tell her I’m out on a Wednesday night and she asks what I’m doing, I try and remember to lie to her (sorry) and don’t tell her I’m at LGBTQ+, it’s easier than having another argument. Hopefully some day I’ll be able to talk to her about that aspect of my life, as it is sometimes a struggle not being able to talk to my mum about the people I like, or ask for advice on what to wear for a date, or even just tell her about the amazing people I meet each week.
Back in March (or was it May?) I wrote here about the upcoming Farewell Dinner with LGBTQ+. I told Mum it was a night out with the Disney society, and she was fine. Until I wrote about it on my blog, and created a Facebook page for my blog. Then family saw it. I got a phone call from Mum within an hour of it going up telling me that certain family members had been reading my posts and were asking her questions. I was told in no uncertain terms to take my blog off Facebook and not let family see ‘that horrible stuff’ I was involved in. Then, a few weeks ago, I linked my blog to my instagram account. Again, I forgot family were on there, and I was once again asked to take it down.
So to end this post, and I’m sorry for the length of it, I never intended it to be this long, I just wanted to remind you all, everyone has a hard time trying to figure out who they are. Some of us have the added stress of whether or not we’ll be accepted for liking who we like. After the incidents with Mum, I came to the conclusion that it shouldn’t matter to her or anyone else, but I understand that it’s not easy for everyone. So yes. Sorry for my long, rambling post, hopefully you’ve learnt something, and you don’t hate me! Just to finish, I’ve included a video that we watched on the 28th. Give it a watch and let me know your thoughts.