Something people often ask on the ‘coming out’ discussion is simply: “How do you know?”
I’ve tried explaining in lengthy terms, in short sentences; once I even used a diagram. The easiest thing to do, I have found, is to simply ask:
“How do YOU know? How do you not know?”
This often gives enough pause for you to redirect the question, or ninja yourself away.
I knew when I was 13. There was a girl at school, the typical story I suppose, when I realised I had more than just a friend crush on her. She was, of course, a cool girl, who a) didn’t know I existed and b) I am glad didn’t know I existed as it allowed me to work out my feelings with this distant infatuation without the confusion of actually getting involved in them. Like a scientist observes experiments, I detached from myself and watched as I fumbled onto the conclusion that I was, in fact, gay.
This was aided by the fact that my ‘boyfriend’ at the time – a mere cover story – never got anywhere near even a peck on the cheek from me because I didn’t have one iota of teenage lust, attraction or even curiosity for him. However we were still at the age when holding hands was likely to get you pregnant so thank goodness kissing was off the menu. Otherwise, I’d have been Found Out and that, my friends, Would Not Do.
Nowadays, I look back on that pubescent puppy-fatted and bespectacled bag of hormones and I don’t think wryly to myself ‘Oh, how differently I would do that now’. I think I still would have done the same, even if I had the confidence I have today. School is horrible. Kids are even worse. I understood then that the best thing to do for a safe, quiet life to avoid as much of the bullying as possible, was to fit in as much as I could. And being a lesbian, clearly, would not have sufficed in these aims.
I took this feeling of necessary hiding with me, though. All through school. Through college. Through university. Through the mis-starts of my career. And it was easy. The more I pretended, the easier it became, until I found myself wondering why I wasn’t marrying the man I lived with. Aside from the lack of physical attraction, the question of marriage would fall away when my dreams of the wedding came into my mind’s eye. Not once did I ever imagine him standing at the altar, tears in his eyes at how beautiful I looked in my wedding dress. No, I could never see who exactly was waiting at the other end of the aisle for me, but I could tell you one thing: they wore a wedding dress as well.
Leaving my long-term straight life behind was more nerve-wracking possibly than coming out when I was 13 would have been. I still faced similar reactions – some friends ignored me, some supported me, and some thought it was just a phase. But I had built a life of lies, and it was incredibly hard to disentangle myself from what had been, in all reality, a very comfortable existence.
We worked, we got home, we had dinner and talked about each other’s days, we had a cuddle on the sofa, we went to sleep, we got up, we went to work. Weekends consisted of lazy brunches and Xbox marathons. It sounds boring, but it was safe. And yet my insomnia returned, my restlessness in an otherwise calm nature kept bubbling up, until I couldn’t ignore it any more.
It broke my heart to break his, but I was lucky in that I had been dating my best friend. He is still my best friend, and even sent a Christmas card with a pair of birds on the front with the message ‘I tried to find you one with a nice pair of tits on it, but this was the best I could do’. I count every blessing I have him in my life still.
Rebuilding my life post-breakup was a struggle. Not only was I single for the first time in my adult life, I was dating on the gay scene for the first time, I had to start telling people for the first time. It. Was. Terrifying.
And then I realised, after telling the closest friends and – eventually – family, nobody gives a monkeys. If they do, they aren’t worth knowing.
Which makes me wonder why we put so much pressure on people in the public eye to ‘come out’. Not only them, but everybody who has a non-traditional sexual orientation. Why should it be anybody’s business?
Well, I have found a few reasons. But they, Dear Reader, shall have to wait for tomorrow.