This article first appeared in Attitude issue 293, March 2018
The date was 27 January 2015, I remember it perfectly because I was travelling to London from Cambridge (where I lived at the time) for my interview at Westminster University. I was 19 and had just come out to my family and friends.
I nailed the interview and as a mini celebration for doing so well, my brother Sean called me saying that he wanted to meet me in central London and take me out for my first gay night.
Now that’s not as strange as you might think, because it just happens that my brother is gay, too. In fact, people always assume that because he’s five years older, Sean must have come out before me. And that’s true if we’re talking about all his friends in London. However, back in Cambridge none of his family knew — not even me.
I came out to him, then a couple of days later he came out to me. A couple of months after that I came out to the rest of my family and then he did the same.
However, because he’d been openly gay in London years before me, he led this double life of being straight when he visited home and openly gay when he went back to London.
London student Jack (left) with older brother and Attitude Account Manager Sean
And now here he was about to take me out on the scene for the first time. I remember feeling nervous at the thought of going into a gay bar. I had never even been near one and had no idea what to expect, however my excitement soon completely outweighed my nerves and I couldn’t wait.
Besides, I had my brother with me. As he was familiar with gay nightlife, I knew I was in safe hands. My plan was to follow — or maybe that should be hide — right behind him, like a little lost puppy.
We met up at about 7pm, he introduced me to his boyfriend, and we arrived at G-A-Y in Soho. From the minute we met up everything felt new and different. I had never seen my brother with another guy before, never mind with his boyfriend. But I remember it feeling right. It felt different, yes, but a good different.
We got to the bar and as I was being searched by security I was trying to get a peek through the glass doors to see what it was like inside. I was now at fever-pitch levels of excitement.
As we walked in, ‘Timber’ by Ke$ha and Pitbull was playing really loudly. Sean leaned over and said into my ear: “They play Britney in here all the time.” Both of us have always been obsessed with her, so this was good to know. And all the straight clubs that I’d been to before never seemed to play her.
Even though I had planned to hide behind Sean and thought that I would feel scared until we managed to find some seats in a corner or something, I actually felt the complete opposite, mainly because I was surrounded by so many gay people who shared a lot of the same interests as me. Plus hearing all the music I liked helped make me feel comfortable. I was loving every second.
We got our first couple of drinks but couldn’t find any empty seats so took what I thought was the brave decision to head to the dancefloor. I couldn’t stop looking around at everyone; there were gay couples and there were single guys going up to other guys and hitting on them. It might seem obvious that I would see all this in a gay bar, but I wasn’t used to it and only had movies and TV shows as reference points.
Where I went to college, there were no gay venues so I would head to straight clubs with my female friends, standing by as they all got hit on by guys, knowing that would never be a possibility for me. But that night at G-A-Y I felt for the first time, I could be the one being hit on.
Mind you, because I had my big brother right there, I think I would’ve been really embarrassed if anyone did talk to me.
Maybe it’s a cliché, but that night was the start of me feeling like myself. Growing up, Sean and I were always close and loved doing things such as performing and talking about pop culture.
However, there was always an elephant in the room that I didn’t even know was there until we both came out. And that night out only brought us even closer together.
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