Quite a year…

A year ago, I came out as gay. One year on, I’m happily living as an openly gay young person, and I just had the proudest week possible. I’m going to talk you through my year in the most ‘me’ way possible…

It all started 365 days ago…

12 months on from 10th July 2016, whenever I think about the moment my secret was no longer a secret, I feel all warm and fuzzy…

As soon as I’d come out to friends, there was another question at the forefront of my mind…

The challenge was that I was on DofE at the time, and I wasn’t going to see my family until the end of the week. I rang Mum on the evening of the 11th, after a day of walking, and the only painful thing about that conversation was the fact that – in a bid to avoid sitting in/on sheep poo – I had decided to sit/squat in a really unsustainable position, and my legs felt dead enough as it was, after a day of gold DofE…

During the Summer, I spent a couple of weeks at an international Scouting event, where I soon decided that I’d like to be open about my sexuality. As well as feeling no obligation to hide myself, this meant that I had the privilege of being the first port of call for a friend when he was realising his sexuality and thinking about coming out. Talking openly about feelings and emotions is something I’ve felt the confidence to do over the past year, and this is largely down to the fact that I no longer have a big thing that I want to hide.

Between Summer and October, I decided that I wasn’t going to hide my sexuality in school. Increasingly, my appetite for people to know who I am increased. I obviously listened to Diana Ross too carefully…I wanted all the world to know…!! It came to my attention that International Coming-Out Day was a thing, so I told the world. You’ve probably read how I did that – if not, check it out here.

February marks LGBT+ History Month every year. This year, in my role as station manager ofย BOL Radio, I decided that I wanted to mark this in a variety of ways.

The main thing I did was creating a documentary film exploring life as an LGBT+ young person in 2017. Not only was this a great experience for me in terms of media experience, it meant that I got to know people who are LGBT+, and I got to know their stories. This really helped me to understand where I fit into the world.

I also hosted a panel Q & A about living as an LGBT+ young person, and that was not only the first time I’d been so open about my life, but it was the most open that most of the student panelists had been as well, so that was an enriching experience for all involved.

Later on in March, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but something – if you asked me 13 months ago – I never would have thought I’d be confident enough to do…I’ll let the pictures do the talking…


Of course, I was dancing to this ABSOLUTE BANGER:

And that pretty much brings us to this week, in my ‘out and proud’ calendar…

On Thursday 6th July, I was extremely honoured to collect the school’s award for Outstanding Contribution To The School Community. When I received the letter telling me that I’d won the award, I thought it was going to be mainly for my work setting up the radio station, but it turns out that the first half of the speech from Rev G Rayner-Williams (who featured in my documentary) was based on my work with the documentary, and my “leaving Bishop an even more accepting school than the one [I] entered”. It meant a lot to me that this happened in my anniversary week!

The night after – Friday 7th July – was my year 13 prom. 12 months ago, I would not imagine myself having the confidence to wear a rainbow bow-tie and rainbow braces…but I did. And it makes me happy – and dare I say proud – that I’m in comfortable enough an environment to do that.

And then the next day, getting a train to London, wearing [in addition to my regular clothes, don’t worry!] my rainbow bow-tie, rainbow braces, and rainbow laces. Being part of the London Pride Parade with Stonewall was a really special way to end the year, amongst a community of people who welcome and accept anyone and everyone for who they are and who they want to be. Ruth Hunt, Stonewall CEO, spoke at the Youth Pride event I was part of before we walked the parade. She made it clear that – as an LGBT+ young person – there is nothing I have to do a particular way. I can just wend my way through life, living it how I want to live and being who I want to be…

I’ve got a story I’d like to share…

Today is National Coming Out Day. From those six words, you’ve probably pretty much grasped what this article is going to be about. I’d like to share my story with you, which will hopefully enable me to live my life to the full, without worrying that someone might find out…


COMING OUT…

…is different for everyone. My story is totally unique – there aren’t really many clichรฉs when it comes to people coming out (that I’m aware of). There’s also (in my opinion) never a ‘right’ time to do it. The moment will just arise at some point, and once you’ve told one person, telling the next one, and the one after that, gets easier and easier.

For me, the moment was at about 11pm on Sunday 10th July 2016. “‘Twas the night before…” well, my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition. I never thought I would come out as gay in a Youth Hostel on Dartmoor, but as I said, the moment arose, and I seized the opportunity. The first people to find out were my DofE group. In fact, when it came to it, I was actually incapable of uttering the two words, “I’m gay.”

The previous night, we’d started to delve deep into discussion – very deep. It was the first time I’d really opened up to anyone, and I’ll be eternally grateful to the four people who set up that safe environment that I could trust. At the end of this DMC (for the uneducated: Deep, meaningful conversation), in true broadcaster-style, I ‘trailed’ the next night’s DMC, asking my companions to try and guess what the “something important” was that I wanted to tell them.

The next night, the usual light conversation had ended, and I was still sat on the side of my bunk. I was about to start speaking when there was a knock at the door and another DofE group from our school came in, and started a conversation. The only detail I remember from that conversation is that there was a reference to the smell of the room – apparently it was quite weird! I expect that the reason I don’t remember much of the conversation is that I was physically shaking for the entire duration of that little conversation…in many ways, they were the most nerve-wracking few minutes of my life.

It was noticed that I was still sat on the side of my bunk, and I reminded the group of my challenge to guess the thing I was going to say next. After a period of awkward silence & reluctance, I heard the four words which still make me feel a fuzzy warmth inside…

“SeB, are you gay?”

Obviously, I responded positively, or else I would not be writing this right now…

Having told my friends, I spent the next day planning how to come out to my family, and rang my Mum in the evening.

I never really worried about being accepted – my parents have always made it clear that being gay is okay, and I wasn’t worried about being accepted by my friends – it’s 2016. Being gay – in my society – isn’t a problem. Having said this, I know I’m very fortunate to have this privilege, and it’s something to which not everyone can relate…


BEING RELATIVELY OPENLY GAY…

…is quite liberating.

It’s a lot easier to come out to people you’ve just met than people you’ve got to know well, and people who have therefore got to know you quite well, assuming you’re straight. I sometimes wish everyone needed to come out, regardless of their sexuality. Surely, if society never assumed that anyone was straight, coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual would be much easier. The same could be (and has been, I think) said about gender, but I’m not going to comment on that, because I don’t really know enough about it without doing research, and after all, this is supposed to be my story…

Anyway, I digress…

Soon after coming out, I went on a Scouting event where I got to know quite a few people, and pretty quickly. I made the decision after about 20 hours that I was going to try and be openly gay for the duration of the event. I didn’t go around flirting with every guy I saw, and I didn’t tell everyone I spoke to, but I felt no pressure to fit in, and felt able to speak my mind – frankly. There’s one discussion that sticks in my mind; a discussion about international politics and political campaigns. Being the pedant that I am, I was a bit offended when someone listed ‘LGBT’ as a political campaign. Of course, what they meant to say was ‘LGBT Pride’, and the person tried to argue that nobody would be offended by it. I disagreed:

“I wouldn’t describe the fact that I’m gay as a political campaign”

I don’t think that I’d told that person I was gay. They retreated rapidly!

The point of me mentioning this is that if I wasn’t ‘out’, I wouldn’t have been able to argue this point.

NOTHING MUCH CHANGES…

I’m still the slightly odd, radio obsessed pedant. I just happen to be gay. In light of my radio obsession, I urge you to read Scott Mills’ ‘coming out’ article from 2001 – my stance is pretty similar.

Thanks for reading this – it’s very much appreciated and I hope it’ll help me to be myself. The main reason for me writing this is so that I don’t need to worry about sharing stuff on social media or saying something in public which would reveal my sexuality.