I regularly attend a social group for Gay and Bisexual men in a Major city in England. It's a fantastic way to meet friends and drinking buddies alike. It's also a powerful tool to remind myself that there are other strong minded people out there like me.
I got speaking to someone I haven't met before who has recently decided to come out. He brought me on a journey through a painful struggle for acceptance from his parents, friends and dreaded relatives. He spoke about how empowered the group had made him feel . While I was speaking to this guy one think I was struck by was how unsettled he was. He triggered some memories and brought me right back to that constant questioning of my very core, the uncertainty and the frustration that I once wrestled with, and sometimes still do.
In my time I have gone to a few different gay men's social groups and one thing I always notice is how supportive the group is to everyone. There is no exclusion, not cliques and no judgement .Everyone is equal. I haven't been in many settings where this has been the case.
I'm currently 21 years old and I initially came out to friends and eventually family at 16. It was rather straightforward experience however the most difficult person to come out to was myself. At sixteen most young people are battling with their identity. I worried that I was inflicting the whole thing on myself and I felt at times like I was being complicated. Being so young, I obsessed over what people would think of me. At what age do we stop worrying about what people think of us?
It's interesting to note that my new found friend is 50 years old. We discussed how coming out has been a massive decision for him. We naturally drifted into why coming out younger wasn't an option for him. I began to notice the generational gap of acceptance. The fact that gay people existed but weren't talked about very much really resonated with me. He had No one to tell him that "it gets better". He didn't live in the age of self acceptance and self expression that we have just entered.
Do we ever not care about what others especially our nearest and dearest think of us? When I was coming out I was lucky that everyone was accepting of me. A wise man once told me that those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter.
We are all products of our environments and upbringings. I find it really refreshing how an older person from a significantly different generation from mine can find the courage and empowerment to come out and give up the tiring effort of hiding his identity and finally finding some self acceptance.
Follow Ciaran W on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CiaranWeir