Tuesday, 3 December 2013

"Come out, come out, wherever you are..."

So this week, a super hot guy came out, in a manner of speaking. Not gay, not bi, not anything so specific.  But he does guys. At present, anyway.

It’s a win for the gays. Give us that much...

It’s odd. By rights we should hate him. He’s young, good looking, fit, rich, successful, famous, intelligent AND nice. People that perfect are just too annoying.  But he’s just so hot and lovable that somehow I manage to overlook these numerous imperfections.

But it got me thinking about coming out, growing up gay and the scurrying around, hiding it that precedes all this. I’ve had people say to me, even quite recently, how lucky my generation is that they didn’t have to grow up afraid or hiding their sexuality. 

I nearly fell off my chair. I was kind of angry... partially in response to the person who was saying all this perhaps, but they would NOT accept that when I was young, growing up in Essex, kids weren’t happily coming out and leading confident, well-adjusted lives, out ‘n’ proud.

I don’t know where she got this idea from, but it certainly was not the case.

There were no gays at my school. Not a one. But boys who were a bit quiet or a bit camp or not good at football were harassed for being gay with depressing regularity. I was generally quite safe- I was confident and escaped most of this, but still got called gay all the time. But it was true, so I couldn’t really object.

Nor at college. One boy came out at college, and was subsequently hounded ‘til he quit.

It just wasn’t something that happened.  I now realise there must have been loads of gays all over the place, but every one of us was hidden. But it WAS scary. Whilst no-one was looking to out anyone; it wasn’t a case of people being under suspicion or scrutinised or anything; you did feel that you could give yourself away at any moment.

All my friends were girls, I didn’t play sports, I never had a girlfriend. I felt like everyone must have worked it out and it was frightening in a very real way. And now I wonder quite what the scary, unspoken consequence of being found out might have been...

I suppose being disowned by family, rejected by friends, hounded out of school and essentially having nothing left.  Which is pretty scary. Unfounded as it turns out, but the only mentions of gayness growing up were negative references from kids or in television drama, or the odd celebrity being hounded. There was not much positive press about homosexuality. It was a scandal, a shame, a crime or some manner of death combining all three. Whether real life or drama, it wasn’t something people accepted or celebrated.

But you gather confidence, you learn more about the world, you leave school and can select friends more similar to yourself, and you eventually see a world where they might accept you. Certainly for me, a couple of years after leaving school I was living in a world where I could imagine being honest and not hiding. And I was surrounded by people I had more confidence in trusting not to reject me. Not that I was paranoid when I was at school- my anxiety wasn’t unfounded – but you grow up a bit and I suppose you can be a bit more realistic about people’s responses.

My family, for example, far from rejecting me, have never been anything but whole-heartedly supportive. But when you’re 12 and you see gayers on telly booted out for coming out, you kind of have to wonder, don’t you...

But this is why the Tom Daley event spoke to me so much.  I only came out because I met someone, and after a few weeks, I didn’t want to sneak around any more. I didn’t see why I should have to. But prior to meeting Simon, I had no reason to upset the apple cart. Or risk upsetting it for uncertain reward.

But as I say, in a similar situation, at a similar age, I felt the happiest I ever had. A year or so before, I had accepted I was gay, I was generally happy, I had good friends, a reasonable social life, a successful career at school and college and a loving family. I wasn’t doing badly, so I just resigned myself to being single forever and wanking my nights away alone, and got on with things.

I was fairly happy with that arrangement. It was enough...

But then we met, and I had a reason to do it. Everyone else went on dates. Everyone else had partners, everyone else’s parents knew about their relationships. Why shouldn’t I have a bit of that.

And whilst the sneaking around was sort of exciting and dramatic, it was also very scary and was not sustainable in the long term. It was growing close to the time when we would tell our friends and families...

And then Simon’s fucking mother comes home early from work one day and catches us – not AT it, but sort of... well, okay.  Interrupts us and everything goes to blazes for a few minutes, so we just bite the bullet and tell people.

And you know what?  Not a single bad reaction. Not really.  Not from anyone. A couple of friends who felt a bit hurt, and who, if I’m honest, I’m not sure will ever quite understand that it wasn’t keeping secrets.  Not in that respect- just something that HAS to happen when you’re ready.

But friends and family were supportive and loving, if a bit crazy and paranoid, but we were totally accepted. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’d ever feared rejection when nothing of the sort happened remotely.  But it was too scary. Too big a risk.

You have to do it when you’re ready. When you have judged it safe.

So yeah – it IS a big deal when people come out. It’s still a big deal because you never quite know what people’s response will be. People are crazy and unpredictable and you can’t take it back once you’ve said it.

So it is very brave, and it is important.

Sometimes I wonder about being a bit more open about it at school, though that’s another type of risk on another level.  And another story...

In the meantime, after all the heavy stuff that I’m not very happy I’ve articulated clearly, here are some gems from my mum after I told her I was gay:

“I don’t mind as long as you never go to a gay club. It’s not safe. People wait outside and write down your names...”

“I suppose it’s okay as long as you don’t actually do anything together...”

“It will be okay.  We can just tell everyone that you’re two bachelors that live together, and enjoy each other’s company. No-one will ever need to know...”

Dare you open... The Scary Door?