The website RUComingOut.com features coming-out stories from people around the world, reinforcing the theory that LGBT people are not alone. In an email interview, site founder Wayne Dhesi (who resides in the United Kingdom) discussed everything from his own coming-out to what surprises him about people's experiences.
Windy City Times: This website, I'm assuming, started with your own coming-out story. What is yours?
Wayne Dhesi: My coming out was actually pretty event-free. I always had an idea I was gay since I was about 15 but didn't admit it to myself until I was 20. I came out to close friends and then family when I was 21. I had no negative reaction and soon came to realize that those close to me already knew but were simply giving me the time and space I needed to make the choice to come out. My full coming-out story is on the website at www.rucomingout.com/wayne.
WCT: What are some commonalities these stories share? What are some differences?
Wayne Dhesi: Out of the 100+ stories I've received and uploaded to rucomingout.com, I'd guess around 95 percent of the people talk about this feeling of "always knowing" they were different somehow. Obviously, when you're growing up you have nothing to compare those feelings to, so it takes time sometimes to work out that you're not just uninterested in girls (or boys) but you are actually gay. In a lot of the stories I've received from people in their twenties and thirties, there is this general agreement that coming out gives people the confidence and ability to be more honest in other aspects of their lives as well. Many people cite coming out as a major factor in them being able to pursue successful careers and have rewarding relationships.
Although there are similar themes in the stories we publish, every single story has its differences. I decided to give @JayDeeEssa 60-year-old married man with two daughtersthe opportunity to have his own section on the site to explore his coming out. He is experiencing that process now and I felt it was important to give him a forum to be able to share his experience rather than simply tell it. The response to Jay's story continues to be amazingly positive and supportive as readers take this journey with him. It's fantastic to know that the website is playing such a major part in someone's coming-out experience.
WCT: Has a story (or more than one) ever provoked an emotional response from you?
Wayne Dhesi: Obviously, the stories that I can relate to make me feel more connected to them but every story makes me feel proud as they all ultimately
result in the person finding themselves in a position where they feel strong, confident and proud enough to share them. The story by New Jersey museum curator Ulysses is one of my favorites and makes me feel immensely proud and happy every time I read it. Ulysses was part of the post-Stonewall generation who shows how amazing and fulfilling life can be for gay people. It's at www.rucomingout.com/ulysses.
WCT: Are there certain parts of the world that have more coming-out stories on the site?
Wayne Dhesi: As I'm based in the UK and the first stories were submitted by friends of mine, the majority of stories are from people in England. However, the site includes stories form the United States, Canada, Australia, China, Sweden, Ireland and Spain.
WCT: What's been the one thing that's surprised you most about the stories?
Wayne Dhesi: I'm constantly surprised at how willing people are to share their stories to help others understand the coming out process. Many people have told me that they have found the process of writing their story very theraputic and surprisingly emotional. I would suggest that anyone who is thinking of submitting a story to just start writing it and see where it takes you. You may be surprised at the things you learn about yourself, even if your coming-out was a while ago! When I wrote mine I realized things about that time in my life that I had shut away or simply never before been able to understand. It was a great experience for me.
WCT: Have there been any celebrity connections to the site (e.g., their own coming-out stories)?
Wayne Dhesi: UK soul singer Beverley Knight was the first celebrity story I received. Bev is straight but she does a huge amount of work supporting the gay community. Her story was about her friend who came out and her reaction to it. Since then, the site has published stories from the lead singer of British band The Feeling, Dan G Sells; reality TV star Bobby Norris; and Team GB [canoeing] athlete Matt Lister.
WCT: You tackle certain issues on your site's blog, such as Rupert Everett's recent comments about gay parents. I'm curious: Do you have any thoughts on the state of LGBT-related issues in the United Kingdomor the United States, for that matter?
Wayne Dhesi: My blog on the site is a space for me to comment on wider LGBT issues but I've always got an eye on the original aims of the site. My recent
entry about Rupert Everett's comments about gay parenting was an opportunity for me to show those still in the closetand maybe staying there becasue they feel society won't make it easy for them to become a parent in later lifethat not everyone shares those opinons. I think it is important for us to provide a balance to those negative comments. If closeted gay people only hear the negative views of LGBT lifetsyles in the media then they are less likely to feel comfortable coming out. It's not a case of being militant and all of us becoming activists; it's simply about us showing gay life in a positive, normal light.
Equal marriage is currently a hot debate topic in the UK. I talk about this on my blog. It's hard to put your view across about a subject so widely debated in a few paragraphs, so I really encourage and enjoy the comments I receive. I've learned that the best way to be confident in your own opinion is to listen to others.
WCT: Everyone's coming-out story is different, but do you have any advice for someone who's contemplating doing so?
Wayne Dhesi: Although it's difficult to offer advice to people you haven't met, there are things I would suggest people contemplating coming out should do.
Obviously, I would love for them to read some of the stories on the website, as I honestly feel they will help at least with understanding what other people in a similar situation went through. The fear of coming out and of the reactions that may follow is far worse than the reality because we prepare ourselves metally and emotionally for the worse case scenario. In my experience, as soon as I admitted to myself that I was gay and stopped trying to fight those feelings, I felt a huge weight had been lifted. I obviously felt anxious about having to tell people but the moment I came out to the first person signaled the start of the rest of my life. It's not easy, not always, but it does get easier and there are people who will support you and love you, no matter what.
Don't pre-empt other people's reactions; there's no point. If anyone reacts negatively, don't let this become your issue; it's [that person's]. It's important to consider that they may need some time to digest what you're telling them; this doesn't necessarily mean they have a problem with it.
Wayne Dhesi can be reached via the Twitter handles @waynedavid81 @rucomingout as well as www.facebook.com/rucomingout and www.rucomingout.com .