To quote our Lord & Saviour Miss Panti Bliss, "I am thoroughly, deeply delighted to be gay. It suits me. I am really good at it."
Some of you already know about me and my coming out story and it's available to read here so I won't bore you all with the grimy, intimate details of what I went through or how horrible it was. What I do want to talk about it is how I got through it and why I want to tell you about that. I grew up in a Christian household with a loving family who didn't have much but we made do with what my mother and father could save for and my brother and I never went wanting for anything. Clothes, food, an education, a warm bed and a roof over our heads and a strong family who supported one another through thick and thin. It wasn't until I came out that my idea of family and the belief that I was loved and supported was shattered like a window pane in a storm - and I'm still picking fragments of that glass out of my skin today (albeit I no longer notice it, it's more like swatting a little fly that occasionally lands on my shoulder on a good day.)
I am positive that it was never the intention of my parents or family to make me feel that I was not loved and didn't belong to the family but words were exchanged on both sides that we regret. I tried to take my own life of the November of 2008 and in January of 2009 I ran away from home to couch surf with friends or anyone that would let me sleep on the floor because I couldn't handle the awful and escalating rows with my mother. Looking back on it today I couldn't live with the shame that I had broken her heart, not by coming out, but because I hadn't told her first. That is probably the biggest mistake I have ever made and to think that I ever felt like the one person who has been there for me through everything would have turned her back on me because of my sexuality is madness. But I was young, I was scared, confused and I had only just come out to myself so how in the hell was I supposed to expect anyone else to handle it?
That was seven years ago and a lot has changed. My family and I have a solid relationship and I thank God for every day that I have them in my life. Of course it's not perfect but I challenge you to show me a family that is. When I look back on those days I realise that the crippling depression that I had and the deep shame I felt nearly killed me, and it's killing young LGBT people up and down this country and beyond. I tell myself every day that this is who I am. In those days and months after I came out the only person I could turn to was myself. If all else fell away the one person I knew I could depend on was me. I can't always remember the exact details of what happened during that time, probably because it was so horrible that I don't want to, but I knew that I could get through it if I just made it through the night until the next day and I would deal with whatever was thrown my way and then do it all over again 24 hours later.
It took a long time for me to realise, with the help of counsellors at the Rainbow Project and Lifeline (two fantastic resources that I was able to use to save my own life) that I am loved, I am valued and I am as deserving of happiness as anyone else. But it has to start with accepting yourself first. Coming out to yourself is the most difficult conversation many of us will ever have but we owe it to ourselves to find out where our strengths lie, who we can trust and that if you can make it through the night to the next day then you can bloody well handle whatever comes your way. I drew a lot of strength from the people that came before me, those who stood up and proudly told the world "I am different. Deal with it."
Before I accepted that I was gay I simply thought that I was strange, different. A weirdo. So here's to all those weirdos out there, LGBT or not: you are the most important resource you have. It's OK to cry, it's OK to hurt and it's OK to feel but never be afraid to ask for help, never be ashamed of holding out your hand to grab a lifeline. They aren't things to be embarrassed about, quite the opposite. Lifelines are weapons that we use to fight back the negativity that's all around us and when you can pull yourself out of those dark days you can look yourself in the mirror every morning and tell yourself "This is me. I am loved. I am valued. I am pretty amazing."
It's the best thing I ever did.