I've asked him to write about his hopes and fears of his impending student lifestyle; the concerns of making friends and finding love; his aspirations for life beyond university; his fears of acceptance and the inevitable 'coming out' he faces again in the Autumn.
He writes honestly and frankly, and I thank him dearly for doing so....
No one told me I'd be in and out of the gay closet this many times in my life. It seems I've turned the handle more than those fearless kids in Narnia. So here I am again, preparing for university and anticipating the moment I have to leave behind the magical world of gay anonymity to fully embrace the reality behind the fur coats and mothballs. That's a scary thing, almost coming out again to strangers. For most of us it was stressful enough coming out to family and friends!
In September, I'm off to Winchester University to study Creative Writing and Drama. Like I didn't need to scream it any louder... I'm also staying in halls called 'Queens Road'. I find this all very apt, moulding together like a giant metaphor for my new 'coming out'. At Winchester, the ratio of male to female is 30% to 70% which means I'm going to have a lot of fag-hags in later life. When I first visited Winchester University, the woman giving the speech made a joke, 'Some of you in this room will like those figures, depending on your gender I suspect'... Of course everyone laughed except me. Awkward. However, Winchester Student Union provides an LGBT society, like many universities, so that’s a great sign there’s other gays and in times of need, safety in numbers is always good. They are a superb base for social support and also have great contacts if you have any worries or need to seek help.
To start, leaving for university is already an exciting, nervous and confusing time for many young people, be it gay, lesbian, straight or bisexual. It's a big step towards independence and paving a way for your departure into the big, dangerous adult world. Like the first couple of days a baby bird sits on a branch, awaiting it's destiny of flying through the sky or breaking it's neck. Luckily, I moved out of my family home for a couple of months and had some experience living on my own, so I know I’ll be able to cope. I can make a really nice omelette so that bodes well.
A lot of you, if you're anything like me, won't be worried about the little things that aren't important – You know – like if you've bought all the necessities, filled in all the right forms, have enough food to survive. They're simply menial things that seem to easily slip your mind. Instead, you're left with the big matters like who will you befriend, where’s the best place for a night out, and more crucially, will I find a decent new hairdresser. Okay, these aren't major worries, but they're important! I can't say I have many big fears about moving away, other than a few jittery nerves about meeting so many new people in one go. No doubt I’ll get homesick at some point too, because I'm the biggest mummy's boy there is (losing some credibility openly admitting this).
To top it off, I've got to add 'coming out' to my list, this being one of my big fears as it's a hard thing for me to address. I've never been one to shout from the rooftops about being gay, it's not my style. I rarely go out to the gay scene and I don't really have many gay friends (apart from Twitter which is swarming with them)... So being gay for me has been quite a lonely experience. However, if someone asks me if I’m gay, I will proudly and confidently answer them. Yet part of me is still nervous about starting out again. I have to make new friends, new people that have different views and opinions, that come from various places and have different backgrounds. The big question is, what if they don't like me for being gay?
Well, you know what... That really shouldn't matter.
Bullying and discrimination is still very much rife in Britain today, and more so it is under reported in the media greatly. By no means have we reached a point where I feel people, especially children, are educated in understanding that being gay is perfectly acceptable and normal. To some extent, this lack of fundamental grounding has lead to behaviour that spirals up through our social ladders. This relates to me as when I logged onto Facebook (like I’m ever off it?) and searched for my university freshers group, I noticed posts and comments from people my own age using derogative language. 'That's so gay' and other comments that made me think, are these the people that I want to be going to university with? But that was a few people, and after a little thinking, I had hope in my peers that they wouldn't have a problem with who I am.
My plan of action, because it's a major issue and I have a little gay army in pink camouflage marching around my head, is to just be myself and be honest. That's all you can do. If you promote a positive social environment from the outset, then others will too. By this, I mean, if you talk openly to people about anything including your sexuality, then they will see you're not bothered about it so why should they be? A lot of us gay folk, for reasons that I can fully comprehend, tend to put our worries and fears onto other people. As worried as I may be, I need to give others a chance to accept ME. University is a huge place with lots of different people, gay, straight, black, white – all shapes, all sizes. There will be a lot of people in the same boat, and this is what I need to remember.
University students tend to be quite liberal, so I very much doubt being gay will get me rejected from parties, alienated in social circles, or stoned in the university stairway (although I'm sure some students won't go through university without being stoned in a stairway at least once...) My thoughts on the whole of this is people will either like me or dislike me, regardless of my sexuality. And, if they don't like me, then that’s fine because we go through life every day and meet people we're not fond of. At least I'm being me and I’m confident enough not to bend or reshape myself for anyone.
Who knows, someone may actually like me! Shock, horror. I'm not setting my heart on finding love at university, specially with an overload of females. But who knows, as long as I'm happy and content, set on learning and achieving something, that positivity will show and someone may take a shining to it...to me. Hopefully in five years time, my prospects will lead me to start off teaching in high schools, gain enough experience working with young people then move on to start my own theatre company, allowing me to utilise my writing and directing skills. I want to succeed, but also give something back. Working with younger people, educating them and allowing them to sew the seeds of their future is what really inspires me and what I love to see.
Finally, If these people who will be studying at university are going to be running businesses and companies and possibly the country in the next few years, then I'd be pleased if they were as accepting to me as I am to them. Good luck where ever you may be off to, don't drink your life away (too much..) and enjoy yourself!