‘Nobody who matters cares’: LGBTQ+ students on what they’d tell their younger selves
‘If it wasn’t for the hard process, I wouldn’t be happy’
The journey to accepting yourself and coming to terms with your sexuality can be long, difficult and painful, regardless of how many supportive loved ones you have around you – but no two coming out experiences are the same.
The Tab asked 10 LGBTQ+ students and young people what advice they’d give their younger selves who were still closeted, or had just come out. They spoke of the hard process of realising you’re queer and coming out to yourself and loved ones.
But then they spoke of how good life is now: The happiness, community and love they’ve been able to find since and, ultimately, how proud they are of themselves for getting through it. They also spoke of how important it is to look after yourself, and how they wish they’d worried less about other people.
Here’s what LGBTQ+ young people would tell their younger, queer selves:
‘I’d want to let myself know how incredible life is’
I’d tell myself that there is a word to describe the way I feel and that word is “lesbian”. Also, I wish I had someone who told me to stop forcing myself into thinking men are attractive when they are so blatantly not to me. And to stop telling my mum about the husband I wanted when I was older because nothing is less appealing to 20 year old me.
I’d want to tell myself how hard things were going to get and how painful internalised homophobia would be. But also I’d want to let myself know how incredible life is beyond all of the shit stuff. If it wasn’t for the hard process of coming to terms with who I am, I wouldn’t be happy.
As part of The Tab’s Pride series, we want to uncover the full extent of discrimination at unis, based on someone’s sexuality or gender identity.
‘It’s freeing to finally accept yourself’
Nobody who matters cares what sexuality you are, and the ones who do care, (for lack of better words) fuck ’em. Also, there is no pressure to find a label and stick to it. Go out, explore yourself and see what you like.
Finally sometimes NOT coming out to everyone is the safest option for your own personal mental health, because even though it’s freeing to finally accept yourself for you, others (even family members or supposed close friends) may not have the same reaction. But this is really important – find someone you can come out to.
‘You’re not too camp, ignore them’
You’ve come out at 14 and you’re already thinking you’ve wasted a load of your life! I need to tell you that you haven’t. You’ve barely even begun.
Just know that even though people tell you that you’re too young to know what you want or what gender you’re attracted to, that’s their ignorance speaking. You absolutely know who you are. And never let anyone tell you that you don’t. You’re not too camp. You’re not too femme. When your parents tell you to stop waving at your mates because it’s too girly and “lads don’t wave like that” – ignore them. You’re not out of touch, they are.
I hope when you see where we are today you’re proud. You’ve had your first proper relationship, something for years you convince yourself is never going to happen because you think no guy will ever be interested in you. But most importantly, you’ve got your dream job and you’re about to make the biggest move of your life. You get to write about stuff you care about for a living. Everything’s going to change.
You’ve not wasted time coming out at 14, because when you’re 25, life feels like it’s beginning all over again. Be brave, be resilient and be the you that everyone wants to be around. Things get pretty great, I promise.
‘You’ll find a community’
I would say that although now being queer is something you’re very ashamed of, in a few years time you’re gonna be wandering around Brighton with a Charli XCX T-shirt and a tote bag so you won’t feel that shame forever.
I would say to stop listening to Arctic Monkeys because you think it makes you look more straight because it doesn’t. You’re going to find an amazing community of people and and being yourself is going to feel so good. And don’t date the only other gay in your school because it’s a really bad idea.
‘Soon you’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been’
I’d want to tell myself to stop pretending I fancied random boys just so I had something to talk about with my friends – they literally couldn’t have cared less when I eventually told them about a girl I fancied instead. I thought I needed to date boys so I had something to relate to them about, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Please don’t force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, nothing is ever worth making yourself feel horrible.
I’d also tell myself that what you’re going to go through is the scariest, hardest thing ever. You will cry – a lot. I know right now you don’t think you’ll ever be happy, and that you’re not worthy of being loved, but I need you to know you deserve all the happiness in the world. Soon you’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been, you’ll be closer than ever with your friends, and you’ll have the girlfriend you always dreamed of. I promise, it’ll all be worth it.
‘Love is meant to be fun’
I would tell myself that it shouldn’t feel like hard work to be with someone you like, and if it is, it probably isn’t right.
I found myself justifying all of my relationships with men because I thought it was meant to be hard. Turns out all I needed was to be open to dating other genders to understand that love is meant to be fun and exciting and wild.
‘Just be kind to yourself’
Coming out is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It may not get better for a while, but it will get easier. That is something you’re going to have to get used to because at every new avenue of life, you’re going to have to come out. But the more you come out, the less people will care because society is slowly changing. Better still, you’re going to move to England (yes you got into uni) and it is not the promised land but it will help you understand yourself in ways which staying in NI may not have.
You’re going to leave the church. Again, life isn’t primroses and daisies because of that, but it is going to happen sooner than you would think and it is going to be such a massive relief not owing yourself to any horrid institution.
You’re going to meet some absolute crackers and you’re going to meet some absolute bastards. But, the shit you’re going through now, is preparing you for that. I’m writing to you now as someone who takes no shit and refuses to be spoken down to. Every single thing that has happened so far and is going to happen will do so for a reason. And, you’re allowed to say that without being religious.
Men are idiots, and that includes you. Just be kind to yourself kid, bigger storms are coming, but they, like everything else will be manageable, and will make you a more formidable bastard with them.
‘It’s not embarrassing to be out’
It’s not embarrassing to be out and proud, no matter what people say. I’d tell myself that my crush on Cheryl Cole was more than a crush. And mostly that like I didn’t have to have sex with a boy to lose my virginity.
‘Worry less about what other people think’
I’d tell my younger self to worry less about what other people thought about me. But that’s easier said than done. I feel like at school there was a fair bit of homophobia which I internalised, preventing me from being open about my bisexuality.
Maybe if I’d listened less to what people said or been less defensive, I would have been able to be more open with myself and my friends from an earlier age.
‘Don’t put pressure on yourself’
I find it hard to think what advice I would give to my younger self about coming out as I still feel like I’m coming out now. One key piece of advice I would give is to be mentally prepared for it. Luckily for me my family and friends were very supportive but I then mentally really struggled because it was suddenly out there and I was no longer pretending to be someone else.
I also think don’t put too much pressure on yourself to know who you are or who you want to be, it takes time and you don’t need to rush the journey, everyone’s roads are different.
Some names have been changed to allow people to speak freely
The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.
If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]