David lived in the English countryside with his mother, father and sister with a relatively nice childhood. And at an early age he knew he was different but never quite questioned why.
“I don’t think I ever did . I just didn’t feel like everybody else in my early teens onward,” David said. “It caused me quite a lot of angst because being different and not knowing why created a bit of an inner turmoil. I think it forced me to be insular to myself and not really outgoing. If I’m honest, it kept me back in a sense that I always avoided things and focused on studying a lot. I distracted myself from thinking about having a girlfriend at the time.”
One thing David noticed in his time growing up and later in life closeted was the lack of representation not being present in media at the time.
“There were no role models back then – the only ones when I was younger were very effeminate and camp,” David said. “That sort of thing doesn’t align with me; I’m not like that. There was nothing on TV either and nobody talked about it at school. There were no gay people at school that I knew of, so it just wasn’t there. It was a bit of a void for me.”
The suppression of David’s feelings were strengthened during his childhood as it was in the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with which came stigma and negative connotations to being gay.
He went through his 20s not doing anything about how he felt, until one day he had to face it head-on.
“I got to a point in my life where somebody was threatening me to share about an experience I had with somebody later in my 20s,” he said. “And that made me think, ‘I can’t go on like this. I need to sort this out – whatever it is.’”
One of his colleagues while he was in his 20s even asked David bluntly if he was gay. After responding with “no, definitely not,” he must have known but couldn’t acknowledge it to himself.
Shortly thereafter, David met someone by the name of Alan who provided confidential services. David was in a high-profile job at the time so he didn’t want to damage his reputation with the company.
“He was absolutely brilliant,” David said. “He didn’t judge or label me. He just talked, I just listened. I never had to disclose who I was and my world opened up to me.”
He then took David to his first gay bar one night, and opened his eyes further to the world around him.
“I started to see there were other people like me. I’m not alone anymore. And that was a big change,” he explained.
After that, everything unrolled gradually. He actually made his mother guess that he was gay when he came out to her.
“I never used the words ‘I’m gay.’ When she guessed, she took a moment by going into another room then came back saying ‘it doesn’t matter who you are. I love you, no matter what.’ And that was it,” he said. “I was so fortunate and wondered why I’d lived in the shadows for all those years.”
David recognized a dissociation between him and his true self over all those years and said he never wants that to happen with anybody else.
And for those who aren’t ready or in a safe space to come out, David emphasized finding someone trustworthy to confide in.
“If you feel different, talk to somebody you can trust because at least then it comes out and you’re expressing yourself a bit more. I’ve missed out a huge number of years and I wouldn’t want anybody else to do that.”
“Don’t rush to label yourself. Each and every one of us is quite unique and we all have something to contribute to this world in whatever shape or form, so cherish and love yourself for who you are. Remember that you’re always a good person deep down. Even when you’re facing adversity, it’s important we at least acknowledge ourselves for who we are.”