National Coming Out Day: LGBT Scots open up on celebrating their identity
National Coming out Day celebrates LGBT awareness on October 11 every year.
Scots within the community have shared their own experience of coming out to loved ones in a bid to celebrate their true self and support those who choose to keep their identity a secret.
"It’s the only way that you can achieve a sense of self worth"
A Scots barrister who came out as gay 46 years ago said times have changed for the better but warned society is at risk of going backwards.
Alan Inglis came out to his dad in 1975 after growing up in a society where homosexuality was illegal and homophobic abuse was endemic.
The 65-year-old from Edinburgh went to an all boys school and said he experienced homophobia from staff and pupils.
He said: "I didn’t feel able to be fully open about it until I went to university. Only my father was alive at that stage and he was a liberal minded person so it was not difficult with him.
“You are never sure how somebody will respond and thinking about coming out is not a single event.
"We do it repeatedly each time we meet a new person.”
“Coming out is a frightening experience but it’s the only way that you can achieve a sense of self worth.
He advised young people: “Do not believe what people are saying to you if they are detracting from your value or worth.
“I first went on a Pride march 46 years ago and I have pretty much been on one every year since."
Alan, who is also a trustee for the Scottish Child Law Centre and Equality Network, says society has since made decades of progress but "it would be wrong to think that LGBT people are completely safe now".
He told the Daily Record: “I went to to an all boys school in which homophobic abuse was endemic from students and staff at the time.
“I experienced physical assaults and was spat at.
“Things have changed very much, those kinds of incidents don't happen on the scale they once did.
“But I think it would be wrong to think that LGBT people are completely safe now.
"Near where I live, a gay couple were attacked on the street in central Edinburgh.
“About three years ago I was followed through the street by someone shouting homophobic abuse at me. It took me aback.”
Alan believes anti-trans activists are pushing bigoted attitudes towards trans people and creating a potentially dangerous environment for them.
He said: “I think there’s a real danger that we’re going backwards.
“The anti-trans movement is creating a culture in which the safety of all LGBT people, and all the progress made over the last few decades is being put at risk."
"If I had opened up more at a younger age, would things have been different?"
Jamie Love was forced to come out as gay after a stranger hacked his social media and told his friends while growing up in the Middle East.
JamIe was just 16 when his MSN Messenger account was hacked and he was ‘outed’ to his friends as gay.
He had been living in a socially conservative country in the Middle East and attending international school but had a boyfriend in his home city of Edinburgh.
He told the Daily Record: “I was in the Middle East for five years from the age of 13 to 18. I had a boyfriend in Edinburgh when I was 16 when my MSN was hacked.
“That generated a lot of online bullying and to this day I don’t know who hacked my account.
“That’s how I was forced to come out to my friends.
“Where I was made it difficult. I had a friend who was disowned after coming out. Another friend was deported after coming out, this is what I was surrounded by.
“My coming out was never my choice. I don’t think the school knew how to deal with it. If they reported the cyber bullying to the police they would have had to tell them I was gay.
“At this point my parents still didn’t know.”
A year later Jamie’s mum found a note he had been given by a boyfriend and he was forced to come out to his parents.
He said: “There is always going to be a part of me who still has a huge question of if I had opened up more at a younger age, would things have been different?
“My parents are fine with it, they had no objections. But I wonder if I had trusted people more would I have had a more positive experience?"
Now 26, Jamie says he would urge young people today to “trust themselves” and find communities who understand them.
He hopes sharing his own story will inspire others to celebrate their own identity.
He moved back to Scotland after finishing school in pursuit of living his real life.
In 2016 he was crowned Mr Gay Scotland and has gone on to run his own inclusive marketing company, Monumental Marketing.
He is also marketing director for Edinburgh Pride.
He said: “My parents could never understand why I wanted to leave the Middle East so badly but getting back to Edinburgh was my goal.
“I went into Mr Gay Scotland, to prove I could be celebrated for who I was.
He added: “I don’t know what the environment is like in Scottish high schools but when I compare it to what I lived through, it seems to be much more positive.
“I got involved in Edinburgh Pride because there is still a lot of change to be made."
Jamie’s message to younger people today is to “trust yourself”.
He added: A really big problem when you are younger is feeling alone.
“There are lots of online spaces and it’s easier to find connections with people who are going through the same experiences as you."
Jamie shares empowering messages and support on his Instagram page.
"I felt like I was coming out over and over again, every time I met someone new"
Josh Mennie's coming out story is a little more high-profile than others.
The then 22-year-old was suited and stood at a lectern at an SNP party conference, just weeks after telling loved ones.
Thousands of Scots fell silent as a 'terrified' Josh, now 27, came out to fellow SNP members and colleagues during an inspirational speech back in 2017.
Holding back the tears, Josh's moving words garnered huge cheers and a rapturous applause.
"Talking about my sexuality on a stage at a party conference was the most terrifying thing I have ever done in my life," Josh told the Record.
"Working for the SNP, I felt like I was coming out over and over again, every time I met someone new.
"When I was asked to speak at the equalities session, I knew it would be a good opportunity to tell my story and I'm so glad I did."
Josh prayed to God for 10 years 'please make me fancy girls' as he struggled with feeling different.
Relentless homophobic bullying in primary school resulted in him being diagnosed with depression and referred to a therapist aged 11.
Josh continued to struggle with his identity as a teen.
"Nobody was more unaccepting of my sexuality than me," he added.
"I tried to force myself to like girls and would experiment with them but avoided serious relationships.
"I always told myself that my feelings were just a phase, but that phase was still going at 18.
"I felt scared and isolated as a teenager.'
Josh says a fear of coming out came from being conditioned to think homosexuality was something to be frowned upon.
He added: "I always remember Alan Carr on TV when I was younger.
"I thought he was great but family members would call him a 'poof'.
"Those were the same words people would call me in the playground in school.
"Anytime something was referred to as 'gay' it was like a slur.
Josh accepted his own sexuality at the age of 20 but was still terrified to tell anyone.
After two-years of further inner torment, Josh's cousin, Laura Adams, now 27, told him she was bi-sexual.
"Laura and I are like best friends, we're the same age and tell one another everything,"he said.
"When Laura told me she was bi, I knew I could come out to her too."
A few weeks later Josh came out to his two sisters on a night out.
"I felt so liberated and free, Laura was so supportive," Josh added.
"It just snowballed from there, I told my two sisters on the night out, Jessica, 34, and Joanna, 36, who started crying happy tears and hugging me.
"It was like a huge relief."
Around a week later, Josh came out to his mum and younger brother, Calum, 22, who were also supportive.
"My mum was a little shocked at first but she said 'you're my son and I love you', he said.
"I told my dad that same night while he was giving me a lift to a nightclub.
"He's a big Aberdeen FC fan and a real comedian.
"I said 'Dad, I'm attracted to boys' to which he replied 'Thank goodness, I thought you were going to tell me you were a Rangers fan'.
"Having that support is amazing, it gave me the confidence to come out almost professionally at the SNP conference a few weeks later.
"I spent years hating myself, and now I've never been happier.
"We have to let youngsters know that it's okay to be you."