Tim Cook coming out as gay publicly for the first time matters to young men like me

More than half of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience bullying and abuse. Having role models can help

Leigh Dowd
Friday 31 October 2014 11:17
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
Apple CEO Timothy Cook

I always knew that something was a little bit different about me. I’m not your 'stereotypical' kind of guy that you will meet on the street. Though I do enjoy watching sports like football and tennis, I was never a sporty guy, but I did still go round with a big group of lads and have a laugh. This made it harder for me when I was considering coming out.

I realised I was attracted to men when I was around 13 or 14. Back then I was searching women on the internet and I actually felt attracted to them. However, as time went on, I started to realise the attraction to women was fading away and the attraction to men was going stronger. I wanted to tell someone how I was feeling, but I didn’t even know what was going on.

I attended an all-boys comprehensive school from Year 7 to upper sixth and though the majority of the guys in my year were nice, there was not a single out gay guy in my year at school. There was a boy that everybody assumed was, but he never actually admitted it during my school years. This deterred me from coming out for even longer, as I didn’t know how I’d be perceived. I mean, I got enough stick for working in Build-A-Bear Workshop when I was 16, so I wasn’t exactly sure how this would go.

My aim was to get the best A Levels I could get, get myself off to university and come out once I was settled; I had it all worked out. A Level results day came, I got the results I needed and off to university I went. During the same week, I was offered a job in a shop on the high street, which I accepted. My life was changing so quickly so it felt right that this should be when I come out.

I was lucky that when I decided to come out I had resources I could turn to. YouTube was full of advice on how to come out. Some of the stories you hear on there are inspiring, most are great, but some do make you cry for the individual on the other end of the camera. When I finally decided to come out I felt supported by the role models who had shared their stories. These stories – both positive and negative, heart-warming and heart-breaking – gave me the courage to share my own story.

I was lucky that my parents accepted me. When I finally plucked up the courage to tell them I was greeted with support and a hug. Too many young people still don’t get that. Research by Stonewall shows that more than half of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience bullying and abuse. These people can grow up feeling alone and isolated. Seeing role models, whether it’s a Tim Cook or a Tom Daley, a teacher or a friend, makes you feel less alone. That’s why coming out still matters.

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