Ambassador voices: Coming out, on extra hard mode

A young person sits on a bench writing in a notebook. The leaves in the trees above them are rainbow coloured.

Hi, I’m Emmanuela! I’m 17 years old. I do History, English Literature and Politics at A-level. I love to sing and I volunteer at The Mix because I’m very opinionated and I wanted a platform to express my opinions and experiences outside of school.

So during the quarantine, I took a massive risk. I did something that I wasn’t planning on doing for at least the next two-five years, or perhaps ever. I told my mum that I’m bisexual. To give you some background, both of my parents are Nigerian immigrants and they are extremely Christian. And the last time I hinted at the concept of me being anything other than straight – it didn’t exactly go down well. But scenarios change and so do people. This is my quarantine coming out story.

My Pride month horror stories

I love Pride celebrations, and living in London means I get a wonderful experience when I go. But being in the closet during Pride month with my family hasn’t always been so positive.

Pride was being documented on the news one year so my family and I started a conversation about the LGBTQIA+ community. Needless to say, they weren’t exactly responding in the way that I wanted them to. So I – being a naive 13-year-old – asked them “What if it was your child?” with a proud grin on my face. I thought that I had silenced them.

I didn’t expect to get the response “It couldn’t be, because they are my child” and questions started to arise as to why I cared so much. So naturally, I did what any other rational person would do who was definitely not trying to hide something…

I blurted out some nonsense about me being empathetic to other minority groups to avoid telling the truth. I was a teary, blubbering mess and I had to run up to my room to cry it out.

I felt like an alien in my own house. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time I felt like that, not by a longshot.

The summer of 2019, was also a formative time for me regarding my sexuality. I was visiting an Aunt’s place in Manchester (again, this was during Pride celebrations) and we were on our way to a wedding. Two of my younger cousins looked at the march with a disgust that they seemed to reserve for queer people and made derogatory comments.

At that point, I was used to hearing those remarks from them and shrugged it off. But what happened later that day was much more hurtful.

As the boys were chasing around my six-year-old little cousin, he called them the f-slur multiple times with a venom that I have never heard such a small child possess. I went to the room I was staying in, hoped that no one would enter and just broke down.

Why did people learn hatred from such a young age? What if my little cousin did turn out to be queer in that environment? What if he turned out to be a bigot?

When I had gathered myself enough, I took him aside and told him to never use that word again because it was hateful. And I promised myself that when I got back to school, I would do more to fight homophobia there and protect the LGBTQIA+ students, in a school where the system still doesn’t seem to care.

The coming out itself

I want to take a second to say that I was (and still am) a lot luckier than other people like me because my older sister always supported and accepted me.

But that doesn’t mean that the prospect of telling my mum, didn’t keep me up at night or that it wasn’t the subject of all of my nightmares.

Before I told her, my mum and I’s relationship was becoming quite strained. She is a nurse so she’s been extremely stressed out during lockdown and tensions were running high.

My sister was living out of the house and due to my mum’s stress – I felt like I had lost all of my confidants in the house. Usually, I keep myself so busy that I don’t think about the implications of my bisexuality until I need to go to sleep. But being in quarantine had forced me to think about it every waking hour of every day. I was miserable and very anxious most of the time.

But my mum took some time off of work and it did wonders for our relationship. I could actually talk to her about how I was feeling.

So one day, we were talking about being outcasts – and how we’ve both felt like we were different and on the outside.

Even though this was something I resonated with, I still didn’t fully trust her.

Part of me was angry at her for not creating an atmosphere in which I could be myself and didn’t want to tell her. Part of me was frustrated with the situation and yearned to tell her. But on this particular day, she kept talking about a parent’s unconditional love for their child, and for the first time in years – I felt completely at ease in my mum’s presence.

So then I started speaking in what I believed was this profound, cryptic code (but really was the most painfully obvious statement ever) “What if somebody in our family was different, really different? Different than anyone else in the family that you had ever come across. And what if the rest of the family wouldn’t want anything to do with them?

Would you be ashamed?”

To which she responded by asking me the million-pound question “Are you a lesbian?”

A million lies floated about in my head but I was so tired of the pretense.

So I told the truth, and explained what bisexuality was and that it wasn’t going to change and that I was scared of disappointing her.

Then she said the best thing that I could ever coach someone to say in that situation “You are my daughter. I don’t love you less and I can’t love you more,” and just like that, I collapsed into her lap and started happy sobbing.

I kept asking if she was going to try and ‘pray it away’ or if she was disappointed and she continued to reassure me that although she was surprised, she wasn’t disappointed.

What I’ve learned

My coming out was like one of those movie scenes that I used to criticise for being too unrealistic or unrepresentative of the real queer experience.

I realise now that ‘the real queer experience’ is nuanced. Yes, 90% of my family and those aound me are homophobic to varying degrees and if I had told my mum even two years ago – the response would have been very different. Yes, I have come to terms with the fact that I will never tell my dad because people only change if they want to and some battles – just aren’t worth fighting. But now I have family members that support me (my mum, my sister and my favourite aunt – not the one from the story earlier) and I’m making a difference at my school and I will continue to make a difference on a larger scale as I develop and grow.

Tips and tricks for other queer teens in quarantine

  • Find a private outlet for your feelings – whether it’s keeping a diary or song writing, find a way to express yourself.
  • Get out of the house – everyone feels trapped in quarantine, but if you’re in the closet, you’ll feel double trapped. Go for a long walk or do some exercise.
  • Listen to queer anthems. Everyone has their own selection of songs that make them feel empowered in their queerness – whether that was the intended purpose of the song or not. For me, Reflections from Mulan was my go-to song to get my emotions out. Bonus tip, queer Netflix is your friend.
  • Find LGBTQIA+ heroes, someone in your life, someone online, someone fictional or someone historical who makes you feel like you can get through this because they did or they are in the same boat as you.
  • Find someone to talk to – it could be a trusted friend or family member or someone for free here at The Mix (0808 808 4994) and express your emotions.
  • Bonus tip – continue interacting with the LGBTQIA+ community through platforms like Reddit (it’s harder for people you know to find compared to a Twitter or an Instagram), and celebrate Pride month in whatever subtle way you can.

I don’t know who needs to hear this but I know what you’re feeling. But remember that you are important, valid and visible. And I see you. Come out when and if it is safe for you to do so, and look forward to a future where you can be yourself.

“You are braver than you believe, smarter than you think and stronger than you know” – Winnie the Pooh

Are you thinking about talking to your family and friends about your sexuality? If you need some support then know that you are not alone and we are always here for you. Contact The Mix to talk to our team. All of our services are free and confidential and no topic is out of bounds.

Read our interview with Switchboard LGBT Helpline for advice on exploring your sexuality and dealing with homophobia. Read our article on what it’s like to be gay and Muslim. Find out the biggest myths about bisexuality.

Next Steps

  • Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline offers a range of help services for the LGBT community, including message boards and a helpline. 0300 330 0630
  • Stonewall campaign for the equality of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people across Britain and abroad.
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Emmanuela Adebisi

Updated on 09-Jun-2020

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