‘The hardest part was coming out to myself’: LGBTQ+ young people on their coming out stories

‘My mum said: “I can’t say anyone’s particularly surprised”‘


Coming out can be a difficult yet momentous time in the life of any LGBTQ+ person. For some, it can end up going really well, while for others it can be more of a challenging experience.

It can be really hard not only to come out to the ones you love, but also to come out to yourself, especially in a society that seems so expert in fostering internalised homophobia.

Coming out isn’t one moment. It’s a process that evolves over time. That being said, here are 10 young people talking about the very first time they came out to friends and family.

‘It was a process and I am still going through it

coming-out

Coming out wasn’t something I decided to do the night before. It was months and months of considering all the outcomes. I even made a list of pros and cons for telling my mum I was gay.

I found the hardest part was coming out to myself. I really struggled with internalised homophobia, especially around a month before I came out to my mum last December. My mental health was at the lowest point it has ever reached. I found everything difficult and if it wasn’t for speaking about my sexuality openly. I don’t know how I would have coped.

I’d be lying if I said that immediately after I came out, everything was fixed. It was a process and I am still going through it but right now, I am the happiest I have been in regards to my sexuality and who I am as a person. My parents fully embraced who I was and my mates loved me all the same.  I’ve been really, really lucky.

I wish I was kinder to myself back at the end of last year, everyone has been so nice but I wasn’t good to myself at all. Looking back at it, I was in a dark place but the people around me pulled me out of it without even realising.

I’m now happy, loving my life and have a new job, which I love. Coming out was a really hard experience and it was so lonely at times but I am so happy I did it – my only regret is not speaking up about my feelings earlier on.  

Georgia

‘Both my parents were very accepting and understanding’

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James (right)

I had been putting off coming out for a few years because I didn’t feel it was worth the risk of being estranged, but since I had a boyfriend for a few months that wanted to meet my parents I realised it was time.

I organised to go home and tell my mum before my dad because I thought she would be the most understanding, and then for her to tell my dad. I spent the whole weekend trying to tell her but I couldn’t bring myself to do it and my last chance was to tell her on the way to the train station, at which point, my dad tells us he is coming along to say goodbye.

I decided not to tell her then but via text on the train back to uni (somewhat regrettable now as both my parents were very accepting and understanding) and then dealt with most of the aftermath over the phone. I have since had conversations with both of them about the whole ordeal and they have now met my boyfriend which I am very happy about.

James

‘I wore heels, short shorts and a crop top, and I was serving’

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I had already come out as gay and genderfluid to my immediate family in 2017 (purely accidental but hey, it worked out!) and so, when I went to Pride in 2018, I wanted to express myself as much as I could.

I wore heels, short shorts and a crop top, and I was serving, not gonna lie. Anyways, I posted about it on my Instagram because it felt like a very powerful and pivotal moment in my life.

What I didn’t know was my other aunty, who I had and still have a very strained relationship with, was stalking my Instagram on a burner account. She had seen my post about it but didn’t say anything. She then met with my nanna and aunty, and just flat out said, “Did you know Ethan-Ray is gay?”.

Obviously, they did not. She hadn’t contacted me or my mum to ask if they knew or if she could share it, she just did it. So, the next time I saw them, they gave me the whole speech of,“It’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s perfectly natural,” as if I didn’t already know that.

When I asked them how they found out, they told me and got mad at me when I expressed my anger about it. They said I was never going to tell them and that my other aunty was in the right for sharing that with them if I wasn’t going to.

So, I don’t speak about my relationships with any of them anymore. Oh, and now I’m on high alert for burner accounts.

Ethan

‘Coming out allowed me to live my authentic self’

I was 15 when I came out to my three best friends and it was totally accidental. Being “in the closet” affected me throughout secondary school, and I always felt like I had to be something I was not. Coming out relieved me of that and allowed me to live my authentic self, even if it just was to the three people I trusted the most.

My friends asked me one evening directly if I was gay after seeing a message from a guy I was seeing. When they asked, my stomach hit the floor and I thought I was about to lose the three people I cared about the most, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Life went on as normal and a year later I told my family and then everyone else in my life. The nerves were always there every time I came out, but I’ve been lucky enough to not have my sexuality negatively effect me in away.

George

‘When I came out to my parents it was super low-key, which is something I know I’m very lucky for’

I came out to my friends first and I had to be drunk to come out to most of them, even though I knew none of them would have an issue at all and that none of them could care less. I built it up to be this massive thing in my head.

One time, I got insanely drunk at a dinner at my best mate’s house and came out to like six of them at once, but I don’t remember it at all. Apparently I was sick everywhere, cried a lot and had to be put to bed before midnight.

With some other mates, I never really came out to them, I just started telling them about girls I was talking to and let them work it out for themselves.Then when I came out to my parents it was super low-key, which is something I know I’m very lucky for, and I’m really grateful.

I told my mum when we were driving home and I was sitting in the back of the car with the dog. She asked me a couple of questions and then we got home, she hugged me and that was it.

I asked her to tell my dad and that evening he knocked on my bedroom door and asked if I wanted to talk. I asked if he had any questions. He said no, and then he just asked me what I wanted for dinner. I’m not properly out at home yet though, because my brother and I really really don’t get on, so I’ve asked my parents not to tell him yet.

Izzy

‘Mum said, “I can’t say anyone’s particularly surprised”

My coming out process was pretty generic. It wasn’t until I was 18 as I’d been in denial for ages as a result of bullying from around 11. I never really doubted that those around me wouldn’t be supportive. I think it was more realising that once I told people, that meant, to a certain extent, I had to accept a part of me I’d hated and repressed for so long.

The first people I told were my two closest pals which involved copious amounts of tears. Then, I told each family member individually with my final one being my dad. Telling mum again involved a LOT of tears but she was so lovely and just said, “I can’t say anyone’s particularly surprised.”

When I came out to my dad, he didn’t actually hear what I said as I was hysterically sobbing, but he just nodded along then my mum told him when they went upstairs afterwards and he came down and hugged me again and said that “he loved me.”

It was all very emotional and although I’m still combatting a certain level of internalised homophobia, it did lift a weight off the shoulder. Fortunately, it was an all round good experience that I’ll hold very fondly in my memory.

I’m aware how lucky I am that it’s a fond memory, as I know how many members of the LGBTQ+ community don’t have that positive experience when coming out.

Ollie

‘My dad followed me outside asking what was wrong with me and I said I was bi’

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I came out about three years ago. It was my nan and grandads 30th wedding anniversary, so we went for a meal. When we got to the restaurant, they kindly gave everyone a free bottle of wine as it was a nice occasion. I’d never drank wine before, so I had a taste and ended up enjoying it. Skip two hours later, and I’d drank two bottles before the main course came out. I was bladdered.

I ordered a steak and it came out well done. I didn’t like it but didn’t want to say anything. I got really upset and ended up running out the restaurant in tears. My dad followed me outside asking what was wrong with me and I said I was bi.

He gave me a big hug and told me to stop crying and then we ended up going to a gay bar with my whole family.

Sam

‘I was filled with anxiety others would find out, despite being as camp as Christmas’

So, I came out gradually from the age of 15! I’ve always known I liked boys and there was never really any doubt. I remember the first person I told was on a school trip to Italy and I’d drank beer for the first time which of course made me emotional.

I remember telling my friend and he just sort of awkwardly stared at me, not having a clue what to say. It was a nice feeling having someone know, but I was filled with anxiety others would find out, despite being as camp as Christmas.

Over time I told more and more people until I simply wouldn’t deny it if people asked. I’m really lucky that my family were all either supportive or just didn’t care.

Rhys

‘The only times I’ve really come out are just at each stage of me figuring out my sexuality’

I never officially came out. I know my mum definitely just assumed, and my dad was very much okay with pretending I wasn’t attracted to anyone ever (including men). The only times I’ve really come out are just at each stage of me figuring out my sexuality.

For a long time I thought I was bi. Then I didn’t know, so I went by queer. Then I realised I was non-binary, and now finally I know I’m also a lesbian. Every so often I’ll clarify my sexuality when I understand it again but I didn’t have a solid coming out moment.

My mum jokes that I never had to come out of the closet because I never began in one. Among friends, I think my dyed hair, style, and continuous string of queer jokes helps people to know I’m LGBTQ without me having to officially come out. The only times I officially clarify I’m a lesbian now are when creepy men DM me on social media.

Beth

‘I came out publicly by accident’

I came out to a couple of close friends first, over a number of months over text. I was always nervous and on the verge of going into a panic before and whilst waiting for a reply.

I came out publicly by accident, as I ended up saying a gay joke out loud in class one day. When I realised I’d said it out loud, I was terrified and ended up walking off pretty quickly. I was in a state of panic most of the day, but calmed down slowly throughout as more and more people said they were fine with it.

Ethan

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through The Mix.

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 izzy@thetab.com

Read more from The Tab’s Pride series:

• I’m out as bisexual at uni but still haven’t told any of my family

• Young trans people on their experiences of transitioning

• 41 homophobic things straight people say every day without realising