'I pretended I was someone else': City folk on coming out to loved ones
- Credit: Florence Ventham
They feared they would be shunned. They feared they would lose friends.
But four people in Norwich have shared their stories of what it was like to come out as queer.
They hope their stories will inspire others to feel empowered to do the same.
Joseph Ballard, a 38-year-old from Norwich said: “Way back when I was 17 and the world was a different place.”
Joseph grew up in a small market town in Norfolk and felt like he was living in a “bubble”.
The first in his age group to come out, Joseph said: “Word spread around quickly, like it was other people’s news to tell.
“Yes, there were people who I didn’t hear from again and yes there were the harsh comments and stirs.
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“Getting away and going to university helped. I was an active student union officer and always had LGBQT+ welfare in mind.
“Since then, I’ve also been a part of the organising team and currently chairman of Norwich Pride, meaning I am able to support others with their own journey of coming out."
He added: “We must also remember that coming out isn’t for everyone – each person’s sexual orientation, identity and what they share is just as unique as they are.”
Harrison Elvin, 20 from Marlpit said: “I knew that I was gay from around the age of 13 years old however I was so scared that people would think less of me, so I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.
“It wasn’t until three years later that I was sitting with my older sister applying for a job and it asked my sexual orientation, I went into a full panic.
“My sister told me in a calm voice that ‘I know and it changes nothing’. Her opinion of me mattered so much.
“To hear her be so accepting took away all the fears I had and I then felt comfortable enough and came out to the rest of my family and friends not long after."
He said that “coming out was one of the best things I’ve done and I couldn’t be happier”.
He was echoed by Florence Ventham, 25, from Thorpe St Andrew, who made "new discoveries" about herself during lockdown.
She said: “What I love about my 'coming out' story or my self-discovery journey is that I went through it all with the person who I now call my girlfriend.
“Up until the pandemic I had always felt very secure in my sexuality as a cis heterosexual female, until Covid March 2020, where I discovered another interest for those of the same sex.
“The first time I identified as bisexual was on video call to my now girlfriend, I was in France and she was in the UK.
“This was the same way I explained my 'new-found self' to my family, which was much more difficult as we prefer to talk things out in person.
“Upon return to Norwich, I was able to talk about my identity as I had time alone and virtually with my girlfriend to work this all out for myself.”
Christopher Thomas NicoIl from Spixworth came out at the age of 18 - but also away from home.
He said “I’d moved to Glasgow to study nursing at uni.
“At the time my parents were separated.
“My mum called, and without thinking I told her that I had met someone…and it was a guy.
“She hurried the conversation and ended it."
Chris then got very worried call from his dad, who said that he’d had a tearful call from his mother and told him to call Chris immediately.
He added: “I told him that I had fallen in love and it was with a guy. He wasn’t bothered at all, and said he was panicked as he thought something bad had happened.”
“The next day both mum and dad came to visit me in Glasgow, got to talking and sorted out their differences.
He added: “They’ve now been happily married for nearly 38 years.”