Pride Month 2023 – “Coming out”
In the second of our blogs during Pride month, Bryony Fitzpatrick, Talent and Resourcing Advisor at Fletchers Group talks very openly and honestly about coming out, and how hard it is to do it when you are part of a family that displays homophobic behaviour.
A study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health reveals that across the world, 83% of those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual keep their sexual orientation hidden from all or most of the people in their lives.
This is a shocking statistic that shows how important Pride Month is in today’s society, when the majority of us feel the opposite of pride about our sexual orientation.
Hiding who I was
The stat resonated with me as it reflects my story in my coming out journey. I knew that I liked girls from being a child, but being a part of a family that openly displayed their disgust of the gay community made it impossible for me to tell my truth.
From a very young age, I was told that it was wrong to be gay, that ‘God’ didn’t create us to be gay, and how much it disgusted them. This made me feel ashamed about who I was but also that I was keeping a part of myself hidden.
I remember vividly as a child waking up crying because I’d dreamt about a girl, terrified my family would find out and hate me. Nobody should ever feel that way, especially not as a child. I lived in secret for most of my life, I told only my close friends that I liked girls and made them swear to secrecy they would never tell.
Meeting the love of my life
I lived this way until I was 21, and then I met my current partner working in a restaurant together. The one thing that I was most in awe of was that she was so unapologetically herself. She was openly gay and didn’t care that she might be the butt of a joke, or that people made assumptions about her because of her sexuality, she was proud of who she was. This was such a contrast for me as I’d lived my life ashamed of who I was, and I couldn’t help but be intrigued by her.
We had chemistry immediately, and for the first time in my life I had found a girl that had made me question everything I knew about myself. We started a relationship together in 2018 and 5 years later, we’re still together and she is the love of my life.
As much as our story makes my heart warm, there is a dark cloud that hangs over this part of my life, because the next step was coming out, and I was terrified. I dated my partner behind my family’s back for six months, too afraid to tell them the truth. Until I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, hiding a part of myself, hiding the love of my life, drained my soul and made me feel lost, and I didn’t want that anymore.
My heart was in my mouth and even though my family had so much hatred in their hearts – they were still my family and I loved them, and the thought of them hating me broke my heart into pieces, but it was better than living a lie. I so desperately want to say that it went perfectly, that my family embraced who I was immediately, and I had nothing to worry about, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
Unapologetically myself now
My siblings accepted me immediately, and I knew on reflection that their views had come from the way they had been raised, and not what they felt in their hearts. I am so proud to say that they turned around their views and acknowledged that the way they were, hurt me for a long time.
But some of my family members didn’t take it so well, and even now five years later I struggle to have the same connection I once had with them when I was hiding who I was. Even typing this now I have tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, because all I ever wanted was to be accepted. But it’s not all doom and gloom!
I don’t regret a thing about coming out. I am unapologetically myself now, and there is something so freeing about being who you are, I wouldn’t change that for the world.
But that doesn’t take away from how hard it was to come out, and how I feel immense amounts of empathy for the 83% of LGBTQ+ people who are in the same position that I was…
I went through hell to be who I was, but it’s because of that strength and pride in who I was that encouraged my younger cousin to come out as trans, it means my little sister won’t cry if she dreams about girls at night and that the younger generation of my family won’t have to feel the same pain as I did.
If I had any piece of advice for anyone in the same position as I was, it would be to find a support network to help you through. Whether it’s an LGBTQIA+ community page on social media, whether it’s a helpline charity, whether it’s your closest friends, or even the love of your life. You need that support to get you through the dark days.
“Pride is still important because someone tonight still believes they’re better off dead than being themselves”.