When Big Brother’s Cameron Cole came out on TV, viewers got an insight into just how difficult that experience can be.
Unable to say the word “gay”, Cameron burst into tears after needing help to share his sexuality with his housemates.
He had only told his family days before entering the house.
Coming out to your relatives is often hard, but sometimes cultural differences make it seem impossible.
‘It’s not just family at risk, it could be the loss of your culture’
“In many parts of Africa, coming out as gay can lead to a lot of repercussions,” says Nigerian, British-born 24 year-old bisexual Adeola*.
Gay sex is illegal in Nigeria and there is no protection against discrimination, meaning that many people aren’t open about their sexuality.
“Sometimes it can be a situation where you could be physically assaulted, sometimes you could lose your entire family. That wasn’t really a risk I was willing to take.”
She came out 18 months ago, but only to her friends. She lives with her mum and remains closeted at home.
Adeola says she would only ever consider coming out to her family if she was planning, one day, to marry a woman.
“I would have to think about what type of reactions I’m going to get. They may never want to talk to you again.
“That’s something you can’t really take lightly, especially if you’re from an ethnic minority because that’s it. That’s your support group gone. It’s not just the loss of family, it’s the loss of your culture.”
And it was the anti-gay laws and culture in Bangladesh which meant Ritu has only ever come out to four members of his immediate family in his homeland.
Homosexuality was made illegal in Bangladesh in 1860, a law introduced under British rule.
He was only able to come out after moving to study in the UK and living an open gay life here.
“Bangladesh society is quite homophobic and quite violently homophobic,” says the 27 year-old.
“It’s not just the legal risk of potentially putting myself in a position where I might have to go to jail, it’s also the fact that there are a lot of people – including those who I know personally – who would probably want to kill me.”
Ritu says coming out in the UK was “liberating” but doubts he would ever have had the courage to do so if he hadn’t moved abroad.
“If I was still there, it would be quite difficult because I’d have to suppress a part of me that I’ve grown quite accustomed to being quite open about now,” he says.
‘Mum wanting to protect me was most upsetting’
Frankie, 24, grew up in Australia, where gay marriage was legalised in 2017.
But despite having a mum who campaigned for that bill to be passed, pansexual Frankie says she doubts she could ever come out in her home country.
“My older sister is bisexual and watching her come out to mum and not be accepted was really tough,” Frankie says.
“I think it came from a place of wanting to protect me because she had the view that the life of a gay person was more difficult than the life of a straight person.”
But Frankie says that is what has hurt her the most.
“The greatest irony is that she wanted to protect me but really her disapproval and her censure is the thing that is most upsetting to me.”
Earlier this year, she moved to London from rural Australia where she never wanted her sexuality to become small-town gossip.
“If you’re going to talk about me, talk about something great I’ve done, not about my identity,” she says.
Coming out should be for you
Today (11 October) marks National Coming Out Day, and even though Adeola, Ritu and Frankie aren’t able to come out to some of the people closest to them, they believe events like this are important for personal acceptance.
“Really the only person you need to come out to is yourself,” says Ritu.
“It’s almost something you need to remind yourself of every day.”
But they also say expectations of life after coming out can be exaggerated.
“There’s a big expectation that if you come out, it reveals who you really are,” says Adeola.
“You’re never going to know who you are forever. You change all the time.
“It’s an individual decision, there shouldn’t be that much pressure and it’s a slow transition.”
National Coming Out Day was started in the USA, on the anniversary of the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
These days it is celebrated around the world, and online using the hashtag #NationalComingOutDay.
For help and support on coming out visit the BBC Advice pages.
*Names have been changed.
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