How I Came Out
You want to know how I came out?
- To family
- My boyfriend
- At work
- With strangers
Well, when we talk about coming out, it isn’t just a one-off conversation, you know?
Family, my boyfriend, friends and work colleagues were the first ones for me to deal with.
Let’s start with family.
Coming Out To Family and Parents
This was the way it went down.
I was 21.
My mum invited her long-time friends round to celebrate with us. You can imagine it right? My mum, dad, 2 brothers, family friends, the dogs. I hadn’t seen them in some time and they asked me whether I had a boyfriend. Tends to be one of those questions that people ask you at that age.
My mum replied for me with:
“No, she has a girlfriend. She will be here in half an hour.”
I can honestly say I nearly died of embarrassment. I vaguely remember making some under the breath comment and running off to my room to hide there for the rest of the day.
If you remember from my previous article, Why I Had To Come Out, I talked about not having this whole ‘I need to tell everyone’ feeling. It wasn’t there for me. Quite the opposite. And when I think back, interestingly, my boyfriend was the only one that I knew I had to come out to.
Turns out, I didn’t even need to have ‘the conversation’ with my mum. She knew. And I think my brothers knew deep down. My dad didn’t. It was a shock for him and he struggled with it for a good 6 or 7 years, always calling my partner my ‘friend.’
Coming Out To Grandparents and Wider Family
I didn’t tell my Grandparents or extended family.
It was a conscious choice not to tell people.
I didn’t feel the need to explain myself or to put a label on who I was.
How did I deal with that?
I would simply visit them with my partner. She’d come along with me. I am sure they fired a billion and one questions to my mum and brothers behind the scenes!
For a long time they called my partner my ‘friend’, like my dad. But over time they started to use her name and when she didn’t visit with me, they asked after her. It was sweet really.
When I look back, I received so much love and support from my family right from the start. I feel totally blessed to have such an open-minded family and to have had that experience. I know many didn’t have this experience and have struggled ever since.
I’m often asked what did I need from family when I came out. That’s simple. Acceptance, love and reassurance.
Coming Out To My Boyfriend
Who was the person I was most anxious to tell?
I had a boyfriend when I was 16. We were together on and off for around 3 years.
It was during a time that we were taking a break, that I kissed a girl and had the realisation that I wanted to be in a relationship with women.
As I said in my last article, I didn’t have the language to describe what this meant for me, but I knew that moment was a turning point.
I was confused.
Here I was in this relationship with a guy. He was lovely, we got on so well and I loved him. I did.
But there was something missing.
I found it when I kissed a girl.
How I Came Out To My Boyfriend
I remember sitting on the front step of his mum’s house. It was late and a warm evening. We had both been working that night in hotel bars and I went round to talk to him afterwards.
Here we were. Sat next to each other. Looking out onto the front garden. Streetlights, the moon, peace and quiet.
I can’t remember my exact words, it’s a long time ago now but in conversation I told him something along the lines of ‘I’ve realised that I liked girls’.
I was nervous.
He was quiet.
I carried on.
I had met someone and we had kissed when we were on a break.
‘Do I know her?’ was his first question.
“That’s irrelevant. This is about me, not her.”
I continued. I loved him dearly, just not in the way he wanted me to.
I was breaking up with him. I didn’t realise when I arrived at his home that tonight was the night.
I hadn’t thought about it. Planned it. Agonised over it.
It came to me as we sat on the step together.
It felt right to talk to him about it. So I did.
He was quiet. Reserved. And thoughtful.
So was I.
I opened my heart up to him and told him what I felt. He listened and was hugely respectful of me. That is why I loved him.
The conversation continued and he told me he could understand what that feels like – being with someone of the same-sex.
He had a few drunken encounters himself with someone that was openly gay where he worked. He had enjoyed it but didn’t think he was gay.
He talked to me about his experiences and in that moment we connected more deeply than ever.
He said he had an idea that I might be into girls but was trying to ignore it.
We continued chatting for hours, until the sun came up.
And then I left.
Coming Out To Friends
University friends, they all knew and were hugely supportive.
My school friends however, that is a totally different conversation.
Most of my school friends had become good friends with my boyfriend.
He told everyone we had broken up before I could, and the reason why.
Him telling them broke my friendships down instantly.
1. They thought I had lied to them all this time.
2. They thought I had hurt my boyfriend and had run off with some random woman.
3. They thought I didn’t want to tell them myself.
I was devastated to lose such special friendships and it has impacted on making friends as an adult.
A few of my friends remained.
Interestingly, it is the ones I have known the longest and didn’t have to say anything to.
They just accepted me and who I was dating at the time! To them it really didn’t matter.
They are still with me, supporting me and cheering me on to this day.
Coming Out At Work
A very long story short.
I came out in my first job, then went back in the closet when I moved to work in a college.
I had a terrible experience there where I was bullied and decided at my next job I would come out.
I’m going to talk about this experience in a lot more detail in a future article.
There’s a lot to be said about how I came out and what I learnt from that so keep a look out for that.
Coming Out Socially and With Strangers
I have come out every day for the last 22 years.
To utility suppliers. To banks. Insurance providers. Health and well-being providers. To people I meet through friends. To people I meet through work.
And how do I deal with coming out to them?
Better than I used to!
When I was younger I used to have really short hair and to be honest I looked like the stereotypical image of a lesbian. It was pretty obvious I was gay back then.
But as I’ve evolved, as I’ve grown up, as I’ve changed my hair and developed my sense of style it’s not so obvious to people that I am gay.
I tend to drop it into conversation these days.
I say things like ‘my girlfriend’, my ‘partner’ or use her name a lot.
I come across a few issues with that language though.
When I use girlfriend to Americans that can get lost in translation.
And when I use partner in a business scenario, they often think I am talking about my business partner at first. Then I have to go through this whole thing of clarifying that I’m actually talking about my ‘life partner’. At which point I can see their eyes spinning and the cogs whirring and they are trying to work it out. This often gets people on the back foot, having made an assumption about my sexuality.
I’ve noticed those that say wife have it a lot easier! That language is pretty obvious!
I’d love to hear your story.
How did you come out?
How did it go? What were the reactions and responses?
What would you have done differently?
Stay Tuned – The Coming Out Series
If you have any questions, if you want to know anything specific, leave me a comment and I will make sure I answer it over the coming weeks and months.
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About Gina Battye
Gina Battye is a world renowned LGBT+ & Authenticity Consultant and Advisor for TV, Film, Theatre, Radio, Global Press, Fortune 500s + Leading Global Organisations.
Find out more about Gina and her work at www.ginabattye.com/media and chat with her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.