When did you come out? A question asked to most gay men - yet one I don't really have an answer to. Every boy in my family is gay, apart from my dad - he's very particular that I make that disclaimer! Not because he's opposed to being gay but enough people confuse my mum for a man as it is. And so I never really had to "come out". I basically once went home with a boyfriend and that was that.
I grew up in a council estate in Manchester and I was never, ever bullied about being gay. I was bullied because I was a ginger - and had a head brace - and a lisp - and a stammer but never for being gay.
And now, as a comedian, I essentially come out every single night and there is part of me that feels completely and utterly liberated by this and by the fact that I am getting laughs and applause for being me.
Let me take you to the beginning of the story...
Growing up, I always really struggled with my confidence. I would blush the brightest shade of rouge if anyone spoke to me, I looked very awkward (some might say the original Annie was based on me) and there was just this underlying feeling of not feeling like me. This isn't a story about being a gay person but this is a story about being yourself and part of that for me, is being gay.
I remember watching the likes of Alan Carr, Julian Clary and Stephen Fry on TV and they were all smart and original and funny but most importantly to me, they were extremely confident and I found that so attractive and did that typical I could never do that
I also remember when Ellen DeGeneres came out and it really affected her career and I remember thinking people are so dumb. She's still Ellen. Her comedy, her personality is the same except now she's introduced us to that last bit of her that we didn't know before. To me that authenticity was so attractive and I craved it for myself.
So in 2009, I decided to pack up and leave Manchester and head south to that London. I wanted to go and find myself (some people go travelling but I was scared of flying so the Capital seemed good enough to me!) I was anxious though - what if they don't have a Harvester, what the hell is the tube? And why is it so expensive.
I got a job and I was still super shy. It was getting to a point where I was so embarrassed by it but too shy to say anything about it. I had lots of thoughts on the world but would never say them in case people thought I was so stupid - and one day on a whim, whilst watching my favourite gay man in a woman's body, Kathy Griffin - my friend basically said you should do that.
I think what she said was 'It will be good for your confidence, you'll meet people, you'll meet some gays and me and Sam would like some nights without you' - typical selfish straights.
So I did it. In 2011, I signed up to a comedy course - I went, I performed, I wrote jokes and then the rest of the class and I did our first gig and some pals from work came to support and it happened and it went well.
THEN for the next six months, it was horrible. I was bombing every gig. I was so nervous on stage; I was telling the jokes we wrote in our class - I felt sick. This was not good.
I had been doing comedy about a year - maybe one gig a month and I really dreaded it. Also if one more person compared me to Alan Carr I was going to punch them in the face. It was a compliment but so wrong. At this point, I wasn't funny (still buy tickets to my show as I am NOW!) and he was and we were both northern and camp. (I'm not sure how I feel about the word camp - we'll discuss this at a later date!)
My friend Leo, who is an ace comic turned round to me one day and said to me something, that I will never ever forget, that I will always be thankful for and that changed my comedy career and in fact my life. He said (and I am paraphrasing) why don't you stop telling those set-up punchline jokes that you are telling. They are not funny. You are really brilliant and funny when you are sat telling us stories about your life, your boyfriends - or failed attempts at that and your parents. Start there and build.
People will love you for being you.
At first, I thought what a knob but then I did it and I sailed through to the final of a competition.
It took 25 years to get to a level of being happy with who I am - a ginger, gay, French-speaking, black belt in Tae Kwon-Do, pasty comedian and every night I now step on stage being 100% me - talking about everything from dating, to pop culture, to struggling with confidence and I am PROUD that it is from my POV as LGBT. And what I love the most is that everybody loves it and that it doesn't matter that I am gay - I felt the same way I felt when watching Julian Clary all those years ago. It matters that I am
Stephen, who just also happens to be gay - and single. So boys get swiping right
YOU CAN CATCH STEPHEN AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE THIS SUMMER AS HE RETURNS WITH HIS NEW SHOW STEPHEN BAILEY: NATION'S SWEETHEART 4-28 AUGUST, JUST THE TONIC AT THE CAVES 7.20PM
HuffPost UK is turning Loud & Proud from 18 April-2 May. We're celebrating how gay culture has influenced and, in turn, been embraced by all fields of entertainment, inspiring cinema-goers, TV audiences, music-lovers and wider society with its wit, creativity and power of expression.
Through features, video and blogs, we'll be championing those brave pioneers who paved the way, exploring the broad range of gay culture in British film, TV and music and asking - what is left to be done? If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, please email email@example.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about
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