Today is National Coming Out Day.

The day is held on the anniversary of the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and acts as a reminder that everyone should be free to be who they are.

Coming out – It’s a process

Coming out can be different for every person – sometimes its simple, other times its difficult. No two ‘coming outs’ are the same and generally speaking, coming out is more of a process rather than a single event.

I came out when I was 19. The first person I told was someone I worked with.

From there I told a couple of friends, then family and finally, over time, different work colleagues. For years, after I had come out, I still didn’t tell everyone.

When I first came out I didn’t know how people would react. Would they still treat me the same? Would they whisper behind my back? Would they expect me to act a different way?

All of these questions swirled around my mind and it took me a while to reconcile all of these thoughts before I took the step to tell someone. That wasn’t the first step – the first step was to admit to myself that I was gay.

That first step was perhaps the hardest, because I knew once I admitted it to myself I’d then have to tell other people. Fortunately for me, every person I’ve ever told that I’m gay has been OK with it – or at least, they have appeared to be OK with it.

Coming out isn’t always easy for other people to deal with as they have their own preconceptions and beliefs on what being gay means. This is changing, but we’re not quite where we should be yet.

Coming to terms with your sexuality is not always straight forward and waiting for others to come to terms with it can be equally as complicated – if not worse. But the important thing is to take that first step – when YOU’RE ready.

And remember, things take time. As much as we’d all like everyone to accept us at face value, the world (at present) doesn’t work that way and people need time to come to terms with everything.

Continuing to come out

I’m a 36-year-old married man. I make no secret of my sexuality, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to constantly address it.

Automatically, whenever a conversation about partners comes up, most new people I meet switch to a default setting and presume I have a wife or a girlfriend. I then have to correct them.

No harm done, but it does mean this is something which is a constant reminder to me that I have to keep ‘coming out’. The process – which I started 17 years ago – still isn’t over and perhaps it never will be.

I try not to pay it too much attention – I’m an easy going person (mostly) and as mentioned above, I’ve been fortunate enough to continue through life without too many problems. However, I appreciate that isn’t the case for other people and for many, coming out is a very difficult process and is something that isn’t accepted in all parts of the world.

It is important to recognise National Coming Out Day, because it is a reminder that those in the LGBTQ+ community are not alone. At times it might feel that way, but trust me, that’s not the case.