COMING OUT DAY - Kevin
My coming out story is a bit different to ones which have been shared earlier. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, at a time when there were few positive roles models in the LGBT community. Scandals in the newspapers were a regular occurrence and the language used to describe gay people was less than favourable. That made it difficult for me, especially as I knew from an early age that I was gay. I had to hide a big part of my life and keep up the pretence of being straight as I feared being ostracised from my friends and social groups. Coupled with that, up until I left school in 1998, there were no out gay pupils or teachers in my school, a regular non-denominational school.
My hobbies certainly didn’t help it, being a football fan and going to matches regularly, it was a macho male environment and not the place for a gay person! I kept this pretence up until my mid 20’s but this was an itch I couldn’t scratch. I met a few friends in the gay community and began to be more comfortable going to clubs and socialising with other gay people but to family and friends, I was still very much straight.
I joined the police in 2005 and my main focus the was gaining acceptance to the shift and the bosses. There was only one gay person I knew of in the division at that time. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable coming out and being honest as there were no other gay role models out there. I felt people were quite nosey, they wanted an answer to the question of my sexuality to satisfy their own curiosity, the questions and comments were fairly regular and put me on the spot. Conversations about the weekends activities generated a lot of anxiety and coming up with stories to throw people off the scent and disguise the fact I was in a gay club.
But throughout my service, it’s something that people kept asking about and on one occasion I remember a colleague in the team I was in at the time saying that the team would accept me more if I was just honest with them, they felt I was lying to them! I was understandably quite angry at that, my personal life had nothing to do with my work life, I was a person who came in to work, did my job and worked hard. I didn’t cause any problems for my gaffers and this upset me and made me sit more firmly in the closet. I also remember comments over the years like the colour of my car being “a bit gay” – it was blue! And similar comments being made.
I learned to laugh them off and grow a thick skin but it was actually a conversation with my Divisional Commander when I was collecting my promotion photo which changed my thoughts on growing a thick skin and laughing it off. He told the story of a colleague in his legacy force who was the only black person in his force at the time. He laughed off comments too about his ethnicity etc but came to a point and realised that laughing things off didn’t help things and it made me realise that this was the case here too.
I’d become open to my friends who accepted me without any issues. I also started to open up to my family and had no issues, they’ve been brilliant supporting me. The turning point for me being generally open was meeting my now fiancé. I didn’t announce to people I was gay, I just said I was in a relationship and my partner was Liam. My sexuality has no bearing on who I meet and I hope for a day when people don’t feel they have to come out and announce their orientation. A relationship is a relationship no matter who it’s with.
I suppose I want to share my story so that those in my position in future can be more open in themselves and that we can make sure there’s a more comfortable environment for people to be open and honest in. We’ve come a long way but there is still work to be done out there increasing visibility and directing people to the right support if they need it. I became more open in my late 30’s and wish I’d been more confident to do it earlier.