TRUE LIFE: How I came out to my family and friends Words by Louis Cryer | @LouisCryer I grew up in a small town in Wales with my mum and my younger brother. My mum did a pretty incredible job of bringing us both up on her own, and to be perfectly honest we had a pretty idyllic childhood. Weekends would be spent out in the fields, building dens, riding our bikes to the river, breaking into farmer’s barns and generally getting into trouble… that kind of thing. At school I had a bit of a reputation for being a ladies’ man, dating my way through the majority of girls in my year with numerous predictable consequences. However, I always harboured an inner inquisitiveness for guys. At that age, I was too young to know what that was, and confined myself to daydreaming a bit too much about guys on TV. As the years went by in school I grew closer to my girl mates, and predictably endured the stereotypical bullying. The fact that increasingly I wasn’t one of the ‘lads’ out on the rugby pitch every day gave the guys something to talk about. Unsurprising in a little Welsh town I guess. At 15 I went all the way with a girl, in a tent in my back garden - I know right! Instead of it being the groundbreaking moment of my life I expected it to be, it left me feeling more confused than ever before. But then it was as if someone had switched a light bulb on in my head. I understood what I was feeling; I was gay. Despite reaching this realisation, coming out never entered my mind. I knew that I would need to deal with it and accept it in due course but I never resented it and in all honesty there was a part of me that was just relieved that I finally understood what these feelings meant. Like a lot of us, I’d always cast a sideways glance at that copy of Gay Times or Attitude on the top shelf of my local newsagents, and remember the all consuming wave of nausea and panic that overcame me the first time I bought one. It had taken me 20 minutes to build up the courage just to pick it up from the shelf and when I finally got it to the counter the old lady serving me turned to her friend and asked her whether there was an age restriction associated with these ‘foul’ magazines - her words not mine. It was hardly the empowering moment I’d expected and I walked out of the shop feeling ashamed and ‘outed’. I thought about how I’d never be able to show my face in there again and yet flicking through the pages of that magazine in the safety of my bedroom I saw a whole world of possibilities, and a whole world I knew nothing about. By now I’d reached the grand age of 16 and my inquisitiveness was growing. I started chatting to a guy online and after a few months eventually made the (in hindsight, atrocious) decision to travel to London to go and meet him. I told my mum I was staying round my friends house and got on the train with £24 in my back pocket. The only person who knew what I was doing was a friend of mine, and obviously I’d told them that I was going to meet a girl. To cut a long story short, I sat at the platform of the station where we’d arranged to meet for three hours. Whoever he was, he a no show (thank God), and so I decided to make my way back to Wales. I’d missed the last train home so ended up having to sleep rough on a bench at some godforsaken Welsh village in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the train the following day. Needless to say it was a sleepless night, which gave me ample thinking time, and I vowed never to put myself in such a ridiculous position again. Two weeks after the London catastrophe, my mum (in her innocence while cleaning my room) found another type of top shelf magazine in my room. This one wasn’t quite as innocent as Gay Times. She marched into the kitchen where I was completely unaware and cooking some beans on toast. She asked me whether the magazine belonged to me and in my blind panic I grabbed it off her and stuffed it in the bin. No doubt I’d turned the colour of the beans I was cooking. My secret was out, and I was only 16. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this, and yet the more I thought about it lying awake in bed over those subsequent days (I ran straight out of the kitchen and avoided my mum for a week after that confrontation) I began to realise that actually there was no reason why I wasn’t ready for it. I knew in my mind that there was no doubt, I wasn’t bi and it certainly wasn’t a phase, and so when my mum eventually cornered me on a car journey I told her. As a kid I vividly remember being in the car with my mum and brother one day, and mum turning to the two of us and telling us that whether we ended up loving boys or girls she would always love us and be there (and true to her word she has been), but during that car journey when I told her she cried her eyes out, which was pretty unexpected I have to say. She was sad because she thought that I would face the struggles that she would hear about on the news about gay people. She was also petrified I’d catch a disease and die, but her fundamental worry was that it would make my life a struggle. Yet for me, all I could do was reiterate to her how much easier this was going to make my life. I didn’t have to hide anything, there were no more secrets, and whatever life had mapped out for me then at least I would be being honest to myself throughout it. Things moved pretty quickly after that. I told my closest group of friends who shrugged it off pretty nonchalantly, I have to admit - where was the drama?!? Coming from a small town, word naturally spread. I felt confident with it, and even though I have struggled at times with telling new friends (finding that ‘right’ time can be pretty hard) I’ve never looked back since. Throughout it all my brother was the one person I found was the hardest to tell. My brother is four years younger than me, but in many ways he was a lot more grown up about the whole situation. We were always so close I worried that this would change our relationship and I worried that he would think differently of me. I suppose deep down there was a part of me at the time that felt ashamed. Eventually I sat him down and told him and (wait for it) nothing changed. We’re now closer than ever and I even took him out to a gay bar recently which, needless to say, was quite entertaining. I feel so lucky to have him in my life and for the way he handled my coming out. Fast forward 13 years and I have zero regrets about anything. Granted, the way it happened wouldn’t be my number one choice in a ‘How to come out to your family’ handbook, but I’m glad it happened. All of my family have been 100% behind me. I have a great job and a brilliant group of friends, all with similar experiences and equally funny stories to tell. There have naturally been ups and downs, but I am always aware how lucky I am to live in a society where being gay is increasingly something which is accepted and celebrated. When my mum confronted me in the kitchen I thought my life was crashing down around me, but in actual fact, in hindsight, it was the complete opposite. What Next? READ MORE: visit rucomingout.com. HELP AND SUPPORT: contact LGBT Switchboard, on 0300 330 0630.