Blog: Beyond The Label I came out in 2004, the same year that the Civil Partnership Act and the Gender Recognition Act were passed. I was thirteen years old. I had only learnt the word ‘gay’ a couple of years before when it was shouted at me across a classroom during my first week at high school. Before this I was simply and happily ‘Joe’, a feminine, confident child who had no idea what the feelings for other boys in his class actually meant. The innocence of youth, I miss it. I ‘came out’ to my mum via text one day whilst I was at school. I sat crying looking at the little blue phone in my hand as the message sent. I wasn’t really ready to tell her but after I told a couple of friends, the news spread fast and with my brother at the same school I felt forced to tell them before anyone else did. I was very emotional and waited for what seemed like hours until my mum replied telling me that she loved me. My family and friends were and have always been incredibly supportive and accepting. I was bullied heavily at school. I was the only openly gay person for a long time, I wasn’t interested in sports and loved drama, and the few male friends I did have started to distance themselves from me. I was tormented daily, but I was part of fantastic friendship groups and being ‘one of the girls’ made high school safe and enjoyable for me for the most part. I felt wanted and loved and it was a great feeling to have the support network that I had. Before I ‘came out’ I was asked constantly if I was gay. It was so important to people that I had a label and when I did come out, I wasn’t Joe anymore, I was a gay boy. My sexuality would even be introduced on occasion, shortly after my name would be. To some people the most important thing about me was that I was gay. I couldn’t then and I still now never understand the eagerness to label the sexuality or gender of another person, it is a hugely personal experience and a journey that should be taken at leisure. I felt rushed coming out and the lack of control made the situation even more stressful. As I have grown older, although my sexual preference hasn’t changed, the way in which I view my gender has. For many years I have struggled with masculinity, often actually feeling uncomfortable with it, wearing suits and certain clothes makes me feel and look more masculine and so I actively avoid those things. I feel more comfortable describing myself as a feminine person, I sometimes wear make-up and I choose fragrances that I don’t feel smell too masculine. I have recently opened up to my family and closest friends about my thoughts on my gender and have again been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who love me and want me to be happy regardless of my sexuality and gender. After many years of questioning who I am, I finally felt confident enough to talk about it and so I did. Both sexuality and gender can be confusing but wherever you feel you sit on the spectrum allow yourself time and space to grow as the wonderful person that you are. Try not to worry about which label fits you best, it actually isn’t as important as it might seem right now. Focus on building positive relationships, growing your support network and putting effort into empowering yourself. Enjoy your life with or without a label, because, honestly, whoever you are, you deserve happiness, good health and to be loved.