Are you in the same sex relationship

I have to keep my relationship a secret because I haven't come out yet

Photographed by Ashley Armitage.
Three queer people talk about how hard it is to secretly date because same-sex relationships are still not as accepted as we might think.
Imagine you just broke up. You cry, are angry, hurt and just want to talk to someone about it until it doesn't feel like your story anymore, but like someone else's. Now imagine that you can't tell anyone how you're doing because you haven't come out yet. Your colleagues, your parents, your friends: Nobody knows.
This is exactly how Isabella felt when she and her friend broke up last year. A few years ago, the now 21-year-old had moved to London from Australia and the only person she knew in town was the daughter of a friend of her mother's. Isabella and the daughter, let's call her Hannah, got together and were in a relationship for two years. It was Isabella's first relationship. She had known she was a lesbian since she was around 15, but her mother kept making homophobic comments. “I thought it was her age, to be honest. She grew up in a time when it wasn't okay to be gay. She can handle it when others are LGBTQ, but it's different with her own children ”. Isabella kept their relationship a secret from her mother, which kept her afraid that someone might post something wrong on a social media channel. And when Hannah cheated on her at some point and the two broke up, she had to hide that too. But not only that: she also had to put up with questions such as “How is Hannah? Are you two still friends? "
“A few people sometimes tried to encourage me to tell my mother everything. They said things like, 'I'm sure she's okay with her, after all, she loves you.' I know you were meant well, but honestly, such comments only annoyed me. If you are not ready to come out yet, then you are not ready yet. In fact, I was about to do it, but then Hannah cheated on it ”.
Isabella's story is not an isolated incident. To be honest, I felt the same way before I came out when I was 19. Although that was a real relief for me, it took many years for my family to fully accept me again. In the meantime, I had established relationships with people who, for religious reasons, had not yet come out to their families. This creates additional pressure in the relationship. My family, of course, always wants me to bring them to celebrate, but that reminds them that their own family won't accept them. Then there are the secrets, lies and the game of hide and seek, which strain the relationship. Plus, I'd always feel guilty about breaking up because I know they can't talk to loved ones about it.
John is 33 years old, from Stirling, Scotland, and is bisexual. He has known for eight years or more, but has never found the right moment to tell his parents. Unfortunately, his father has now died. But that's not all: John is married to a woman. You have a polyamorous relationship. While he could imagine that his mother might even be able to cope with his private life, things are very different with his colleagues. Homophobic comments are not uncommon here. “They're things you would never say straight to the face of a homosexual person. Someone once made a homophobic joke about another colleague and expected me to laugh at it. I thought about what to do. Would you wonder what's wrong with me if I don't laugh and tell them what I think? So I mostly just change the subject, ”said John. The real reason John hasn't told his mother yet might have something to do with internalized homophobia. At work it definitely has something to do with how everyone interacts with one another. The consequence is that he can never date someone in the city he works in because he is afraid of being seen.

Even if we are much further along than we were ten years ago, many people seem to only tolerate us but not accept us.

“It's a small world. I always have to think about who might know whom and whether my secret might not get out of three corners. For me, the safest way to date is through apps. My straight colleagues cannot know that I am using the app, because if they were registered themselves, that would mean that they are also homosexual. And then they surely wouldn't come out of me, ”said John.
John thinks his story shows that we're still not as advanced as we think we are when it comes to LGBTQ. “In my town, a lot of people are just getting used to the idea that homosexuality is okay. But bisexuality is a completely different topic. They believe you are gay but try to hide it. In my experience, women are more likely to accept being bisexual - but for the wrong reasons. Namely because men like it. We are much further ahead than we were ten years ago. Nevertheless, many people seem to only tolerate us, but not accept them ”.
Michael is 23 years old and is also from Scotland. He says there are regions in the UK that are more conservative than others. Last year he moved to London. It's only since he's lived there that he's really comfortable dating men in public. While he was studying in Edinburgh, he occasionally met someone through Grindr, but he found it pretty intimidating most of the time. In London he finally met like-minded people with whom he could be completely himself. It was here that he had a brief relationship for the first time. “Maybe I would have been more ready if I had come out earlier - when I was 15 or so. Then maybe I would have started data earlier ”.

Due to the lack of a caregiver, he decided that it was easier to marry a woman than to be open about his homosexuality.

Although Michael knew he was gay when he was seven or eight years old, he found it difficult as a teenager to really accept it as his reality. "There are very few homosexual people in my hometown and I couldn't identify with the gay men I met," they would all have been so loud and extravagant and he would have been the complete opposite. “That's why I never came out and had relationships with women. My mother died when I was eight years old, so my father had to look after us. But he worked a lot and we were never able to develop a really close relationship with one another. When I was 15, my grandma died too, ”says Michael. Because he didn't have a caregiver to confide in, he decided that it was easier to marry a woman than to live out his homosexuality openly. When his sister came out and said she was dating a woman, the situation changed slightly. His conservative father was surprisingly relaxed about it. Still, Michael was no less afraid to come out. He even feared that it would be doubly difficult for his father if he found out that his two children were homosexual.
“Because of my sister, many wonder why I don't just come out. I think I'm slowly getting used to the thought. If he spoke to me about it directly, maybe we could talk about it. But I don't think I'll bring it up on my own - at least not until I'm in a relationship with another person ”.
While Michael waits for the right one, he reminds us that there is not just one typical coming-out story. “I think a lot of think that these days it's easy to be happy with yourself and your life, and that coming out isn't a big deal. I understand what you mean by that, but I think many are still scared of it. It's something very personal and everyone deals with it differently, ”says Michael. “It doesn't have to be a big show and you can do it when you're 25 or 35 - not 15. Just because you're waiting doesn't mean you're not happy. My happiness doesn't depend on whether or not I tell my father. I am very proud of my sexuality ”.
Six months after she split from Hannah, Isabella decided to tell her mother. “I didn't feel like lying anymore, so I texted her on Facebook. I couldn't send it off, so a friend did it for me. I had to wait seven hours for her answer and most of that time I had panic attacks. She said that she already had this feeling. She said she loved me anyway. But later I found out that she had said a few not-so-nice things to other family members ”.
Isabella got to know people through Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, LGBTQ protests and concerts who understand and support her very well. For those who have not yet dared to come out, she advises the following: “Only do it when you are ready for it and feel safe. Try to surround yourself with people who are always there for you and don't rush. It's up to you to make real friends ”.
* Name has been changed by the editorial team