The Sochi Winter Olympics is over. The closing ceremony was last night, and now attention is turning to Rio and Pyeongchang. The Winter Paralympics, starting on 7th March, are still to come, but sadly they don’t command global media attention on quite the same scale. So this seems like the perfect time to assess whether Sochi was a success from an LGBT rights perspective. Did the world make the right choice by going to Sochi?
Hello everybody, and happy National Coming Out Day! We're hosting loads of events today, which you can find out about here. Earlier this week though, we asked you to send in your coming-out stories, or any thoughts or feelings you may have about the subject matter. Here are the stories you sent in!
Don't forget that if you want someone to talk to about coming out or anything else, you can contact our welfare representatives at any time.
I came out when I was at College. I didn't realise I was gay until I met who was to be my first girlfriend. It was a really confusing time, I'd just assumed I was straight and hadn't met anyone I was attracted to yet but I had developed these feelings for another girl.
I was really worried about coming out to my family as I didn't know how they would react to it, they knew about my girlfriend as we were friends before our relationship developed and she spent a lot of time at my house. My Mum eventually found out when she walked in on us, it was absolutely the worst way I could have come out!
Looking back on things, I really wish I could have told my family sooner. There were a lot of tears and shouting but I think my parents would have been a lot more supportive and accepting if I had told them sooner.
I'm now in a long-term relationship which my whole family know about and it feels so good to be able to talk to my grandparents about my girlfriend and not have to dodge awkward questions.
How I first left the closet.
At a house party, following a successful production of an AS level drama play, the subject of sexuality came up and a friend of mine came out to everyone. When asked ‘what about you?’ I mumbled ‘I’m not sure’ which at the time felt true. An hour later, my classmates initiated a game of truth or dare and I decided that for my truth I would tell them about fancying one of the girls in the other drama group. In fact, the bottle never landed on me, but I had geared up the courage (Dutch or otherwise) so I told people anyway. My friends were unsurprised. Apparently they had known before I did!
How I came out to my Mum.
As a 17 year old, coming out seemed to me like this hugely important thing to do. One morning I got up early, went into my Mum’s room, and very dramatically told her that she “might never have a son-in-law but might maybe have a daughter-in-law one day” and that “I don’t care if my hair looks ‘Lesbian’”. Now, aged 20, I completely disagree with the concepts of Marriage and stereotypical appearances being the most important features of a coming out story but at the time they did the trick! I remember being slightly disappointed that the conversation was so ordinary (I don’t know what I was expecting, rainbow confetti?) but have since realised that coming out is not such a big deal and that I needn’t have treated it with so much reverence.
How I came out to my Dad.
My Dad and I rarely have talks, certainly not about relationshippy stuff, so needless to say when I got up early one day to say ‘Dad, I’m Gay/Queer/Not Straight..’ or whatever I had planned, that did not happen. Instead I ate my cereal and was ready for school earlier than usual. The next week, I wrote “Birmingham Gay Pride” on my calendar and left it by the family computer. This method was far easier on us both and Dad caught up by speaking to Mum. Dad let me know everything was all cool a while later with a rare hug at the top of a mountain.
How I came out at university.
Coming out to people I’d never known before was far easier than people who I’d grown up with. Shamefully, I ‘Dyked-up’; shirt, waistcoat, spikey hair, so that my flatmates would be less surprised by any declaration of queerness. My awesome flatmate’s gaydar was up to scratch; she namedropped her ‘ex-girlfriend’ first and, at a suitable point in conversation, I followed suit. I’m sure the rest of the flat twigged when we announced we were off the LGBT bar crawl.
Is it easier to look stereotypically LGBT when wanting to be out?
I know this is a controversial topic, as stereotypes usually are, especially when it comes to oppressed minorities.
However, this is something I question frequently. In my experience, I have often had a surprised response from people when I tell them that I'm queer/LGBT/not-straight. This has led me to think, 'when I'm walking down the street, how many people who notice me think that I'm queer?'
I sometimes wonder if those who are LGBT and look 'the part' have it easier, in particular, when it comes to finding a partner. When they go out, they don't have to worry about rejecting opposite-sex admirers, and are more likely to attract same-sex admirers - all without having to make the awkward declaration of your sexual preferences and it instantly becoming the most salient aspect of yourself in the following and sometimes intrusive conversation (if there IS one...).
While I am all for 'being yourself', I think that some people's true selves give off a clearer message about that aspect of themselves, sometimes at a cost (being a visible minority makes one more susceptible to prejudiced reactions), sometimes for good. Either way, it gets results.
Speaking more generally now, my questions are: do you think dressing stereotypically, even at a cost to your true self, is a part of the process of coming and being out? I went through that phase myself! And do you often find yourself guessing other people's sexualities based on what you think the stereotype is?
These days, I often find that the people I admire are those who are themselves and think carefully before placing any serious labels on themselves. So I try to dress and act how I want and hope that my natural confidence and suspect conversational topics ('So what do you think of the L Word?' Just kidding, although I'm not a fan, personally...) will ring through to the right people and maybe even person.
Concerning coming out in general: it's all a process to me. Wanting to fit in, then realising you don't have to, seems to be my road to coming out, being out, AND trying to be the most authentic and honest person I can be at that time. I'm grateful for the opportunity if nothing else, and grateful that the peope who I really care about have been accepting, never pressuring me to fit any label or stereotype.
I am a transman (aka female-to-male transsexual). I first came out to my mum when I was about 13. I didn’t really plan what I was going to say, and so most of it came out in an incoherent mess, to the extent that she thought I was confused about my sexual orientation. I tried again a couple of years later and was a bit more successful, having read more on the subject, and heard other people’s stories (the internet is a wonderful thing). I remember the event quite clearly: we were sitting in the car, parked outside the house, but I don’t remember why I chose that particular moment. It’s possible that she had badgered it out of me, as I think she had been convinced for quite a while that I was a lesbian. She was incredibly supportive though, and told the rest of the family when I asked her to. I found coming out incredibly nerve-wracking, and still do even now, eleven years after telling my mum that second time.
Still, over the past eleven years I have come out to number of people in a variety of ways: deliberately because I thought it was relevant for them to know, deliberately because I was drunk (embarrassingly, this occurred more than once, though thankfully they were people I trusted anyway), second hand via a friend (with my permission), they found my empty box of Sustanon in the bathroom, and so on. I have been lucky to never experience any transphobia from any of my friends, and doubly lucky that I was able to start transition at the same time as starting university, passing successfully as male before I had started on hormones, which meant that I could have chosen to remain “stealth” trans and never be out to anyone.
But I still find coming out difficult.
In part, this is because coming out as being assigned female at birth is very different to coming out as identifying as male. The latter is a positive step in the right direction, something you have to do before being able to undergo transition. It is undoubtedly scarier, but you feel triumphant when you’ve managed to do it. Even if you receive a negative reaction, it is a necessary part of the process. The former is quite different, as it reveals something about my past which I still don’t feel entirely comfortable with, and I worry that it would change their perception of me in a negative fashion. But I have to remind myself that it’s not just about me. Transphobia is still a problem in this country, and the more people are out, the more accepted we will become. The more likely it is that someone has a friend, co-worker or family member who is trans*, the less likely it will be that they will accept the mainstream view that all trans* people are damaged and/or deluded.
The first time I came out:
I first realised that I might not be entirely straight in the middle of study leave for my January A level modules. I decided to keep things under wraps until after exams were over, when I’d be under less pressure and could think about my feelings properly.
In actual fact, I didn’t come out to anyone until early September. I’d kept it secret for over eight months and I was bursting with the need to share it with somebody. I was talking to a good friend over facebook late at night, and everything just spilled out at once. It was such a relief to have finally told somebody!
As an aside here, even before I knew I was bisexual many of my friends would tease me with stereotypes about feminists, saying that I must be a lesbian, which didn’t really bother me. However, this friend would tend to add “but y’know, if you are, that’s totally ok” which did bug me a little. At least the others were just joking around! They weren’t serious. But when I realised I was attracted to women I was super grateful that he’d always made a point of saying it because I knew I had at least one friend on my side no matter what.
Slipping back into the closet at uni:
I came to uni a few weeks later expecting to be totally out and proud to everyone I met, but in reality I wasn’t particularly open about it. I went to LGBT committee events but I tended to cover up where I had been if people asked.
I eventually came out to another friend from back home at the end of February, who by then I knew to be bisexual himself. A few weeks later I ended up mentioning it to two more friends when we were at a coffee shop together, which was the first time I’d come out to people casually on the spur of the moment. It was a nice change to agonising over what I was going to say for days beforehand!
I ran for a spot on the LGBT committee without really thinking about the implications of doing so while being in the closet. This meant that when I got a position I suddenly realised that I needed to come out to my flatmates before they got suspicious about me disappearing all the time, or saw me waltzing around uni in a purple committee hoody! They took it really well, and they’re all really supportive. I haven’t actually had a single bad experience with people from university when coming out – everyone’s so open minded and accepting here!
Since coming out to my flatmates and joining committee I’ve found it easier to be open about my sexuality to other people at uni. I still need to come out to half of my friends at home and my family, but I’m getting there.
I know that she knows that I know that she knows that I’m LGBT. But we’ve never actually spoken about it. We were shopping at Meadowhall and she was stressing out because she thought she’d lost her phone so I gave her mine so that she could call our mum…. forgetting that I still had the emergency number from the freshers barcrawl saved as ‘LGBT’, which was right next to ‘Mum’ in the phonebook. Ooops.
Welcome to the LGBT Blog! This is a place for posts about anything LGBT related. We plan on running themed weeks/months throughout the year, and we're always looking for participants to share their writing, pictures and videos for us to publish!
If you wish to get involved with this project, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!