I was 15 when I first came out. I was on MSN with my best friend at the time, and I typed the words 'I think I'm gay... or bi'. I anxiously hit send, hoping her reply wasn't laced with any of the thinly veiled homophobia I'd grown up with.
I grew up in a Catholic family, and the word gay wasn't mentioned very much at all. If it was, it was never positively and left behind it a rather oppressive atmosphere. I never questioned my sexuality until I was 15. I had assumed I was straight, and I had dated boys to try to fit in, in the strange way under 11s do.
I remember being confused when I was 12 and having sexual dreams involving girls. I tried to convince myself that it didn't mean anything and that I was interested in boys, and I managed to squash it for over 3 more years. I was aware that I liked boobs, so I banned myself from ever looking, because I thought it was wrong and dirty.
During that time I threw myself into my faith, which said that being gay was 'disordered' and that I could never have a relationship with a girl. I read books, and went to church religiously, I thought I knew so much, but I was missing the key, the heart. I had all the head knowledge but my heart was not allowed to get involved, because there was this part of my heart that I had been squashing for so long.
Although the feelings had already begun surfacing, my desire to have a relationship with a girl really came to a head when I started my first summer job at the age of 15. The person who employed me is gay, and I believe it was the first time I had ever knowingly met a gay couple. They were so normal, and it made me actually properly ask myself the question for the first time, could I?
Could I be gay? Could I have a relationship with a girl? How did lesbians even have sex? Then at this point I was overwhelmed with guilt. I felt bad and sinful for even having thoughts about having a relationship with a girl, let alone sex, and I turned to self-harm as a way to relieve that guilt.
I had watched my brother struggle with my parents on the issue of his sexuality, they had not been accepting at all, and my overall impression is of them being very angry and controlling. I had very little desire to come out to them.
I came out to a couple of other school friends, and eventually my whole friendship group knew. On the whole, I received so much love and support from them, for which I will always be so grateful.
I never intended to come out to my parents, and it was not my choice to. When I was 16, my dad sat me down and pretty much forced it out of me. He knew about my self-harming, and wanted to know why, he lulled me into thinking he was going to be supportive, and started guessing. He hit the nail on the head and guessed that I was gay, and my non-answer gave it away. Initially, to his credit, my dad seemed quite accepting, but it didn't take long before the façade slipped away.
He told me that I wasn't gay, that I was confused, that I hadn't met the right boy, that I was too young to make such a decision. His favourite argument of all is that he dislikes labels, and doesn't think I should label myself. He was also convinced that somehow my brother, or someone else had influenced me and turned me gay.
It's taken me years to reduce the guilt, and I am still not sure I'm fully there yet. It has been difficult to reconcile my Catholic faith, with my experience and convictions surrounding sexuality. Now however, I could never go back behind those barriers of shame, I fall in love with who I love, and there is nothing broken about me.