Community True Life & Opinions I’m (still) coming out By Scott Roberts | @ScottRoberts94 | www.scottrobertswriter.com The LGBTQ+ community takes the rainbow flag for its own to symbolise the wide spectrum of identities it represents. One of the struggles of our community is to give all areas fair representation. It’s difficult to find an issue that affects gay people the same as it would affect trans or bisexual people. The one thing which brought our community together in the first instance is our all being non hetero-normative. We began as the ‘other’ of society and it was that which united us. It is this ‘otherness’ and our celebratory confession of it, which brings about the event that we all go through: coming out (cue track four of Diana Ross’ ‘Diana’ album). Anyone who says to you that coming out is not a big deal is probably a very lucky individual (or a complete liar). Coming out is one of the bravest personal things an individual can do. Everyone’s experiences will be different based on surrounding family, the expectations people have grown up with, living situations and a whole load of other factors. Regardless of all these, it is a big deal and it’s a step you should take with confidence, because things will change from then on in. Not knowing what that change will entail I think is our biggest fear. It’s a fear of not knowing how people will react that keeps many of us tucked away in the closet. The first step is to be sure, or sure enough that you feel a need to start telling people about the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing. Another thing you should know is that coming out doesn’t happen in a day. You can tell people in a day, but the settling down into both parties accepting the news, for a lot of people, can take weeks, months or even years. That doesn’t mean that those years are going to be spent living in awkward torment because of your new revelation; it does mean that things will change progressively as everyone adjusts. It may not even be news to your parents or your friends (I think some of my friends knew before I did myself) but nevertheless there are some perceptions that will have to adjust – that takes time. Coming out is tough. There’s no hiding away from the fact. But I can honestly say that I have never met a gay person (and I’ve met a lot of gay people) who regretted their decision to come out. An enormous weight is lifted off your shoulders the moment you take that first step and from then on it’s a journey of finding out who you are as a person. It’s a journey that’ll want to trip you many times, pull you into situations you don’t want to be in – you’ll question things a lot and your relationships will be tested, but you’ll emerge knowing who your real friends are and hopefully feeling closer to the people you care about most. I’m incredibly lucky in that my parents have been very supportive. My relationship with my dad (who I was terrified of telling I was gay) is probably the best it’s ever been. I wouldn’t have been able to connect with him the way I have lately without bringing him in on this part of my identity. One of the benefits of being gay people is that we get to choose an extended family for ourselves. Our friends are the closest allies we can have at times. They’ll be the ones who will listen to your rants about equality; they’ll be the ones asking what kind of wedding you’d want; they’ll be the ones who’ll always sing along to the Spice Girls with you; they’ll be excited at the idea of you adopting cute Asian babies; they’ll be on the phone ready for all the gossip on your Grindr meet-ups. Surround yourself with these people: the ones who will love and cherish you as a friend and support you all the way to finding out who you are. If these people aren’t immediately in your sights then come and find us – there are a ton of us out here. In many ways, I think I’m still coming out. I’m finding what makes me tick as a human being; as a writer; as a man; as a lover; as a boyfriend; as a potential husband. I may never come to the end of coming out. It’s an experience that can be terrifying, confusing and isolating but above all, it’s an experience that defines who we are as proud LGBT individuals. It’s hard and frustrating but ultimately, to reach the end of a road knowing who you are is infinitely better then to never take that journey at all. If you would like to talk to someone about coming out you call call LGBT Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (open10am-11pm every day) or visit www.switchboard.lgbt.