RUComingOut is a website that aims to support LGBT people who are struggling to understand or come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity. Next Thursday (20 Apr) the charity celebrates its 5th birthday with a huge party starring former Sugababe Mutya Buena and DJ Munroe Bergdorf. Founder Wayne Dhesi explains more.
Hi Wayne, what is RUComingOut?
RUComingOut is a registered charity which is mainly web based. The idea isn’t to give advice, it’s all about sharing real life experiences of coming out. Hearing from others about how they dealt with their anxieties really does help.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in a relatively small town in the Midlands called Burton on Trent. I went to Staffordshire University where I studied Media and Cultural Studies. I didn’t actually come out until after university, once I returned to my home town. I think coming out as gay gave me confidence in other aspects of my life, so when I did eventually take the plunge I found that I was much more open to trying other things I’d always wanted to do. I studied teaching and taught in the local college and then went on to work with young people in a more pastoral way. After five years working for the NHS as a mental health youth worker, I made the move to London to work for Stonewall. I’m now the Youth Programmes Manager there and I’ve been in London for almost four years.
What was your coming out experience like?
My coming out was actually really great in that I received very positive responses from everyone I told. I never lost any friends and I became much happier and much more confident once I had come out. However, the two or three years just before I came out were extremely tough emotionally, and there were times when I felt so powerless and alone that I honestly thought of never coming out. I told myself I should marry a woman, have kids and just sign up to this life that I knew wasn’t really meant for me. I was very low during my last year at university and spent many a night in my bedroom crying and hating myself – and the world.
On your site you have over 300 coming out stories – is there one that is particularly memorable for you?
Every single coming out story on the website is really important and special to me. The stories where things didn’t go too well stick out to me as memorable because I feel that these people had to go through a much harder time than I ever did, and that makes me feel a huge amount of sympathy for them. However, the fact that they decided to turn those negative experiences into something positive by writing and sharing their story in order to help others is fantastic.
Is coming out generally an easier process now, compared to years gone by?
I think that the fact there are more visible LGBT role models in the public eye and in everyday life these days must make it that bit easier to feel less alone as a closeted LGBT person, but coming out will always be difficult for the person doing it. Of course, while not everyone will have a tough time, telling those close to you something about yourself that they may not like is never going to be easy. It can be harder in smaller towns and villages where LGBT people are few and far between, and if family and friends hold homophobic, biphobic or transphobic views this will make it much more difficult to come out.
What is your advice to someone who wants to come out to their friends and family but is understandably nervous or apprehensive?
My number one piece of advice would be to take your time. Coming out is about the person doing it and no one else; it’s fine to be selfish and think about yourself this one time! Read the stories on RUComingOut to see how other people came out and if you do feel ready to talk about it, choose someone close to you who you can trust. Remember, you don’t have to use labels or write a speech, simply sit them down and say, “This is how I’m feeling at the moment and I wanted to talk to you about it.” The conversation will hopefully flow much more naturally.
What can readers expect at the 5th birthday party?
The 5th birthday party is going to be amazing! This will actually be the sixth RUComingOut event and every single one becomes the highlight of my year! The events are a great way to bring all of the charity’s supporters and friends together to celebrate the work we’ve been doing, and to look forward to what’s next. This year Mutya Buena from The Sugababes will be performing live, as will British soul singer/songwriter Nate James, who will perform his latest single In My Skin, which is all about having the courage to be yourself. Munroe Bergdorf will be DJing at her second RUComingOut event and Nottingham comedy legend Charity Shop Sue is also making a special appearance! And as if that wasn’t enough, Ibiza legend and Britain’s Got Talent star Ruby Murry will be singing live. It’s going to be a great night!