The editor writes his coming out story. A tale of underage drinking, fictional ideals, and the friendship that helped him to accept himself. Cornwall, England. 16 years old.
This is the first in a new Polari Magazine series. If you would like to submit to the ‘Coming Out Stories’ series, click here to write in.
I came out when I was 16. At least, I think I can say that’s the case. I have a dim memory of telling my brother that I had the hots for one of his friends when I was around 14 or 15; but nothing more was said about it after that, so it ended up being more of a peeking out than a coming out.
While everyone else at school was getting drunk, and partying in cow fields – that was the only real option in darkest Cornwall – I retreated into myself. I didn’t want to join in. I was in fact afraid I’d inadvertently out myself. I’d no idea what being drunk was like but I guessed, judging from the stories the boys would tell, that it meant a loss of control. I couldn’t risk it.
By the time I was 16 I’d read my first novel about homosexuality: Maurice, by E.M. Forster. It seemed that the struggles Maurice went through were at heart the same as the ones I was going through. He wrestles with his sexuality, resists it, and only learns to truly accept it when he gets down to ‘the business’ with a gardener, Alex Scudder. The last part, ‘the business’, had decidedly not happened, and I daydreamed of my very own Scudder. I hoped that it would turn out to be Daniel, who lived in the same village I did, drove a mini bus, and looked perfect in shorts. As it was the West Country he also had the right accent. “I’ll meet you at the boathouse, sir,” as Scudder says to Maurice as a prelude to their running away together. That, sadly, was not to be.
Instead I wrote poetry about him. Seriously.
Maurice armed me with a phrase that I still use to this day, for the most part because it’s so funny: “I’m an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort,” as the hero tells his therapist. It was that exact phrase I used when I came out to my friend, Sarah. I wrote it all down in a letter, not because I was afraid of what she would say, but because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to say it, or that I would be unable to say it. I wrote it in a letter because that made the most sense to me.
I handed it to her as I got off the school bus – which was not, sadly, the one that Daniel drove. Then later that evening I walked up the village phone box to call her and see what she had to say.
Sarah and I had an incredible bond. And we were terribly pretentious, in the way that teenagers can be. We would self-consciously listen to The Smiths and The Cocteau Twins, and regularly ask each other if we looked ‘drippy’ enough in our muted colours. It was the Morrissey ideal, or at least what we thought that was. “I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside.” Oddly, we also collected the bright coloured stencils that were in packs of Coco Pops. And quoted Blackadder endlessly. “As mad as a balloon.” I’m sure our parents despaired.
Looking back now, I don’t remember what she said when I called. I was too worked up at the time. My head was in a spin. I remember being in the phone box and that’s about it. What I do remember is that it was an incredible relief to have told someone. It made it seem more real, more manageable, than it had ever been before.
That weekend, I met Sarah and her boyfriend James for a night out on the town. Underage drinking was a fact of life in Torpoint, the local town. It was, after all, where all the freshmen sailors training at HMS Raleigh would go out. The club, the Harbour Lights, was our destination. It was on the wrong side of the tracks. We called it the Get Down Your Tights. My friend Paula called it the Wall-to-Wall Underage Pussy. There were girls as young as 14 there waiting to get it on with spotty 16 year old sailors. It was ghastly.
When I got to the pub I could see that Sarah was excited. I knew that she wanted to tell me something. When James went to the bar she pulled me close and said, James and I did it for you last night”.
I looked at her blankly. “What?”
She pulled me in closer and said, “We had anal sex! It was great. It was like going for a shit backwards!”
I looked at her, unsure what to say. She laughed, and put her arms around me. It was equal parts embarrassing, hilarious, and incredibly sweet. “Anything is hard to find when you will not open your eyes,” as Morrissey sang. “When will you accept yourself?” It was there and then, thanks to this special friendship, that I started to.
If you would like to submit to the Coming Out Stories series, click here to write in. In this story the real names are not used. You do not have to use the real names.