Coming out of my cage and I’m doing just fine… I think?

Recently I’ve seen a few viral videos online and heard some stories from my LGBTQ friends about how they came out as gay, and most are very emotional, full of tears and because of it being such a hard thing to do, they remain a significant moment in their life.
I’ve had to come out twice. With my sexuality first late last year, and then with my gender earlier this year. The second time it was an emotional dive bomb into the ground for me, but the first time it was a little less of a big deal. It wasn’t filmed, it wasn’t a beautiful moment. No, it was just kind of me texting people I knew during conversations, saying: “Oh by the way, I’m bisexual now.” My wonderful family basically said, “yeah we thought you were anyway”, and my friends who are all lovely too, welcomed me with open arms. This is because I got lucky, I guess. I didn’t have a fear of telling those around me that I liked guys too. The act was really chill once I took a look at the people who I was going to tell, although it wasn’t always so easy on me. The reason it took me twenty one years to come out as bi is because I had suppressed it since I was 11.
The first person I was sexually attracted to was a male friend in year 7. However, with the group of friends I had back then and how homophobic things were (and still are) in the world and at my school, that feeling scared me. I didn’t tell anyone this until I came out because as a kid not only did I think it was wrong, but I had also conditioned myself so much in school and from a very young age to not be gay that it still now fades from my memory that I am. It’s weird, when I see a man I’m attracted to, it will flood back and I’ll find interest in them. All the memories too. Its not like I forget I am “gay” and “straight” (it gets more complicated when you hear about my gender). But its like I’ve programmed my brain to not register it yet fully. I’m way more open about it now and I’m embracing that side of me when I can. It’s just a bit difficult standing on the edge of this great big part of you that you’ve been ignoring for years. Where do I even start with it?
There were a lot of questions I asked myself growing up like why didn’t I like girls? Why wasn’t I normal like everyone else? I was bullied when I was younger by the friends I had, so it made it even harder to accept the truth. It became almost a ritual at night, I’d wish that I didn’t have gay feelings before going to sleep. I know some of the friends who didn’t bully me and are still my friends now would have accepted me, but back then it was terrifying and I couldn’t see that. Gay people were made fun of right? They still are to this day, although I do believe things are improving for the LGBTQ community. Back then though, it was, “why would I want to add more ridicule to what I was already getting?”
Soon after blocking that male attraction for a few months, I found myself attracted to a girl. And as I grew up I had feelings for both, but because I was still in a fairly “LADish” environment I continued to ignore it. With girls I was your typical over-compensating male, it was actually kind of hilarious thinking back. What’s not funny is that unfortunately until I was 16, I went along with the homophobic lad culture so I would fit in. I never attacked anyone, it’s just how male friendship groups attack each other a lot. Words like “faggot” ect. get thrown around and even just calling things gay as an insult.
Eventually it got so blocked down that it hardly surfaced other than in dreams. An odd dream here or there where randomly I’d be kissing a guy. I’d just pretend it didn’t happen. Dating girls was fine; I was with one of my best friends for four years and there were no questions in terms of sexuality. I thought then I was just completely straight. As I’ve explored more this year though and spoken to a few people I’ve realised I flip daily between the Bi, Demi, Pan and Asexual spectrums. I’m kinda just up in the air.
After breaking up with another girlfriend last year, I went on a bit of an isolation period. I wanted to work on myself and one day I was at my friend’s flat in Leeds watching Korean pop videos. And I found myself really attracted to the boy bands, not the girl bands. My eyes were just glued to them. Then after some thinking and experimenting it struck me like a giant rainbow coloured brick, and I worked my way back through my mind and had an “oh shit, I like guys too” moment. It wasn’t a big deal at that point either. It was just me finally letting myself be me.
Everyone’s experience is different. When I finally got round to having mine, I think it was just relief. It didn’t feel like a big deal because I had been ready for a long time. I had been muting that side of me, muzzling it instead of letting it speak. If I could go back and just tell myself to be brave and open then I would. But then again my path in life might have been different and I may not have the beautiful friends I do now. The horrible stuff in life makes us stronger right? It should be, but its not easy for anyone to make that realisation and just because my coming out was fairly cool it doesn’t mean the build up was. We should be allowed our own time to come to terms with these things. And if you are struggling, then there are so many support groups online that you can check out. Don’t be afraid of being you and try not to let the opinion of small minded idiots suppress who you are inside.
I’ll tell you about coming out as a woman trapped in a man’s body soon too. That was something else entirely…
Words and images by Jess Brown

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