‘I suppressed my identity’: MM reporter tells his story for National Coming Out Day

In primary school a girl a few years older than me constantly called me a ‘faggot’ at lunch times, purposely coming to find me to call me it and laughing at the way I stood.

This was my first experience with that word, and being just 10 or 11 I didn’t know what it meant I just knew it upset me.

After days of this and crying to Mum and Dad I asked them what the word meant and why I was being called it.

I remember pretty well how they awkwardly explained what the slur meant and they told me to just ignore her. I just couldn’t figure out why she felt she had to do this on a daily basis.

And being so young this kind of name calling can have an effect on you, despite the saying ‘stick and stones etc’ because names do hurt.

As I moved onto high school I didn’t really experience bullying the way some young LGBT people do.

In some ways I feel lucky to have gone through high school pre-social media boom because there is so much pressure and expectation on young people these days.

‘LUCKY’: Jonny is glad he went through high school without the pressure social media puts on LGBT kids

With people being outed on Facebook, and apps for every single thing, there isn’t really any escape.

By this time knew I was gay but it was something I just pushed to the back of my mind and enjoyed my high school years with friends.

But then as people started to have relationships at 16 and 17 I felt left out, that I didn’t fit in and I didn’t really understand why.

I questioned ‘what was wrong with me?’, ‘am I normal?’, ‘will I ever have a relationship?’ and that was when the anxiety began.

I began to have panic attacks that lasted days, I had irrational thoughts thinking I was dying or going to die and this happened on a daily basis for the entirety of my A-Levels and trying to get into university on about two hours of sleep a night.

At the time I didn’t realize it was because I was suppressing my identity, it just seemed like all these new scary feelings I hadn’t experienced before and thought nobody else ever had.

Although I had this overbearing fear that I was going to die, to me, being dead was the only way to escape my thoughts.

I don’t think I ever would have killed myself because I couldn’t have done that to my family –that was the only thought that kept me going through those two years.

During this time in my life I found solace in music, film and literature. I used them to escape and find some sort of answer in any lyric or moment to know that I was going to be OK and that I am ‘normal’ whatever the definition of that word is.

I’ve realized that a lot of clichés people use are true and that’s why we use them so often, because music, really did save my life.

Starting university changed everything for me, the anxiety was still there after having some therapy, but I came into contact with people from all over the country and different backgrounds and I realized that where I was from was not a small world I was trapped in, there was so much more out there.

Growing up in a rural area I always thought the right thing to do was for a man and woman to get married, settle down and have kids, and I think some of my anxiety stemmed from the fact that I would never be able to do that.

It was during my time at university where I could say ‘yes’ if someone asked me if I was gay without hesitation, and I told all my close friends from school – slowly I felt more and more relieved.

‘UNEXPLAINABLE’: Jonny can’t put into words how relieved he was after coming out to his mum and dad

The biggest part was coming out to my parents, I don’t know why I was so worried because I have a pretty liberal family but it was that chance of being rejected because I was not the ‘norm’.

I was arguing with my Mum on and off for weeks and tensions were high until I broke down in tears and she knew this was the moment I was going to tell her.

She kept asking me ‘what is it? What is it?’ and saying ‘tell me what’s wrong’ and when I finally told her I felt so relieved it’s unexplainable.

She said she was 99% sure I was but it was something she didn’t want to push out of me, instead she wanted to wait until I was ready to tell her, which I am glad of now.

My grandparents and siblings were so accepting and I realized all my irrational thoughts were just inside my head.

I was lucky really to have such accepting parents because not everyone has the same outcome as I did.

One quote I would constantly read almost every day trying to prepare myself to come out was ‘those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind’ by Dr Suess.

And I would say to myself that today is the day because the people who care about me wouldn’t care if I was gay or not, and I think that quote is one everyone could use for all aspects of life.

I was able to improve my relationships with my family and friends because I didn’t have to hold back a big part of myself.

Being gay doesn’t define me but it’s something I’m no longer ashamed of, instead I can accept and embrace it.

But after coming out you enter a whole new world of things such as dating apps popular in the gay community.

It is something I have used in the past but it is a constant competition of trying to impress people which is something I did for so long before coming out that I’m tired of doing it now.

So it is something that is perhaps not for me but that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t use those things.

For some it is a way to feel accepted and meet other people similar to them whether it’s for relationships or friendships.

There is also a stigma around being ‘feminine’ and gay – something that is mocked both in and out of the gay community.

There is a pressure to be ‘masculine’ but this whole ideal is just another way to put people down.

Nobody should try and be something they are not, coming out is to do the opposite of that, so why try and conform to expectations.

I think LGBT people should take their time in coming out, do it when you are ready, don’t rush, and talk to someone close who you can trust or seek help at a local LGBT centre.

Just be you, because there is nothing more amazing and liberating than people just being themselves, despite what others have to say.

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