Coming out in the late 1990s

Aged 16 when Queer As Folk aired on TV, Ryan decided to tell his family and friends that he was gay, only to face homophobic bullying at school.

Duration 03:56


RYAN: So, er, I came out when I was sixteen, day after sixteenth birthday. Mum had a really tough time, and well, my dad’s just…there… he just exists somewhere. So yes, my mum struggled.

INTERVIEWER: How is she now with it?

RYAN: She’s all right now, so at the time it were more about the… Section 28 were still in. The age of consent were eighteen, so as far as she’s concerned, I’m still the first person to ever come out in Mexborough. I’m sure that’s not true, but that’s how it felt to quite a lot of people I think. She were just worried about the fact that I were entering a world that didn’t have equality that were well that’s what she was worried about. Now that we’ve had a proper conversation that’s what she worried about. She wasn’t worried about not having grandkids or any of that. That didn’t bother her, she just wanted me to have a safe future so luckily for me and for her, Labour got in in ’97 and sorted some of that problem out but, erm, so that were fine, she’s fine, she’s got a sixty-year-old gay cousin now who we traced in the family tree. Now she’s fine. She loves it. Does my head in!

INTERVIEWER: How important was it to you to come out at that age?

RYAN: I’m not entirely sure why I did. I think well I’d been to a birthday party in London and there were another guy there that were same age as me… and I kissed him and that were that, so obviously I wanted to run home and tell everyone I could. Hmm, I think it was Queer As Folk had been on TV not too long before as well, and I think everyone talks about Queer As Folk… So my housemate now he’s twenty-six but he knows – he’s not seen Queer As Folk – but he knows that that were a game-changer for society. He knows that Queer As Folk did change people’s perceptions. I think some right-wingers probably had a heart attack or freaked out but I don’t know. I just didn’t felt the need to not tell anyone. I just did. And then I had to change schools ‘cos… not bullying from kids but a problem with the head teacher who was adamant that she’d no gay children in that school, so yeah – that were fun.

INTERVIEWER: Was that difficult?

RYAN: No. I’m quite gobby. I were gobby back then, so another kid had called me a faggot, so I went to see her and I explained that there were a problem with homophobic bullying in the school, but it’s from some people and she said there can’t be any homophobic bullying ‘cos we don’t have gay kids in this school, so I just said well, you’ve got one at the minute, but tomorrow I’II go to a different school so that were that.. I went to a different school. I went to a different school called Danum, and there were that many gays it were called ‘Gaynum’, and then I met my first ever boyfriend after a week I’d been there. So that were no problems at all but yeah, so the teacher were the problem, and now I don’t know whether that’s ‘cos of Section 28 – that she just weren’t allowed to talk about it. I’ve actually never thought about that. But it doesn’t matter now because she’s gone, like literally off the planet. She’s not there anymore, so… [laughs]