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The first time I came out was weirdly the easiest. But that was because I didn’t really know what ‘coming out’ meant. I was 13-years-old and still did not really have a clue what being bisexual (as I identified then) or being LGBTQIA+ was.

Ignorance, at least initially, was bliss. So, I just casually came out to my friends one day, with no inkling of what a big deal it would be. No inkling at all that it would impact my friendships, especially with my male friends, as much as it did. That all changed when one lunchtime, soon after I had come out, I was told by one of the boys in my year that I was no longer welcome to play football on the playground with them and my friends were told to stop hanging out with me.

That was a tough moment and had a negative impact on me for a long time. It made me question whether being LGBTQIA+ meant that I would have to stop doing the things that I loved, change my friendship groups or the way I spent my time. It was a confusing time as there were no readily available resources for how to process this – especially not at school, and there was also limited representation in the media. Not like today with TV shows like Heartstopper and Sex Education, and with inspiring LGBTQIA+ role models in just about every area of public life.

With no LGBTQIA+ role models to look up to, I did not know the answer to these difficult questions at the time. I did not know if LGBTQIA+ people were able to have successful careers, to lead happy fulfilling lives, to raise children, to marry, to play football and do all the things that I had expected I would do in life.

The first time I came out, which had initially been easy, therefore turned into the most challenging period of my life. I did not feel comfortable coming out again until I was at university, having stayed in the closet and even dating a girl at the new school I went to for sixth form.

At university, I entered into my first same-sex relationship, and subsequently came out to my family, who took it really well and have always been incredibly supportive. That day when I came out to my parents, 4 February 2018, is the day I now associate with finally having come out and accepted my sexuality fully. It was almost seven years after I had first come out.

I am now, thankfully, very comfortable and confident with my sexuality, and now identify as gay. I am out to everyone in my life. Of course, coming out is a never-ending process, but I have found that every time it gets easier and mostly does not faze me anymore. Being LGBTQIA+ is an important part of who I am, and as I’ve learned over the years, it does not stop me from doing anything that I want to do.

Since 2021, I have volunteered as an Ambassador with the LGBTQIA+ young people’s charity Just Like Us. As an Ambassador, I have delivered talks on LGBTQIA+ inclusion to secondary school pupils across the country, sharing my own personal experience as a young gay man and providing the resources and representation I never had at school.

Being a Just Like Us Ambassador has been the most uplifting and rewarding experience. The community of fellow Ambassadors is supportive, welcoming and full of the most inspiring young LGBTQIA+ people, from whom I have had the privilege to hear their incredible stories and journeys of being LGBTQIA+.

The main takeaway from my experience volunteering for Just Like Us has been that being LGBTQIA+ is something to be celebrated, not something to be ashamed of. As someone who spent most of their teenage years full of shame, as an Ambassador I am able to help empower LGBTQIA+ young people today to come out with pride, not shame.

Tim volunteers as an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBTQIA+ young people’s charity. LGBTQIA+ and aged 18 to 25? Sign up here!