Today is National Coming Out Day in the UK, many people will have notice twitter being alive with this yesterday but that was the USA and other countries. It is a day to celebrate the rights of LGBT rights achieved and the fight for those yet to come wherever that may be.
Coming out is a strange phrase it suggests one particular occasion instead of one of various events that someone who identifies as LGBT has to go through, on a day-to-day, person-by-person basis. Here are some of my coming out stories.
To my parents: I told my Mum while I was ironing door stairs in the house where I am writing this. I simple said "Mum there is something I have to tell you. I'm gay". She asked, "You're not having sex are you?", seeing I was clearly standing there ironing my shirts and not engaging in a sexual act and she had asked the question in the present tense I replied, "No." If she had phrased it, "You haven't had sex have you?" she would have got a different response. Since then seeing as she has discovered both condoms and lube at various times I would suspect that she knows that is not the case.
My dad was at the time a church elder and Boys Brigade Captain, in which I served in the section my mother was leader. When I told him, he simply said, "Thanks for being honest." I wish more Christians could take that approach when other gay Christians come out to them. We're avoiding the sin of lying.
To work colleagues: The first time I came out to work colleagues was on a works night out. One of the girls in the group, knowing I was single, asked me, "What to you think of that girl over there?" I ceased the chance in front of all my colleagues and said, "Not my type, but that guy just behind her. Phwoar!" That was it. I came out to the guys at work, in a fun non-intimidating way, to all of them at once and they were fine with it.
To the bowling team: I can't remember exactly what the first occurrence was. But it was most certainly one Saturday as a group of us night-clubbed the night away in Bangor, post match. Having never seen me hit on any of the girls the lads asked me why, so I told them. Some Saturday's later in the usual pre-match warm up banter across the green about who was going to pull that night, one of them started with, and we might even get a nice guy for you Stephen. They were fine about it, it was done in an inclusive and jocular fashion. If any of the opponents dared to use homophobic language about me the other 15 were on them like a shot.
On National TV: To be honest I suppose I actually have to identify as bi-sexual, even though I have only had one opposite sex sexual partner, though I was engaged to her for five years. However, most of the Scottish Liberal Democrats were aware of that as most of the five years coincided with my early days in Scotland. Indeed that was the reason I ended up there. So in 2009, three and half years after that relationship ended, I hadn't got around to telling everyone. Key friends and colleagues were all aware, but not every conference rep. However, we were going to have a debate on the blood ban. Here were my opening comments.
"Conference, my Grandfather donated blood from the early days of the Blood Transfusion Service. He was an on-request donor due to his rare blood type. My father received his gold badge for 100 donations. I used to give blood, but not now. I'm not allowed to, as (slowly) I have sex with other men. (long pregnant pause)"
This was going out live on BBC Scotland on a Sunday Morning, but there was also some interesting reactions of shock around the hall.
More work colleagues: At one point in recent history our team in Edinburgh were 4 straight, 3 LGB* (unlike Stonewall I know there was no Transgender involvement, nor did there have to be). However, despite subtle pronoun corrections and other such things in the work place 2 or maybe three of the straight members of the team hadn't quite picked up on the diversity in the group. The three of us all had from the first few days that the other ones joined the team. However, it was the turn of one of the three to leave (not me). So the leaving do was arranged for The Street, probably one of the most straight friendly, gay friendly bars in Edinburgh's pink district (so much so that some straight friends have missed what is happening around them). Slowly as the three of us waited for partners to turn up it became apparent to our newest team member and another innocent one that we were in a gay friendly environment in the more gay leaving do I've even been fortunate enough to attend with my own work colleagues.
These are just some of the coming out stories that there have been in my live. As I said at the start it is almost a daily experience as you meet someone different and you have to decide if you can go ahead with it and let them know that detail about you. As you can see there is a variety of ways that can be achieved. My opinion is if you are confident in yourself and go and do it your friends, acquaintances have no option but to respond in a positive way. If you are positive in yourself and happy to let them know. Sure there are also some bad tales to tell. But the more people who know and love you through it, the more people who will also watch your back when things go nasty.
* Yeah one of each.