This summer, at the age of 24, I came out to every member of my immediate family after years of discovering my true feelings. As a kid, I definitely knew I was different and felt more of an affinity with girls. As the years passed and as I started to experiment, I had my first sexual experience at 14 – with a guy. However, it wasn’t until I was 15 that I had my first kiss, and that was with a girl.
Growing up, I had several relationships with girls and loved the feeling of having someone for your own…someone who will be there for you, but it still felt like something was missing. I had my first proper girlfriend at the age of 19, who was lovely, but made me realize that I wasn’t satisfied sexually. At 20, having started moving with a new social group, I saw a guy in a nightclub. I knew who he was, as we had mutual friends, but had never met. We kept catching each others eye the entire night and on the walk home, I realized that I needed to turn back. I found him chatting to his friends outside the club and when he saw me, we both knew how the night would end.
In an alleyway on the walk back to his flat, we had our first kiss, my first with a guy, and it was incredible. What followed was some of the best four months of my life. Having not lived with either of my parents since the age of 13, as I chose to go to a boarding school, I was very independent and didn’t talk to them about any of my relationships. However, that winter, I planned to come out to my family.
I came out to my sister, who I’m very close to, but the relationship with the boy ended. The following 18 months were really difficult for me as I continued to have a sexual relationship with the guy. I had hopes of a reunion continuously dashed when we sobered up. In hindsight, I felt that the relationship happened so fast, I had only really come out as ‘his boyfriend’ and was not comfortable by myself and with my own sexuality. I had initially come out as bisexual and was making statements like ‘I’ll probably go back to girls now it’s over’, which I now see as hurtful and untrue.
Today, I look back with no ill feeling towards him. He will always be my first love and is still in the same wider social circle as me, but the right thing for me was learn more about who I really was on my own. At the age of 22, I moved to London and became friends with mainly gay men. This was the first time being with men and getting with men in a situation where I was gay and it was completely normal to be so.
I lived with my sister, but even though she knew, I still felt the need to sneak guys out of the flat after staying the night. To all my friends, I was a happily gay man but also lonely. I knew then that although I had easily kept my love life and family life separate due to the distance, I would never be able to have a meaningful relationship if my family didn’t know.
The next time I visited my dad, I got to my last night with him before I could gather the courage to tell him. Deep down I knew he would be OK with it. He was more than happy for me, something that meant the world to me in that moment, as our relationship has been difficult over the years. I was more worried about telling my mum. Not having much time with her, I ended up getting drunk and telling her at my cousin’s wedding. Although she needed a minute to process it, she was OK about it. My other siblings followed over the summer and now, I have moved cities, started a new career and in a place that when someone special comes my way, I can completely and utterly embrace it.