Just after my 31st birthday, I am sitting on a turquoise sofa in Barcelona with my favourite person in the world at my side. She’s my best friend, my travel partner, and… more. She means so much more than that to me.
It has taken me a long time to understand what I’m feeling. I didn’t have a lightning bolt of realisation but rather quiet thoughts and a longing that built slowly and steadily until I couldn’t ignore it any more.
When I was less self-aware I told this amazing person that I’m straight. Worse, I said it multiple times over the years whenever the topic of our sexualities has come up. How is she going to react if I tell her I’m in love with her after that? What if she doesn’t feel the same way? What if she does?
“Fear stops them in my throat like a cork in a bottle”
Maybe most importantly of all – how am I supposed to start what could be the most important conversation of my life? All of the words that I want to say to her bubble up inside me, but fear stops them in my throat like a cork in a bottle.
And then she beats me to it!
There’s a pause.
I panic, terrified that I’m not going to be able to speak past that lump in my throat. That the moment will pass and I’ll have missed my chance.
And finally, I speak.
I can’t tell you what exactly I said because from there on out all I remember is just a blur of emotion and tears, elation and relief. We cling to each other on that blue sofa while we laugh and cry and talk. It marks a turning point in my life.
Two weeks later, I am pacing in the kitchen of a two-up two-down council house in the middle of England. I can hear my parents chatting idly in the living room. It’s Father’s Day.
I have been seeing a counsellor who specialises in helping people come out in later life and I have a plan. The plan is definitely not to come out on Father’s Day. I think I’m about to throw the plan out of the window.
“I can’t stand having this huge secret and not say anything”
I’ve been on edge for days, worrying about being in the same house as my parents and not talking about this huge thing that’s happened to me. I thought I could get through one weekend without saying anything, but there’s an incredible pressure on my chest. I can’t stand having this huge secret and not say anything. It feels wrong.
I go into the living room and sit down on the chair across from my parents. There’s a moment of quiet and I know I have to speak. I tell them I have good news that might come as a bit of a surprise. I tell them what I’d been feeling in the run-up to Barcelona. That I am so lucky that my feelings are returned. That I have a girlfriend now.
They’re shocked, understandably so. But they rally and say that the important thing is that I’m happy and they’re glad I felt I could tell them. And then life just goes on as normal. It’s an anti-climax, but one I’m grateful for. They drive me to the train station and when I get back to my own flat in Liverpool, my hands start to shake as the adrenaline rush fades.
I come out again and again. I come out to my oldest friend in a coffee shop and we cry over our lattes. I come out to my manager and we cry over cake in a patisserie. I come out to old work friends and we cry over cocktails.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster. The adrenaline rush as I worry how they will react, the relief when it’s over. At least it is going well. Everyone is happy for me. Some say that they suspected.
Eventually, I run out of steam. I can’t keep doing this on an individual basis. My friends are too disparate and I don’t have the time or energy to go and do this with everyone I know. I turn to Facebook. I update my relationship status, publish a picture of the two of us together, and come out to hundreds of people in one go.
Some are conspicuous by their silence but most are supportive. It makes me really appreciate how lucky I am to live in this time and place.
It might have taken me longer than most people to realise that I’m bi, but in a way, I think it made my coming out experience easier. I wasn’t dependent on my family for food or shelter. I knew my workplace rights. And I was lucky enough to have an amazing person by my side who helped me through it. Having her support made all the difference in the world.
“I feel like I am having to come out all over again when I tell people about our desire to start a family”
And now we’re even ready for another, even bigger challenge: we are planning to have a baby! Having a baby as a queer couple brings its own challenges, and I feel like I am having to come out all over again when I tell people about our desire to start a family.
We are blogging about our journey at meemamas.com, and I hope that our experiences can help other LGBTQ people along the way.
I wanted to write down my story to show that there is no time limit on coming out. You don’t have to know everything or be everything, no matter how old you are. You can find happiness and a family along the way whether you come out later in life or not!
Edited by Ash O'Keeffe
Jo is a British LGBTQ blogger and the other half of Meemamas.com where she and her Belgian partner blog about their attempts to navigate the wild wild west of queer baby-making. They’re currently dreaming up a family by way of research, copious amounts of chocolate, and the occasional distraction from two brilliant kittens.