Nine years ago today on a sunny Friday in Southend I told my Mum I’m gay. No rainbow flags or unicorns or cute boys to kiss. Just us.
Perhaps you know that already. I’ve made a lot of narcissistic noise about my official Outiversary before. But that scene is just one episode in my coming out story arc. Like many other LGBTQ people, it’s a story that spans more seasons than any TV network would commission.
Because it won’t make it to screen any time ever, here’s an abridged version of nine queer moments that made me.
When I came out to myself, sometime in 2005
It was a Monday, I was 15, sat in the music corridor waiting for my saxophone lesson. And there I scribbled a letter to myself, to God, to both of us. Even though it was conditional and silent (‘I think I’m gay’), it was the first time I’d found the words.
Walking into Warwick Chaplaincy, October 2009
When I arrived at University, I knew I wanted to join the Christian Union and I thought I’d found them at the Freshers’ Fair. Turns out it was the LGBTQ inclusive Christian Focus instead. Thank God.
The friends I made round cuppas in the Chaplaincy and the choir showed me you can be an LGBTQ person of faith. They’re the first ones I came out to without any doubt. ‘I’m gay’. And then I went home to tell Mum.
My first time, September 2010
My first time having sex was awful with an even worse fall out. I hate how one bad early experience made me retreat. Now I can look back and see some positives in what happened.
My first kiss, February 2013
It was in Revenge, Brighton on a birthday weekend away with my friends. Mysterious, magical and drunken. I was hugging the hostel toilet afterwards.
That conversation with Rev Mel, March 2016
Rev Mel was a local church minister unconditional in her support for the oppressed. I didn’t know then the vulnerability that comes with being visibly queer in a heteronormative world. ‘Don’t ever forget you are a minority Joey.’
Soho vigil, June 2016
At least 7000 people gathered in London’s Soho the day after the Pulse Orlando shooting. This is what the LGBTQ community does. We remember, we protest, we party.
Mighty Hoopla, May 2017
I’d just started work at Stonewall, moved back to London and was utterly unsure in myself. Heading to a festival with my new colleagues sounded like a pleasant distraction. I honestly thought if I wasn’t having fun, I could make it home in time for Songs of Praise.
This was a bright day in the dark season of Spring 2017. It was an excuse to wear nail polish and a crop top for the first time. Now the only excuse I need is sunny spells or a night in Vauxhall.
Joining London Frontrunners, June 2018
When I’m at work or running, I don’t need to explain who I am. I just am.
Last summer, I joined LGBT running club London Frontrunners to make more friends and improve my running. My 10k time still hasn’t improved, but I felt instantly embraced by a crowd who accept my idiosyncrasies and go to karaoke every Thursday night.
When Oliver left, January 2019
We met at my favourite club night and only had a month until he was moving out of town. We didn’t have time to play it cool or hold back. He wasn’t my boyfriend but it was a relationship. And suddenly it was the end. I left him at the bus stop in the morning. He went to Australia, I went to Angel.
I still have those pinch me moments of euphoria when I’m dancing with queer friends in a queer club. ‘What feels normal also feels like an incredible privilege’* (and it really is, when discrimination and hate crime makes LGBT nightlife in the UK unsafe for many people).
The gay man I am now wasn’t made the day I came out. I’m excited for another queer year and seeing what moments come next complete with rainbow flags, unicorns and cute boys.
*tweet by Hugh Montgomery.