Matthew Hemes, 27, Senior Social Media Manager
When did you come out?
How did you come out?
I got beaten up by the friends of a guy I was seeing at a party. Rang Mum to pick me up but never told her why I wanted to leave early. Just said I'd had enough and wanted to go home. I never reported it to the police for the sheer fear of being outed at sixth form. "That's so gay" was still said in the corridors. About a week later I just wanted to tell her and while having dinner she could tell there was something I wanted to tell her for the past few nights. So told her everything. We were both in tears by the end.
At the time, I thought telling Dad was a no-go. I still remember a line from Star Wars Episode 1 where one of the bad guys says "no need to report that until we have something to report." So didn't tell Dad until I had a boyfriend. Think it was around Christmas time. We'd just finished dinner and I said I've got something to tell you. Mum piped up with "you might want to sit down for this". So told him I had a boyfriend and showed him a picture of us at the company Christmas party. He was absolutely fine with it and said he just wanted me to be happy. He went on to mention the many brilliant gay, lesbian and trans people he's worked with - who I don't remember him mentioning before (or maybe he did, but not that they were LGBT+). Dad always made inappropriate jokes that really were funny and he never actually meant them - there was never any malicious intent behind them, more taking the piss out of people who actually think that way. So I made clear I still wanted to hear the gay jokes and for him not to be treading on eggshells.
He tells me now in company meetings he says "I've got two sons. One of each kind". And I still find his jokes funny.
Why did you come out?
Was just sick of hiding who I was or making up that I fancied a girl. Was tired of lying and feeling like I couldn't be myself.
Why do you volunteer with Pride in London?
Because I remember how I felt when I was 15. How I, like many other closeted teenagers, so desperately wanted to be "normal" and go out with girls and fit in. Don't think I even knew what a Pride was until I was at Uni and the first one I went to was in Fort Lauderdale after Uni - but only because I stumbled across it!
The internet and social media are powerful tools. If we (as Pride and as a community) can reach people who feel like crap simply for being who they are, and tell them it's perfectly ok and you actually are "normal" and you're not on your own.
Why do you think being out is important for the community?
It couldn't be more important for your own self esteem and mentality to be yourself and not second guess every little thing you do and say. Being out can show others it's ok and you don't have to hide.
How has your life/ how have you changed since coming out?
Generally more confident (although I'm working on that) and feel I can be myself. It was quite freeing after coming out.