Why we still need “Coming Out Stories” from host Emma Goswell
Coming Out. What a load of fuckry. I said as much in the trailer for the podcast – although I may have been politer. Who wants to talk about sex – who you’re having sex with or even want to have sex with, with your nearest and dearest and especially your parents? Not me!
Yes – it’s nobody’s business who you want to get naked with, but if you’re LGBT plus and want to date and want to live openly and want to be accepted by friends and family – it’s a conversation you’re probably going to have to have. And it’s a conversation you’re going to have to have, time and time again. Every time you start a new job or meet a new group of friends.
And sadly, even in 2019, it’s a conversation and a process that can bring the most confident soul surrounded by liberal thinkers out into a cold sweat. Of course some people will be met with acceptance and love but at worst LGBGT people still face loosing their nearest and dearest and even their home. I’ve spoken to people who have never spoken to their parents since they came out. I’ve spoken to people who have experienced homelessness, violence and severe isolation. It’s tough – but the purpose of this podcast is not to scare people back into the closet – quite the opposite. I wanted to put coming out stories all in one place because I hoped it would be a useful resource for people who have yet to go through the process. If you’ve yet to do it, I hoped hearing stories from other people who have confronted their own sexuality or gender identity would be both a comfort and an inspiration. And if you’re a parent, carer or relative, who’s confused or even upset I hope this will be a useful insight into the wonderful world of LGBT plus people.
While there are the horror stories, the moments that will reduce you to tears – there is one common thread in all the stories I’ve collected – and that is – that it does get better! Few parents (OK none I’ve heard of) throw a big old party when their child announces they’re gay or trans but even the most reactionary do come around in the end. Sometimes that takes weeks or months and sometimes it takes years. And for the very few who never speak to their family again there is another type of reconciliation or kind of happy ending – a realisation that life does go on and that family doesn’t have to mean blood. I’ve spoke to plenty of LGBT people who have found their own rainbow family made up of partners and friends. Out gay writer Armistead Maupin even has a phrase for it – he says he values his ‘logical family’ over his biological family.
The thing about coming out is that every story is as individual as the person telling it. Whether that’s come from a celebrity, someone with an MBE, a teenager who’s just come out or (in one case) a member of a royal family – each story I’ve collected is beautifully unique. I’ve hard from those who called their parents on the phone, others who wrote letters or emails, one who came out on stage and a couple who were forced to come out after an appearance on national television! I’ve spoken to some who went through long periods of confusion – only to be told BY their parents (usually mothers!) that they were gay! The method is always different but the anxiety and uncertainty that leads up to it is always the same. There’s always panic, there’s always fear of the unknown.
I’ve got pretty liberal minded parents who met in London during the swinging sixties – but even I felt sick with anxiety and wanted to keep it to myself for a while. In fact I only really came out when my Father confronted me and demanded to know if I was pregnant, on drugs OR a lesbian?! (You can hear me recount that memory in episode one of the podcast).
One thing that’s pretty universal is that people who have come out say they almost HAD to for peace of mind. Living a lie is something that cuts people up inside and has a massively detrimental effect on mental health. I think everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that they’re happier having come out and come through the other side.
LGBT + shame is a very real thing – and if you haven’t read it yet Matthew Todd’s book – “Straight jacket – How to be happy and gay” is both a wonderful insight into the problem and a helpful guide. You can hear Matthew talking about his own coming out story and how it effected his own mental health in a future episode of ‘Coming Out Stories’.
Please listen to the stories I’ve collected and I really hope they do provide some comfort.
If you’ve yet to do it – please take your time, don’t let anyone rush you and remember that being LGBT plus is just a small part of who you are.
And if you’ve done it – congratulations and welcome to the family!