I guess you could say I didn’t have the most traditional coming out experience; I guess I would say the same myself.
I never wanted to come out – really, I never wanted to. I always imagined myself existing as the anomaly in life where I would never speak about romantic interests, would never voice any attraction and would just shut off that part of myself.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I did it. You can chalk it up to an unaccepting society, an unsafe environment or even the culture in Ireland, but really, I’m not sure what the reason was. I kind of went through life with this underlying assumption that I would never have a relationship I’m satisfied with and that’s just how it’s going to be, there’s no changing it. Whether that’s a burden I put on myself or was put onto me, we’ll never really know.
I came out like a dam bursting. At first, it was with little drips and drops, just passively scoping things out. Then as time went on and the tension built further, the pour got heavier and then suddenly, it erupted in a cascade. See, I’ve always walked through life with specific versions of myself for whatever situation I’m in. I’ve a personal life, a professional life, a family life, a friend’s life, the list goes on and on. I think a lot of people do that. So, when there’s this thing that somehow permeates all those lives, it can be scary.
Not wanting to be seen
This really is starting to sound like a coming-of-age teen novel. I suppose that’s not far from the truth. I want you to imagine something. Imagine you were the biggest football fan in the world. When you went home, you watched football on TV. When you were alone, you’d imagine getting to play football with your friends and in those dreams, you’d joke with each other about who’s better at striking and who should be stuck in goal. At night you’d think about getting to wake up and go out to the pitch and kick the ball around. In the morning, you couldn’t wait to get out of bed to check the weather to see if you’d be sloshing in the marshes or sliding on harsh, baked dirt. Now, imagine you were never allowed to talk about football. Never allowed discuss your interest in it. Never allow bring those dreams of scoring a hattrick to fruition. And now, imagine anytime you couldn’t hide that you liked football, people made fun of you. Sometimes even, people presumed you like football even if that wasn’t the case and, in some places, people who liked football were beaten and killed. I guess that’s a very watered-down analogy for what it’s like being in the closet.
For the longest time, I just didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want anyone to notice anything about me, please just don’t look at me. Don’t take notice that my voice is a bit higher than anyone else. Please, oh please, just don’t say anything about how I talk with my hands. Maybe if I keep my head down for long enough people will forget I was even walking by- maybe that’ll do it. You can only do that for so long.
One day, I came across a guy on Instagram that I found attractive. I’ll just follow him, it’s harmless. Then, following turned into liking a few posts. Then liking a few posts turned into us messaging each other. Then that turned into a date. Oh. I’m going on a date, with a guy, and I’m not out.
Coming out to friends
I think I was more concerned with coming out to my friends more than I was coming out to my family. There was greater pressure with my friends. I didn’t want our relationship to change.
Up until coming out, my friends were friends with me, but a very specific version of me. The palatable, closeted, quite frankly, boring version of me. I didn’t know what to expect if that dynamic were to change. I didn’t want it to change, either. So, I didn’t tell them that I was going on this date. I didn’t tell them about this guy, I said nothing. I guess I created another version of myself. That’s me there now, the gay me, no one knows him, but he exists.
Eventually, my friends noticed my liking of this guy’s Instagram photos and asked me about him. It happened fast. They straight up asked me the question “Are you pursuing this guy?” I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t lie and say I wasn’t, because I was. But I wasn’t sure if I was ready. This wasn’t how I expected this to happen. I can’t remember what I said exactly, but I conceded and said I was pursuing him in so many words. There was an air of awkward silence after that. And then, with the perfect response, my friends said, “Okay, cool. Just wondering”. The conversation went on to focus on something else soon after.
Coming out to family
My coming out to my family was unique to say the least. As mentioned previously, I never wanted to have the sit-down discussion.
The way I came out to my family I like to refer to as stumbling out of the closet. I use this phrase is because it was a total accident. I was getting ready to go away to Pink Training (an annual LGBTI+ training put on by the USI). I was going away for the weekend and had told my parents it was a Students’ Union trip. While packing, I had left my phone on the kitchen table. One of my notifications was from Tinder, something about matching with another guy. My phone lit up and my mother saw the notification. Two question followed, and in quick succession. “How come you’re on Tinder…how come you matched with a guy?” And that’s how it happened. Have you ever heard anything so millennial? Outed by your tinder notification? I wouldn’t change anything about it. My parents were accepting, there was no issue.
I didn’t know it but coming out was the beginning of the greatest change in my life. The questions that were asked of me – even though I wasn’t ready for it at the time (or didn’t believe I was ready for it at the time) – released me from a prison I had put myself in.
From that point on, it’s like my life really started. I’ve gone on to do some amazing things that I never thought would be possible. I’ve gotten a job because of my queerness, I’ve gotten to feature queer people in my work, and I’ve even gotten published in major LGBT news organizations. I know I haven’t spoken much about my reactions during my coming out, and that’s done on purpose. Mainly, everything happened so fast I can’t even begin to think of what it was like. But there’s also the point that it seems so long ago; my life has changed so much in two years. It seems a lifetime ago.
My reality now is, I’m unafraid to be seen. I don’t shy away from being noticed. I don’t regulatemyself or make myself small. And for me, that’s the greatest gift I could have ever been given.