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The metaphor 'coming out' describes the self-disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity to other people. For some, and often historically this is major and sometimes difficult life experience. It is often a gradual process of both self discovery and acceptance, and thats before the reactions and feelings of friends and family come into play. Guest blogger Stuart speaks of his personal experience of 'coming out' to both himself and those around him.  
Our guest blogger Stuart has returned to give his personal account of coming out as a gay man. We hope his story provides insight, whether you’re a gay person yourself struggling with coming out to friends and family, or perhaps you know someone who has recently come out as gay and want to be the best support possible. 
“‘Gay’ was a word I didn’t associate with. This wasn’t surprising as I went to an all-boy’s school in the 1970s when being gay was simply not an option. However, I did on some level always know that I was emotionally orientated towards male relationships rather than those with the opposite sex. That’s not to say I didn’t have friendships with females, I just didn’t desire my main romantic relationship in my life to be with a woman. 
It was only in the early 1990’s when a longstanding non-sexual friendship came to an end that I turned to counselling for support. It was suggested to me something which perhaps had been obvious to others and those around me but sat in my own subconscious. I was gay. 
At first, I had difficulty in accepting my ‘new identity’ as I thought it would only serve me an unhappy and most probably lonely life. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact I was gay; it was a defense mechanism. 
Part of the problem was that I just couldn’t see any benefits in being gay but on the contrary, I could see lots of reasons for not being gay – or at the very least not admitting that I was. I didn’t want to be labelled as homophobia was more socially acceptable then than it is now and was definitely a barrier to me coming out. I’m happy to say that since, I’ve been lucky not to experience so much overt homophobia myself. 
I didn’t know anyone who was ‘out’ personally and the media at the time presented only gay stereotypes of people who just weren’t like me. So why would I think of myself as gay? I wasn’t like these people on the TV. Things are much better now, with varied, positive role models. Things have changed so much since then; we now have the option to have children if we want to! 
After a few false starts, and with support from my counsellor and friends, I edged out; making contact with other gay people. Coming out and seeking a romantic partner was a step-by-step process where I followed my intuition, branching out into specific interests and ways to meet people that worked for me. I decided for example that I was more comfortable getting to know people in groups so I joined gay personal and spiritual groups, a gay football club and a gay outdoor club too. My mixing my natural interest with my innate instincts I was able to make some really close friends. Within these environments I felt comfortable dating; and even enjoyed it! Something I would never have imagined for myself. 
On a weekend residential event, I met the man who has been my partner for the past 20 years and when it became possible, it was with such happiness he became my Civil Partner. We have a very happy life together and this would’ve been beyond my wildest dreams back when I first accepted I was a gay man. I am not pretending that life hasn’t been or isn’t challenging at times but I can honestly say I have never regretted owning my sexuality and feel that doing so has been the best decision of my life.” 
At Relate, we’re proud to provide a platform for stories like Stuarts and believe it an incredibly important part in helping support our gay community. We aim to show our understanding for the unique experiences and struggles in which LGBTQ+ people face. If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed by Stuart and feel you may benefit from counselling support for coming out or anything else, do get in contact with one of our team. 
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