Empty Closets Coming Out Resources and a Safe Place to Chat
Welcome Forum Resources Members
Coming OutComing Out LettersComing Out StoriesHealthSTDsMiscellaneousLinksDownloadsResources Home

Coming Out Stories Menu
Resources Home


10 Wasted Years?
By Paul (Paul_UK)

Early Years

I never fitted in with the other kids at school. I was always the loner with only one or two friends who were the other outcasts. As I got older this gradually changed from being ignored to being bullied. In those days (early 1970s) schools didn’t take bullying as seriously as they do now, so it was allowed to continue. It seriously affected my school work, and my self-confidence was non-existent.

Things came to a head after my sister was born when I was eight. Mum was suffering from post-natal depression which affected me. The nurse who visited mum also spent some time with me and realised that things were not right. I believe she did a lot of probing at school etc. to find out what was happening, and she got the right people involved. She is one of those people who happened to come into my life at the right time and who I owe a great deal of thanks – yet I cannot even remember her name.

I was referred to a child psychologist who I visited every few weeks. He asked me all sorts of stuff which I didn’t understand and don’t remember, then spent ages talking to mum and dad (while I sat bored in the waiting room).


The psychologist sent me to a place called Bursledon Hospital. This was to assess me away from my usual school and home etc. I remember very little about the place (I think my mind has blanked it out), although I know it was the worst four weeks of my life. I was bullied continually and got blamed for other kids’ bad behaviour.

One of the better memories from that place was the day that another boy around my age and me decided to play strip poker under his bed. We didn’t know how to play poker so played pontoon. Whoever was naked first was supposed to run around the ward, but we were both too chicken for that, so we just ended up both naked under the bed, fiddling with each other. I had always liked watching the boys changing for swimming at school. But this is the first time I had got to touch one and for him to touch me.

Buckland School

As a result of Bursledon, it was decided that I would not be able to cope with a normal high school and that I should go to Buckland School, a “special needs” boarding school for “emotionally disturbed” boys. I started there when I was 11.

Buckland was for boys only and had about 50 pupils. This place did me a lot of good. Classes were typically 10 boys and a lot of the work was individual rather than group. I managed to leave with some qualifications, though nothing to get excited about.

Within a few weeks of starting I was approached by one of the older kids to help with his "experiments" for which payment would be some packets of sweets. The experiments, as you probably guessed, were sexual. Nothing too involved, hands and oral both ways. This was the first time I had seen someone cum though, which fascinated me. I enjoyed the “experiments” and was happy to continue without the payment. In due course I was doing similar things with other guys. I also found out which other kids nearer my own age were involved, and got involved with them too.

This sort of thing seemed to be quite prevalent there. I guess with 50 teenage boys with raging hormones together and no access to girls, it’s inevitable if unchecked. About half the boys there were involved. For most of them it was probably just teenage messing around. It was more than that to me though. It was something I looked forward to and dreamed about. Despite that, I convinced myself that it was only a phase.

I began realising that maybe it wasn’t a phase a few weeks before I left, when I knew that the end of an era was approaching. I knew that the same thing wouldn’t happen outside school, and I didn’t know what I would do as females didn’t attract me. I still thought that if I did get a girlfriend everything would be OK though.

The Boy at the Railway Station

I got a job at the engineering company where my dad worked. I joined as an apprentice, spending the first year in the apprentice training centre then three years in my chosen department (which for me was the electronics department).

I spent four days each week at work and one at college. College was a train journey away. Every week at the station, waiting for the train before mine, were a group of kids in school uniform. One boy in that group really caught my eye. He was cute and had a great smile.  He was probably about 15. Of course he didn’t notice me as he was with his friends, but I noticed him, watched him and dreamt about him. I used to get to the station earlier deliberately so I could lust over him for longer.

This was my first true realisation that I really was gay. Previously I had been excusing it as a phase, but not now. I realised that I was not interested in any of the girls, but was interested in this one boy. So I had to be... gay. I still tried to deny it and suppress it though.

At that time (1980) the age of consent for gay sex in the UK was 21, which seems a lifetime away when you are 16. The UK was much less accepting of gays back then, with a lot of negative and offensive press, the police targeting gays for no good reason, no positive gay role-models etc. Equal rights legislation did not include sexuality.  So as a teenager leaving school at that time and beginning to realise that I may be gay, it was not an attractive proposition.  

Work Problems

Back at the apprentice training centre, things were back almost like they were at junior school, with me being the target for bullying. It was not as bad as at school, but it was bad enough to affect my work.

Again the situation was saved by one of those people who goes well beyond what is required, and who does care. In this case it was Alan Smith, the apprentice training manager. He could so easily have dismissed me from the company as unsuitable. But he didn’t.  Instead he arranged for me to work in other departments, including the electronics department, to see how I got on there.  Away from the other lads I did well, so I was allowed to continue my apprenticeship.


I then had to return to the training centre and finish my first year. In my absence another lad called Matthew had become the target for the bullying. We often went off together during the breaks to avoid this, and sat on the grass bank overlooking the staff car park, out of sight.

During those breaks on the grass bank, we somehow ended up with our hands inside each other’s overalls. I don’t know how it started or why, since he was straight and had a girlfriend. I was somewhat attracted to him, though not to the extent of that lad at the railway station.  It was more of a physical rather than emotional thing.

Visiting Buckland School

I went back to visit Buckland School several times when I was about 18 or 19. I have no idea why. I think it was because I felt somewhat lost and alone in "adult" life and was trying to recapture or recreate my past. It was a bad idea. I was no longer a boy there, and was not mature as an adult either, so I was totally out of place.

On one visit I was sitting in the common room at the top of one of the dormitories. Some boys were already in their pyjamas and some just had towels round their waists and were waiting their turn for the shower. I was already trying to keep my eyes on the TV so I wouldn't be noticed staring, when this gorgeous 14 or 15 year old walked from the shower, through the common room and into the dormitory, stark naked, with just his towel thrown over his shoulder!! I hope I wasn't staring then – but I know my eyes followed him, even though the dormitory entrance was behind me...

The urge to follow him into the dormitory and do something unmentionable was extremely strong. I had never felt anything like that before, and panicked. I made my excuses and left. I just wanted to be away from there, and needed to think. That was my final visit. At that time I still hadn't accepted my sexuality at all. I was scared and confused about what I felt then. And I was scared that I had had such a strong urge to hurt someone so much younger just for sexual gratification. I think maybe this incident set me back a bit, it enforced the view in my mind at the time that being gay was somehow "wrong".

Another Job and Another Crush

I remained at the engineering company for a few years after my apprenticeship ended, but because the site was being closed I got a job at a local marine instruments company. This was when I was about 24. An extremely sexy tanned blond guy started working for the company, in the same department as me. He was about 20 and I couldn't keep my eyes off him. We sometimes had to go and work off-site together too (installing instruments on yachts). It was summer and he would wear shorts and t-shirt, and quite often removed the t-shirt. My imagination was in overdrive, but I still did not have the nerve to do or say anything.

Moving to Hereford

My life was going nowhere. I had become involved briefly with various things, hospital radio, the local cinema club, amateur dramatics etc – but nothing really kept my attention for long. I had a couple of brief girlfriends but could not get sexually interested.

The people who I worked with in the electronics department at the engineering company told me they were setting up their own company in Hereford, and offered me a job. The money was good, and house prices in the area were more reasonable. It was the new-start I needed, and I grabbed it!

Starting to Come Out

Being on my own I had time to think. I was 26 and this whole "gay thing" had reached the point where I had to do something about it.

Not knowing where to turn, I wrote to a newspaper agony aunt. I received a fairly feeble response, but also a fact-sheet which included the contact details for London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. I wrote to them and received a very helpful and detailed hand-written reply which answered all my queries and was very encouraging. This was someone who had read what I had said, accepted it and had wanted to help and encourage – and had spent time doing so voluntarily.

It also included the contact details for the Hereford and Worcester Gay Switchboard, who I wrote to asking about local venues etc. There wasn’t much in Hereford, but there was a "pub evening" one Monday each month in the back-room of a run-down pub. Not knowing what to expect, I went along to the next one. There were a couple of groups of people who were obviously uninterested in talking to anyone else. There were also a couple of people from Switchboard, one of whom spent some time with me. He suggested that I should try to get to one of the events in Worcester as they were much better attended and more enjoyable.


I went along the next month too. The same closed groups were there, but the guys from switchboard weren’t. There was a lad sitting alone, looking very awkward. Despite not having much confidence myself, I approached him and introduced myself. His name was Nick, he was 17 and it was his first time there. We had quite a lot in common and got along well. We became good friends and supported each other through the process of coming out. We went to our first gay nightclub together, went to Pride together etc. I think a lot of people thought we were a couple though we weren’t. I wouldn’t have said no though, as I did fancy him.


I started placing and replying to contact adverts in Gay Times magazine. I met several guys for drinks etc, but didn’t connect with any of them. Then I received a reply from Markie in Northampton. We wrote regularly for a couple of weeks, then we agreed that he would come to see me. We got on great straight away, and within a month he had moved in with me.


I gradually came out to work colleagues and family. Work was fine as the first person I told was bisexual himself, and he told everyone else for me (at my request). My sister and her then-husband were also fine and not at all surprised. Mum was reasonably OK but dad went into denial mode for a while. This was difficult for mum as she wanted to talk to somebody about it, but fortunately my sister was there for her.

Dad gradually came round. Meeting Markie and finding he was an ordinary guy and not a Julian Clary or Lily Savage character helped. I think the main thing that decided him that this was OK was when my sister and her husband announced that they were separating. Markie then became "number one son-in-law" in his eyes.

Dad died in November 2002. At his funeral, Markie was regarded as a member of the immediate family. He sat in the front row with me, mum and my sister, and was also with the immediate family at the graveside. It was just assumed by mum that he would be there – no discussions were needed.

Separation from Markie

In August 2008 Markie and I agreed to separate. Over the years we had drifted apart and it was time to move on. I won't go into details as it's not relevant here, but there is more information in my blog.

Wasted Years?

I have wondered several times about those years between age 16 and 26. Should I have come out sooner? What really stopped me? Really the only thing that stopped me was me. I could blame circumstances or the environment at the time, but that's just excuses.  I am pleased that it is easier (not "easy", just "easier") for people to come out now than it was then, and am always happy to hear about successful coming outs.

However the positive aspect of it is that had I come out at 16 it would have been before AIDS was discovered so gay people didn't think about safe sex.  If I was a sexually active gay teenager at that time I may well not be here today.  

Why I help to run Empty Closets

Back when I was working for the marine electronics company, I ran out of petrol in the company car. A kind gentleman gave me a lift to a petrol station, filled his can with fuel, took me back to the car and poured the fuel into it. He did not want anything for this, not even the cost of the petrol. He just said that the way to repay his help when I needed it would be for me to help someone else when they need it. Although I have never had to take a stranded motorist to a petrol station, this thought has stayed with me.

A few people really helped me when I was young and needed it (even though I didn’t know how much I needed it or fully appreciate it at the time). I would not be where I am today if it was not for their generosity and kindness which went way beyond what their jobs normally entailed, yet I have no way of thanking them directly. I am pleased to be able to repay their enormous generosity by helping and supporting others on Empty Closets.

Also, had there been the Internet and something like Empty Closets when I was in my teens and early 20s, I’m sure it would have given me the confidence and support to come out much sooner. So I really want it to succeed and grow, to help the many more young people who need it.

Copyright © 2004-2015, Empty Closets Community Services, a California nonprofit organization
The Empty Closets name and logo are registered trademarks of Empty Closets Community Services