This being the first I have ever written for akt as a member of its Young Creators Group, I thought writing about the experience of my own coming out felt like not only the most fitting start, but also might resonate with people currently going through their own journey like I did not too long ago.

I was 22 before I came out as gay. In retrospect, I often feel that the most momentous events in life often transpire in a manner unlike how you had envisioned, that undoubtedly includes coming out.

I think most people in the LGBTQ+ community have planned their coming out down to the finest detail, this can be an inevitability when you have what could be years to think something over. The planning for me was deciding who would be that first person or first people I would tell, the speech that I had ran through my head a thousand times, perhaps dwelling on certain parts of that speech even more so, sort of a coming out speech greatest hits. I know from my own experience I repeated my own speech like a mantra, finding an unusual cocktail of promised liberation, tinged with trepidation.

I had been planning my own coming out speech since I was 12 years old, it still remains very difficult trying to articulate how I could find words to feelings I had held since before I could even fully understand them myself, yet it happened spontaneously one Saturday night in January last year.  

While I had been fortunate enough to never struggled in accepting my sexuality, I also felt as if I was never presented with the right environment in which I felt comfortable sharing that part of myself with another person. I suppose like many other people in the LGBTQ+ community when you have this part of yourself that you're unable to reveal to anyone a lot of the time your mind can drift towards imagining every worst case scenario your brain can invent. These scenarios can be something different for everyone, mine was being disowned by my family. Being brought up in a religious and socially conservative background probably added to my fear of being truthful with my family about my sexuality. In saying all this, however, I feel that part of the reason I was never internally resentful prior to my coming out was because it was a facet of myself that I had absolute control over, it was information that could only be confirmed or denied by myself. 

It was the daunting feelings of allowing that information out among people I had know my whole life, people who my entire social life hinged on that filled me with fears of rejection, what I thankfully found out, that Saturday night in question, was the complete opposite. My friends, all of whom happened to be straight, were incredibly supporting, loving and helped nourish this part of myself which for an entire decade had been kept secret. I distinctly remember one of my friend's reactions, who happened to have been my best friend since I was two years old,  when he asked if I'd had any luck on Tinder, which I had been persuaded to download about a month before I came out, to help me "find a nice girl". I spontaneously told him that my "tinderella" was actually a "tinderfella", and he half jokingly replied that he'd "known since I was five."

Though it seems like a cliché hearing phrases from people, in this case my friends, like "it doesn't make any difference to us" and "it's what you're like as a person that matters" it made me feel for perhaps the first time in my life, like a full and realised human-being, and that just maybe, things would be alright. 

Looking at my own experiences of coming out, that night always sticks in my head the most, because all the horrible things I'd imagined happening once I was out of the closet didn't come true. The sky didn't fall in on me, the world didn't end, things just largely carried on as normal, only I was able to be a better friend, a more open and honest person not just with those around me, but also with myself. What I had never fully realised until it was over was how exhausting maintaining this pretence had become and that my life, now filled with all sorts of possibilities, had drifted into being merely an existence. While I feel as if I'm going through a second adolescence, as strange as that seems as someone who turned 23 just a couple of months ago, there is an enormous amount of liberation to be found in being able to be my true self without apology.

I also feel it is worth stating that coming out isn't something that happens just once, it's something that happens innumerable times over someone's life, whether it be to family, friends or even in work or school.

This was something that I had realised while I was still in the closet, and I used to dread the thought of telling one person, never mind having to repeat the experience over and over again like my very own gay groundhog day. However, what I noticed after coming out the first time is that it's sort of like interview prep, to make a very strange analogy, the more times you do it the better at you become and the less terrifying you'll find it. You'll reach a point where you can drop it into conversation without even giving it a second thought. This for me has been the greatest relief and surprise of this whole journey, the thing which for so long I had dreaded to let out into the world, the fact that I was gay, is now something that I hold no reservations in discussing not just with friends, but also with colleagues.

In concluding this little glimpse into my coming out I understand now that what's most important in going through the experience of coming out, regardless of whether it was spontaneous or planned to the finest detail, as I thought my own would be, is having a support network of people around you. That network may turn out to be family, friends, staff at your school or college, even work colleagues, or maybe people whom until recently you never knew existed, but belong to this LGBTQ+ family of which we are all a part. It's through charities such as the Albert Kennedy Trust that continuously provide not just a network of people to support you through this process, but also be an invaluable safety net always ready to catch you if you're experience in coming out doesn't go as well as you had hoped. In being a member of this writers group I hope to perhaps make myself a small link in someone's network who is going through their own coming out experience as I myself was just over a year ago.

by Stephen

If you’re thinking about coming out to your family we recommend having a think about some key things beforehand. Don’t force a time or feel pressured to come out if you aren’t ready.

If you're thinking of coming out, check out our Toolkit for advice on how to come out safely.

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