coming out

Reece and Joe’s Coming Out Story

It’s National Coming Out Day and as a mental health charity with creativity at its core, we thought a way to mark the occasion would be to pass the creative reins to our power-couple and PoetsIN legends, Joe and Reece to write about their coming out stories, and the impact on their mental health that followed.

Tell us your coming out story…

Reece: I was around 7-8 when I first started to experience feelings for the same sex. I remember having a Peter Andre poster in my room and thinking how nice he looked. As I started to grow older, I knew I was gay. I was a very emotional child growing up, told my mum I loved her 100 times a day, and cried if I was told off. I do remember being anxious quite a lot and knew I was different from other boys. I loved barbies, dressing up and stealing my mum’s high heels. Let’s just say that my cousins did not have the same hobbies as I did.

Growing up in school was often hard as I knew I was different from other boys and always got on more with girls. I was so confused as to why I was like this as the other boys would laugh at me for hanging around with girls all the time. I started high school in 2004 and I was a chubby gay with braces, a fantastic combination for school kids to take the piss out of me. My high school years were not that bad. I came out when I was 15 and I was in year 10. It went round the school quickly and most people seemed to have not really cared. There were obviously some people who weren’t as accepting, mostly boys in my year. People always called me gay in school, but my friends always backed me up until I came out. Then people started to get over it and move on to the next victim. 

When I came out, I felt a massive relief off my chest. I had kept this secret inside for so long and started to feel free. I decided to tell my sister at first and she was fine, I thought by telling her first that she may know how to minimise the drama. My mum was a little shocked (not sure why as I was quite camp), she thought I had got a girl pregnant as first. I’m not sure which one she would have preferred. My mum spoke to my dad about it and told him. My dad was the best out of anyone, he never asked any questions. He told me he loved me and that will never change. 

My mum took it well, all she asked me was “so am I going to get grandchildren?” and “what attracts you to a man”, to which I replied, “the same as you’re attracted to a man.” 

I did the usual drinking with my mates in the park and going parties etc. My mum did not like me going out on the street and going out late, which was fair enough. I did drink quite a lot and brought a little trouble to my mum’s door. I was drunk one night at a mate’s house and broke her friend’s straighteners by stepping on them. The police were called, and the girl’s parents turned up at my mum’s house. Let’s just say that my mum wasn’t best pleased. My mum thought I was struggling to accept my sexuality and that was why I was going out with mates and drinking. I personally think there is some truth in that. 

As I got into my late teens, I was going out clubbing etc. I once stayed in a Pontins caravan holiday site with some friends. I remember being outside the clubhouse having a cigarette with my friend. A lad got talking to my mate and then looked at me when I spoke to him. He asked if I was gay, and I said yes. He then told me to get out of the smoking area and the clubhouse. I was quite shocked as I hadn’t experienced someone saying this to me. I simply said to him, “until there is a sign asking gay people to get out, then I’m going to stay here”. My friend started to have a go at him as she was shocked herself. His friend then came up to us and apologised on behalf of him and dragged him away. 

I remember a time I was at a friend’s house for some drinks with her boyfriend one time. I was around 19. Her boyfriend had a friend over who I hadn’t met before. He was quite rude to me and said I would eventually die from HIV or aids. I was really shocked and upset by this because it made me realise that there is so much stigma and hate towards gay people. My friend told him to leave her house after that. I don’t think he cared. 

I met my partner Joe online when I was 19. He had messaged me on a dating website. We met once and didn’t speak for a while. Then one day I messaged him and started talking again. We met up again and we have been together ever since. Joe had not told anyone about his sexuality, so he spent all his time coming to see me. I lived in south London, and he lived in Milton Keynes. 

A year into our relationship, Joe had come out to his parents and friends. This was hard for him at the time, but everyone accepted him. They also welcomed me with open arms and treated me so well. I was very lucky to have met them. I moved to Milton Keynes shortly after and have been here ever since. 

11 years later, we are still together and are very happy. We are engaged, have a dog, two rats and a house. This is something I wouldn’t have dreamt of when I was younger. I didn’t think I would have a happy life or be accepted as a gay man or even find love, but I have. I was worried that I couldn’t be loved but I was so wrong. Joe has been an amazing support for me and helped me build a life that I wanted. I will be forever grateful to him. 

Coming out
Joe and Reece.

Joe: I was 21 when I finally plucked up the courage to come out. Well, I actually blew my own cover. I had been with Reece for about 9 months; I would go and stay with him every weekend. I never had any money because I would always be using it to travel to London every weekend. My mum and dad were quite concerned thinking I was out every weekend partying and taking drugs. They decided to contact the Frank hotline at the time to get some advice. The advice was to increase my rent because they felt I had too much money. When I had this conversation with my mum and dad, I just went along with it as I thought that was better than coming out. 

I distanced myself from a lot of my friends as I was always in London seeing Reece. Around 7 or 8 months into my relationship with Reece, one of my best friends started dating a guy near to where Reece lived, and she would go up and see him on the weekends so we would share the traveling and go together. I had still not even told my mate at the time who I was going to see. One Sunday my friend wanted to leave early and asked if she could come and get me. I reluctantly agreed and asked Reece not to come out when she got to me. But he did. Reece came outside while wearing all my clothes and invited my mate into his neighbors. They decided to put a film on called “A Beautiful Thing;” which is about two gay men coming out. At the end, Reece’s friend said, “what would you do if Joe was gay?” My friend said she would love it and not be bothered. His neighbour then said, “well, Joe and Reece are together.” She instantly asked us to kiss to prove it, still not believing me. 

Fast forward a couple of months, Reece and I were at his aunties 40th birthday party. I thought it would be a good idea to phone my mum and dad and put Reece on the phone and when I came off the phone mum said to my dad that it sounded like she was speaking to my partner. 

The next day my dad sent me a really nice text saying, “Joe we know, we still love you and it doesn’t change anything.” I responded with a “LOL I am out tonight but will be back tomorrow.”

The family was so good with me, but obviously that comes with the standard questions and beliefs – you won’t get married or have kids. It felt like the males had accepted it before the females which was weird to me because I was expecting it to be the other way around.  

Tell us about the impact coming out (or not coming out) had on your mental health

Reece: I think in some way it has. I felt different from a very early age and didn’t like being gay for a long time when growing up. When you’re made to feel different as a child, you become very confused and worried. You have no idea why you have these feelings and if they are normal or not. I’ve always suffered with my mental health due to childhood trauma, so I don’t think my sexuality helped, it was more of an added worry for me. 

You worry about being too camp or not manly enough because some people don’t like it. I struggled a lot when growing up, trying not to act camp and be a “lad.” I don’t think I was very convincing to be honest. Even at school when it was time for PE, I would be forced to play football which is my worst nightmare. I wanted to play volleyball with the girls, haha. 

I’ve only just started to deal with my mental ill health in the last few years. Working for PoetsIN has 100% helped me become who I am today. I was at a very low point in my life and confused as to why I was feeling the way I was. Not being able to hold a job down, unable to get up in the mornings because I was feeling numb. Worrying about other people and what they think of me. I thought I was the only one who was struggling with this, but Sammie and Paul made me feel so normal and has not judged me once. It’s been life changing for me if I’m honest. 

It does upset me that that the LGBTQ+ community gets judged for who we love, even if it isn’t affecting anyone else, it’s madness. But as I’ve got older, I do believe that it’s becoming more accepted. We still have a long way to go for equality, but I’ve noticed a change myself and I hope this continues. 

coming out

Joe: Not coming out had a huge impact on my mental health and to this day I still think it plays a big part. Living a lie for so long is so hard as I constantly had to make sure no one would find out. 

I still very much struggle to be in groups as I feel people judge me even though they often don’t. I close off or am not myself when I am in groups with males. I am guessing this goes back to keeping everything in and the fear of being judged for being gay. 

If you could both give someone who is scared of coming out some advice, what would it be?

Joe: To always be yourself and to be true to who you are. Never fear coming out. It was the best thing I have done as it meant I could finally live the life I deserved. Yes, it still has its challenges which I am slowly working through, but that is due to the build-up of keeping everything in for so long. 

Reece:  Just talk to someone, even if you can’t tell a family member or friend, reach out. There are many organisations that you can speak to who will understand what you’re going through.Don’t hide who you are because you shouldn’t be ashamed.You’re honestly not alone. You’re human and there’s nothing wrong with you. Your thoughts and feelings are valid.

If you are struggling with your mental health, reach out to us. Our team is here to help you.

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  • Commenter's Avatar
    Xavier — November 3, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    when I came out it was a bit complicated because I came out as transgender and because I was with my older brother who is also transgender and came out may years ago before I was born, he has already had top surgery and because I was with him and had recently came out as genderfluid my mum thought that my brother was pressuring me into seeing what my real gender was but I have been feeling a male since year 6 actually and now I am in year 7, so my mum supports me though but she refuses to use my preferred name because I have not legally changed it even though she uses it for my bank cards, she also refuses to use my preferred pronouns for some reason.

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