The fact I’m writing this piece with this title is something I could never have imagined this time last year. I was so far in the closest I was basically in Narnia. Now I’m so open talking about my feelings and my personal life that my friends are getting sick of listening to me. As one friend said to me before I came out, I never spoke about anything personal, but now you can’t get me to stop! But they all love the gossip, so we always have a good laugh.
Representation on the big screen
I’m writing this piece at what seems to be a very important time for LGBTI+ people not only in Ireland but the world. We have had two of arguably the biggest films involving LGBTI+ characters in years “Love Simon” and “Call me by your name.” Both dealt with different storylines and give such a human face to the struggle many gay people go through if they are struggling to accept who they are. I relate to “Love Simon” so much. Watching that film I felt like I was watching my own life story. It was so sad but also so happy. It’s the only film I’ve been to where the audience audibly gasped and clapped at the end. One of my friends told me that they cried the whole way through saying they thought of me and the struggles I faced.
We also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland. It’s hard to believe it was only in 1993 when that happened. Now we will be celebrating pride this weekend which has become such a massive festival. We have same-sex marriage which we achieved by popular vote and a gay Taoiseach. It truly is amazing how much has changed in such a short time.
Accepting who I am
For myself accepting I was gay was a long and difficult process. I come from a very rural and conservative area and growing up I experienced a lot of homophobic abuse. From the age of 13 when I started secondary school, it was constant. At 13 I didn’t even know what gay was, but people at my school assumed I was and some bullied me intensely about it. I used to be simply walking around the halls when certain individuals would shout homophobic slurs at me. I never said anything I simply ignored it, and I never told anyone, not a teacher nor my parents. From this early age I internalised so much self-hate and disgust at being gay. For me I thought surely being gay can’t be right if this is how gay people are treated. I internalised all this and buried it deep down in my thoughts.
Even when I came to Dublin when I was 18 I was no closer to coming out. When I started meeting guys, I would use a fake name and rarely see them again. As far as I was concerned being gay was wrong and something I should be ashamed of and it was a big secret. If someone asked me if I was gay, I would nearly have a panic attack and deny it to the ground.
When everything changed
As the years went by I never even thought of coming out. I was resigned to living this part of my life in secret. It was like my undercover life. I often think I’d be a great spy after living like that for so long. I wouldn’t get too close to gay friends and wouldn’t even dream of going near a gay club. It wasn’t until I met a guy who I fell for that the turning point came. I don’t know what it was, but I feel madly for this guy. It didn’t work out, but it was in this moment when I realised how what I felt for this guy was so pure and real that being this way couldn’t be wrong. How could I feel like this if there was something wrong with me, I thought to myself. And it was at that moment that I realised it was time, I was going to come out.
The first person I came out to I was a nervous wreck. It was to one of my closest friends. They knew, but they were shocked that I was finally doing this. They always knew I was gay, but they never thought I’d come out. The more people I told, the easier it became, it just felt right.
Coming out to my parents
Telling my parents was hard, I knew they would accept me. But the feeling I was disappointing them and not being the son who would have a wife still played in my mind. I finally plucked up the courage and first rang my mum. She was initially shocked, but she was very supportive. Telling my dad was harder, but I did eventually. They were both fantastic and so supportive of me. In fact, everyone was. I have yet to have a negative reaction. Many of my extended family contacted me to tell me how proud they were of me and how much they loved me.
The first few months I was still uneasy. I still felt everyone didn’t need to know but as time went by I became loud and proud, at this stage I’m nearly saying I’m gay before I say my name when I introduce myself. It’s the first time in my life I’m truly me, and it feels great. My only regret is not doing it sooner. I look back at the scared boy I was and how hurt I was, not even having the ability to tell guys my real name.
Looking back before I came out
It sometimes makes me so sad, and I feel sorry for the person I was and wonder who I could have been had I come out sooner. But you can’t change the past, and I’m making up for it now. My second home at this stage is the George. Coming out was hard, and it was because of being rejected that I did it, so it was bittersweet. Though I realise had I not met that guy I would never have come out, as my mother always says “everything happens for a reason.” No matter how much it hurt it made me accept who I was and finally live my life the way I was meant to and for that I’m entirely grateful to him.
One thing I’m often asked by people who think someone they’re close to is gay and isn’t out is what they should do. This is hard and is different for every person. Before I came out if someone asked me if I was gay, I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Initially, I would say never ask someone, but now I wonder had someone I was close to and who I trusted said it to me years ago, would I have come out sooner and I think I would have. So, if there is someone you’re close to and think they may be gay if it feels right maybe you should ask them. You could be the person who sets them on the road to accepting who they are.
To anyone reading this who isn’t out yet, coming out is the best feeling in the world. You are finally you. As Ian McKellan once said, “no one ever regrets coming out” and that is true. I know it’s hard, I was 23 when I came out, but I’m telling you it’s the best thing you will ever do.