Tom McIntosh

I came out as bisexual at the end of my first year at university. After putting that into words and really thinking about it I now know I identify as pansexual, but personally prefer to use the general term of queer. Personally, I see sexuality as dynamic and ever changing, I can feel slightly different day by day and that’s ok. I don't have any issue with whatever label people assume of me or use for me because, I guess, in a way I can relate to many. I don't feel the need to be definitive. I’ve always felt there is far more variation within genders than there is between them.

I struggled as a child, as I'm sure many LGBTQ kids do. I was bullied for something I didn't really even understand at that point in my life. I was picked on a lot for being feminine and the terms gay and queer were used as slurs at my school a lot. People used those terms against me before I fully understood what they meant and before I even knew I identified with them. This came from me getting on better with girls than guys, enjoying things like gymnastics and drama instead of football. At the time, dance was something I really wanted to get into as well (particularly ballet) but I never did from fear of this bullying getting worse and from fear of not being seen as a man. Now though, I try to own this. I use the term queer for myself taking it back and giving it positive meaning. I do gymnastics, ballet and other dance just to prove to myself that I'm past that time in my life and these things are now the things I enjoy the most. Not only are they activities I love, but I'm also owning who I am at the same time and the people there are so supportive of me being who I am and expressing myself which honestly mean so much to me.

Telling people was hard, you never know how someone will react, it’s a daunting prospect really. There are still many people in my life who I haven't explicitly told. That’s not because I'm trying to hide anything, rather I don't know exactly how to say it to some people and don't want to have to go around telling everyone - like why should I need to make that clear? I just am as I am. At first telling people was a justification to myself as much as it was anything else.

I was not one of the people that knew I was LGBTQ when I was younger. There were signs of it for sure, but it was something I’d never processed. My first memory of actually considering it was at about age 16, I mean, before year 10 I didn't even know there was more ways of identifying than gay or straight. I knew I wasn’t gay but i would question if I was straight from time to time. These thoughts were only occasional and I never knew enough about sexuality or thought about it enough to realise. It suddenly hit me and I had this crazy moment one day walking home from university. Everything just suddenly made a lot of sense and I was just like OMG that is me, I am that… l told my flatmate later that day and I remember saying, “I think I might be” but the more I thought on it and as I started to tell more people, the quicker it became clear to me that that was who I was.

It was Monday 29th April 2019 - it just clicked out of nowhere and everything I had been feeling just kinda made sense. It took me four hours to tell someone for the first time. That person was my flatmate and best friend from first year, Jordan, who had the best response and was a big part of me accepting myself because of how normal and supporting her reaction was.

The best reactions I ever had were when my friends were just like, “yeah I can see that, good for you” it wasn't a surprise to them and it changes nothing about how they saw me. It helped me realise that what I was saying was right. A few minutes later the same friend was like “OMG did you want me to be more surprised and make a bigger deal out of this?” But the fact it wasn't this massive surprise made it special.

In a way, I'm fearful writing this because I know people will see it and so more people will know. That idea worried me, but then that worry drove me in turn to want to write this. I don't want to let the opinions of others be the reason I don't express myself truly. There was a quote that I saw on Twitter that really resonated with me: “as queer people we don't grow up as ourselves, we grow playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity to minimize humiliation and prejudice. The massive task of our adult lives is to unpick which parts of ourselves are truly us and which parts we have created to protect us.” - Alexander Leon.

The impact homophobia has on us has such longevity, we have to go through a process of rebuilding and reshaping ourselves. Something about coming to terms with it all has made me a much happier and more expressive person. It’s ironic in a way, I wasn't being my true self to avoid the pain of other people’s opinions. But by not being myself I was making myself unhappy anyway. It’s cliché to say but the only opinion that should matter was my own and in trying to fit a social stereotype I only hurt myself.

I was scared about how the people I told would take it and if my friends would understand but telling them only made me closer to them. It’s the sort of thing that really proves who your true friends are, and I'm blessed to have so much support around me. My journey through this was a fortunate one. I have friends who's journeys through acceptance from themselves, family and friends were so much harder than my own so I make sure that I don't take for granted how amazing the people around me have been.

To anyone that is unsure, the best thing I ever did was start a conversation with my closest friend; someone who knew me best and even though I didn't say much and they didn't either, neither of us needed to. This was something that had always been there. I knew at that moment of putting it into words that I had come to terms with it, and accepted myself.

I've met a few Lebanese people here, and a few Korean. I wouldn't say I'm really close with them.

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