I actually came out whilst at University.
I grew up during Section 28, which essentially meant that schools weren’t allowed to teach kids that homosexuality exists and that it is ok. This resulted in a delay to me identifying my sexual orientation and I ended up dating a couple of guys in college but it never felt natural. Starting Swansea University was an opportunity to really get to know myself away from everything and everyone I knew. That’s when I realised there was a good reason why my college boyfriends didn’t feel right, it was because I was a lesbian.
The beauty of going away for university is that I was able to come to terms with this in my own time before having to come out to my family. I was able to come out at uni first and benefit from all the support I received from my friends (3 of whom I found out were bisexual when I came out), as well as the support I found in the University LGBTQ+ network.
One thing that I have learned over the years is the importance of being around people who understand you, at least some of the time. When I was at uni I had the joy of having lots of friends who were from both the LGBTQ+ community as well as the straight community. My LGBTQ+ friends were vital in my journey of coming out. We went to gay bars every weekend and I learnt so much about LGBTQ+ history from them. I also got a lot from my straight friendships too as they shared a lot of my interests that make up the other parts of who I am.
When I left uni and went back home, I realised that although I had friends none of them were from the LGBTQ+ community and it felt like something was missing from my life. I used the confidence I had gained through my time at Swansea University to go out and find my new local community and now I have a wonderful group of friends from all walks of life who I can relate to in different ways and who all mean the world to me.
I have a very supportive and open-minded family, so I was never concerned that they wouldn’t accept this about me. However coming out is still a scary prospect, even in those circumstances. You are basically telling the people closest to you that you are different and asking them to embrace that difference rather than try to hide or ignore it. I am one of the lucky ones because they embraced that part of me fully.
Swansea will always hold a special place in my heart; not only because it equipped me with the degree that shaped my career to date, but also because it was the place I truly found myself, embraced who I am and gained the support I needed to arm me with the resiliency required to be an out lesbian in society.