I swear to you it was no big surprise to anyone around me. I had gone to performing arts college and had done the usual explosion into gayosity and started dating men and going out every weekend to the “special” club as me and my friends used to call it. It was right about that time I was embracing my goth phase too ( who remembers that? ). Anyway I had decided that seeing as I was now at the grand old age of 17 that finding my forever soul mate was imminent and that I should let my mum know rather than leave it till my wedding. I think the fact that I had dyed my hair bright pink and went out most weekends in a ( I kid you not ) leopard print dog collar * cringe! * had given the game away. I swear to you the “secret” was only a secret in my brain. But soon came the day that I was going to tell her... and I chickened out. And then I chickened out again. And again... Now my mum says she knew it was coming, she said she knew I was gay right from when I was about five years old. Mum does put it down to that “mums just know” business but I do think the fact that I used to skip and sing to the clouds, had a slight obsession with Lion Heart the manliest care bear and could be often found over my friend Claire's house knee deep in her barbies and my little ponies gave her a slight inkling too.
It truly is hilarious thinking about this now at my age. Mum says I literally followed her around the house for about 6 weeks in absolute silence. Which ever room she went in there I was, willing the words “I'm gay.” to come out from my mouth. After mum had had enough of her pink haired slightly gothy shadow for 6 weeks she decided to put me out of my misery. Mum said,
“Ryan, have you got something to tell me?”
“Is it mummy I'm gay?”
“O.K. Do you want a cup of tea?” and then mum gave me a hug and that was it.
No drama, no nonsense, just a quick less than a minute conversation and it was all done. For those six weeks previously mum did that thing where if anything remotely gay came on the telly she would announce to the room at random that she “wouldn't be bothered at all if either of her children were gay.” whilst giving me a compassionate and hurry-up-and-just-sodding-tell-me type look. It was at this point my stomach would leap into my throat and I would run to my wonderfully decorated room and throw myself on the bed in all the abject angst a 17 year old can muster.
My coming out was fine, effortless and my mum handled it perfectly. I had no idea how perfectly until I worked in a gay bar for a few months in my early twenties. It was then I heard horror story after horror story from wounded and drunk souls that spill their guts to compassionate bar men. I am so grateful it was handled so well, I am so grateful I was handled so well. I think most of my family handled it better than me. Most of them. There is obviously a period after you come out where your family adjusts. Not adjusts to you being gay necessarily but adjusts to you defining yourself. Looking back I didn't give my family an inch to greive their dreams for me which sometimes I wished I had handled better. Even though they totally understood and accepted that their dreams for me weren't my dreams for me they still needed time to process. It's natural. It's a journey and I'm so glad that the momentum of youth carried me through it. But I do own that as soon as I came out I CAME OUT!! I flew out of the closet like an agile gazelle and was the gayest gay of all gaydom. It was fun, but looking back must have been quite bracing for my family.
I think we all eventually have to define ourselves and use that definition to work out who we are. Some find the definition limiting, I find it a welcome platform to explore who you are and it can really help so long as you remember that it is you that chose that definition. Man, Woman, Gay, Straight and everything in between are all labels that we each have to explore and figure out what they mean to US as opposed to how they have been defined by culture FOR us. You get to choose the person you want to be and my mum was brilliant in teaching me that. I am thankful and grateful to have have gone through this in the way I did and it is was through this experience that I learned that defining yourself can also send you on a journey towards loving yourself.