RTÉ presenter Stephen Byrne has revealed he was terrified of coming out as a teenager, to the degree he eventually ran away from home due to the stress. In an interview on The Feckless Rogue podcast, Byrne recounted a story which would be familiar to many young LGBT+ people unsure how people would react to their sexuality.
During his teenage years, the now 30 year-old Byrne created YouTube videos but was so worried his schoolmates would find out he tried to keep it secret. “That scared the life of me – the thought that they were going to find it. In my eyes it would also be a bit of a way of outing me because I wasn’t out online, or I hadn’t even accepted that I was gay at that point or anything like that, but I felt like … being creative meant that it would make me more gay.
“And I just thought if someone saw me performing, if someone saw me doing something like that, they’d be more inclined to be like, ‘oh yeah, he’s gay’ and then I would have to accept it myself.”
While Byrne eventually came out to his parents just before sitting the Leaving Cert, he was still terrified of RTÉ finding out, as he was working on a show with the broadcaster at the time. “I came out a month before, three weeks before (the Leaving Cert) and I had a girlfriend for a year before that, so it was a mind bending time. At the same I was scared of my parents finding out that I was gay, I was also scared about work finding out I was gay.”
After failing to do as well as he hoped in his exams, the pressures of worrying about his sexuality led him to make an extreme choice. “The Leaving Cert was not the best experience, I shredded the results. I actually ran away from home for a month afterwards as well. I went to London, I got a boat.
“I had YouTube friends and I had no money, no nothing at all. So I ran away, I didn’t tell where I was. I was just totally at the time all over the place.”
Byrne returned home shortly after. Since then he has become open and comfortable about being gay. He described during the podcast how he looks back on that time and the outlook he had. “There’s stuff that I’ve done that I would never have been able to do. Because I was gay when I was 18, I would have thought, ‘I could never do that.’ I think nowadays, it’s not what people see when they see who you are.”
You can listen to the full interview with Stephen Byrne on the The Feckless Rogue podcast website.
If you are a young person who finds themselves in a similar situation, the fabulous BeLonG To are there to support you.
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