Coming out.

Today I was starting a new job, my boyfriend and I had decided the extra money would make life a little better. So I traveled the 10 Minute car journey admiring the beautiful surroundings and was already looking forward to seeing how others had made a home from home in this unspoiled setting.

I had already spent a boring morning being shown the ropes in the office, administrative tasks which were much more in depth than I had feared. I hoped I wouldn’t be spending too much time in there, but the people, women in their mid 20’s were nice and friendly, one Muslim and one fellow English person.

There was also a steady stream of locals with poor English but a friendly manner. The office was set on a small holiday home complex and there were people from all over the world with a second home there, they would be regular visitors to the office and it was nice to talk to people from other parts of the world.

I was going to be key holding, {looking after other people holiday homes} on a beautiful mediterranean island where I was lucky enough to be spending my days now. So I am being driven around the area by the guy I am replacing, he is of Muslim faith and married to one of the women in the office, the English woman.

As we drive around the 70 villas and apartments which I will be looking after, the conversation turns from work to more chit chat,

I know the kind of questions that will come up, living the last 16 years as a gay man had prepared me very well for the questions which in an instant require either the truth which means outing myself, or an avoidance strategy, the avoidance thing never works, people in general like to connect and share. It isn’t easy to be authentic and closed.

So the conversation goes something like this:

“So do you have a partner on the island”, I said “yes”, already knowing I would soon be known as gay in my new work role. This didn’t bother me at all as I have come to love who I am as a person, but a few years back was another story. “How long have you been together” I answered “three years, two in England and one year here”.

What happened next has happened so many times, it is almost funny when it happens, though a part of me is reminded of when it wasn’t funny, when it was as if my world had collapsed when someone else had found out that I was gay.

“What’s her name” “Kevin” I said, we had just stopped the car to inspect another villa and he had reached to open his driver side door, as his words still lingered in the air and he heard my reply, he almost fell out of the car.

He looked at me and sat himself back in his seat, he was more than a little surprised, he fumbled for the right words, they came out like this “Oh, its no problem, you just don’t look gay, I’m sorry” I guess the sorry was for his reaction, not anything he had said, but he must have realised that he had been surprised and it may have looked like he disapproved.

As it happens, it could not have gone better for me, on my first day I had been given the opportunity to continue to live an authentic life, gifted to me by people’s assumptions. It was perfect for me when this happened now, as I didn’t have to make a big deal out of it and it was done right from the beginning, it’s harder the longer it takes. A stark contrast to a few years ago.

I was in the car with my first boyfriend in a northern city in England, not known for its acceptance of anything or anyone different, at least that was my perception. We were chatting about how I was struggling to ‘be’ I had tried not to be gay but I just couldn’t beat it,

I felt very ashamed and alone, no one knew and there was no one I could tell , only my boyfriend, who was struggling with some of his own stuff. I was unemployed after leaving a good job, because I couldn’t tell anyone why I had left my lovely wife and young son. They were dark times, the darkest I have had.

The phone rang and it was my oldest close friend, the words will always stay with me, at the time they sent me into a mix of fear and shock, but in reality and with hindsight, it was the start of my journey to an authentic life.

“You know we are friends and we will always be friends, no matter what” I sheepishly said “yes”, knowing there was something big ahead, I could hear in his voice and an awkwardness which made everything around me fade, all I could hear was his voice and every detail of every word he spoke.

“I have something to ask you” I said “Go ahead” he continued, now I could hear fear in his voice too “Well, there’s a rumour going around that you are gay, are you?”

There is hardly a day goes by that I don’t come out, living an authentic life makes it inevitable, but at least now its easy, each time I do it, I always think back to that very first and difficult times afterwards, and also to the thousands of people coming out for the first time every day, all around the world.

If someone comes out to you, please support them, it has taken a lot of courage for them to share it with you.