Young Irish queer people share their coming out stories on National Coming Out Day

To honour the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day, young Irish queer people open up about their coming out stories.

National Coming Out Day

Young Irish LGBT+ people share their coming out stories for the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day, an annual celebration of how LGBT+ people will always find a way to live life as their true selves. 

First observed during the height of the AIDs crisis in 1988, National Coming Out Day began as a protest. Psychologist Richard Eichberg and activist Jean O’Leary created a day to call out the lack of research on the epidemic due to widespread homophobic views. Since then, it has become one of the most critical days for LGBT+ people, striking at a core part of the community.

National Coming Out Day is not about pressuring people to come out but rather to place a focus on the power of visibility and learning from each other’s experience. LGBT Ireland offers advice and support on coming out, stating: “Everyone’s experience of discovering their LGBT identity is different, as is their experience of the stages of coming out. It is normal to experience feelings of anxiety and worry, especially about how people might react when you tell them.  Having someone to talk to and getting emotional support can help you deal with the stresses of coming out.”

BeLonG To also offer an extensive list of assistance in this area for LGBT+ people as well as family members, stating on their website: “Deciding to come out is a very personal choice. The best time is whenever feels best for you. Although ‘coming out’ can occur in a variety of ways and settings, even when you least expect it, the following tips might be useful for you if you are considering sharing this information about yourself.”

Though coming out is an experience many LGBT+ people go through, whether it is positive or negative varies from person to person. Not one story is the same, but these differences are what the LGBT+ community thrives upon.

For this year’s National Coming Out Day, these are the stories from young Irish LGBT+ people. 

Ellen Pentony

“Recently a friend of mine said that being closeted isn’t necessarily about feeling ‘wrong’ but is definitely about not feeling ‘right.’ Before I came out, I didn’t feel like I was living a lie or hiding my true self. My life was fine, I didn’t feel desperately unhappy but something didn’t quite feel right, and I couldn’t pin it down. While for some, being queer is immediately obvious, and the feeling of being denied that true identity is deeply distressing, for me, it was more subtle.

“I only came out recently at the age of 22. Sometimes people ask me why it has taken this long. In Katie Heaney’s book ‘‘Would You Rather,’ she talks of how she didn’t realize she was gay until she was 28. It’s a fantastic read for anyone feeling a bit lost and unsure and one that I would absolutely recommend. This was a major turning point for me, one which initiated a period of self-discovery. How could I come out to others when I hadn’t even come out to myself?

“That was about a year ago. I officially came out to my family on myPride weekend of this year.

“Around the same time, I started testing the waters with my wider community by posting increasingly gay Instagram posts to the extent that my mother jokingly told me that I ‘couldn’t make it more obvious.’ I am incredibly grateful to have received such a supportive and understanding response. Looking back I’m annoyed I didn’t do it earlier. That being said, I’m glad I did it at my own pace, and on my terms, rather than rushing into it. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m proud of myself for getting to the point where I can unashamedly be who I am.”

Rebecca Kelly

“I was outed when I was 16. A passerby saw me and my then-girlfriend in our small village and took it upon themselves to tell my Ma that she had seen me with another girl. We were still in the early stages of the relationship and I wasn’t ready to tell anyone bar a couple of close friends, although now I no longer had that choice.

“I reluctantly came out as bi to my parents and any friends who asked. I knew I was a lesbian, but I thought the label of bisexual would be an easier pill to swallow for those around me.

“I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin at all, and being a lesbian was just another thing I didn’t like about myself. People would call me a dyke as an insult long before I had come out and now I’d given them a valid reason too.

“As time went on I began to embrace being queer a bit more, even self-identifying as gay with some close friends but still would not use the term lesbian. I began to borrow a friend’s ID to sneak into gay bars and see drag performances. I started to slowly come out of my shell more and more, but it wasn’t until college when I met my now close friends that I truly not only accepted but embrace who I am.”

Oisin Kenny

“Coming out was a confusing and weird time in my life. This was uncharted territory for my family and me. I knew I was gay but did not know how to articulate this at the age of 16 in the early 2000s, rural Ireland. During this time, I was only starting to make friends and find my voice. No one else in my family was LGBT+, making me very much the rainbow sheep. My parents had an idea but gave me the space to come out in my own time, which I am so thankful for. 

“My coming out, however, was overshadowed by the emergence of a persistent coughing tic. So in a way, me being gay was the least of everyone’s worries when I couldn’t stop coughing twenty-four-seven. Whether there was any correlation between the two events is up in the air. Whatever the reason, the alignment of mental health and homosexuality impacted me in numerous ways. 

“Overall, I am so grateful for my family and friends who show me the value of acceptance and support.”

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