Coming out stories vary. For every parental ‘yes, we thought as much’ shrug, there exist a dozen painful ‘not under my roof’ tales of woe.
In my case, it wasn’t so much a closet door that was wrenched open, as the dodgy drawer in my divan bed base. Over a two-year period, I’d currated a ‘members only’ collection, stored between the covers of Blue Peter annuals.
At the age of 17, I was in the middle of a sexual awakening courtesy of a Morrissey-lookalike from my French class. It’s probably fair to say 90% of my time was dedicated to having or thinking about sex.
And then, one day, my collection of ‘Vulcan’ and ‘Zipper‘ magazines went missing.
Panic took hold. Had my evil cousin taken them hostage? A twisted revenge for my hiding his prized dog-eared copy of ‘Knave‘ retrieved from a hedge in the park?
The answer came in a sealed note, left on my pillow. The name typed on the envelope was mine. Who was the only person with access to an Olivetti Praxis 48 … with a dodgy letter A?
I remember studying the unopened letter a while. It wasn’t like our family chose to communicate in writing. We were big on screaming fits and slammed doors. This felt different.
The words danced on the page. Even now, I remember how I read it three times to be sure, then tore it in two. As if that might make everything better.
I stumbled upon the note that forced my coming out a month ago, folded in four between the pages of an Enid Blyton paperback.
She opened with an explanation as to why she conducted that fated forensic search of my bedroom.
“I was looking for the video tape of The Bill from Tuesday night.”
That didn’t ring true. Our collection of Betamax cassettes (don’t ask) lived in the bookcase near the telly.
She went on to allude to the evidence, and label it unnatural – with a dodgy letter A. She was clearly disgusted, and yet more than that, she feared for my future.
Back then, I’d given in to parental pressure and abandoned the dream of becoming an air hostess. We’d agreed I would train as a teacher.
“I wouldn’t have thought you’d be allowed to conduct such relationships and keep your job.”
She had a point. 1980s Britain conflated being gay with paedophilia. And maybe for some that still hasn’t changed.
The offending magazines – she went on to explain – were in a box outside. I was to dispose of them before my father came home.
These days, my partner and I share a bed in her house. I taught for a couple of years, and then decided it wasn’t for me. I write gay characters and she doesn’t mind one bit.
So why share this coming out story after thirty-odd years? I want anyone who finds themselves facing the same all-consuming blend of panic and shame to know, this too shall pass.
And if you want to be an air hostess, live your dreams.
‘Offline Lisa‘ stumbles from drunken-dating mishap to career-threatening dinner party.
Somewhat the worse for wear at a New Year staff party, Andy and Lisa resolve to change their lives. In the coming year, she’ll find love, and he’ll find fame.
Is her goal closer than she thinks?