Tell us about yourself! What do you do for a living? What are your interests? What are your pronouns?
Hey there! I’m Tom, I’m a 31-year-old gay man from England and my pronouns are he/him. Last year I became self-employed and set up a small independent online bookshop specializing in queer media. We sell LGBTQ+ books, comics, films and games and deliver to the UK, the EU and the USA. I spend a lot of my spare time watching films, cooking for friends and staying up to 2am watching video essays on YouTube.
About how old were you when you came out? How was the climate you grew up in?
I was 15 when I came out. I grew up during Section 28 (a British law prohibiting the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools) so sexuality was never really discussed. I think I’d always known that I liked guys and my parents had always been very accepting, so I had no issues coming out. I was a flamboyant child, so nobody was surprised. However, I don’t think “coming out” is just a one-time thing, you do it constantly throughout your life – you can come out at school and then again at college, then at work and every new job going forward. It becomes part of your language; rather than saying “I’m gay” to everyone new you meet, you talk to them about the person you’re dating or about the gay bar you went to at the weekend.
Did you make career choices that allowed you to feel comfortable being open about your sexuality? (Are you out or feel comfortable being out at your workplace?)
I’ve changed my career a lot over the years and my openness about my sexuality has fluctuated a lot: I’ve worked in gay bars, theatres, retail, high-end restaurants, offices and makeup studios. I come from a creative background and wanted to be a film director when I was younger, so I studied art, photography and media at college and ended up going to an arts university to study film production. I definitely think working in a creative sector allows you to be yourself more comfortably around others. I’ve worked in office jobs where I didn’t feel comfortable being my authentic self and found it had a negative effect on my mental health. Now, working from home and for myself, I feel the most comfortable I’ve been in a while.
If you could tell your younger self something about yourself that you are proud of today, what would it be?
I’d tell him it doesn’t matter that you have no idea what you want to do with your life, you don’t need to pick a career at 18 and stick with it, feel free to explore and try new creative avenues. If you stick to what you’re good at and what you enjoy, you’ll find like-minded people along the way.
Have you tried to surround yourself with like-minded peers/colleagues? If so, how?
I haven’t sought them out… but I’ve found that if you’re vocally passionate about something you love, those like-minded people will find you. Going to events, conventions and meet-ups is a great way to find like-minded peers – you’re all there for the same reason and you all have something in common.
Who were your role models growing up? What tv shows/movies allowed you to feel seen?
TV shows like Queer As Folk, Will & Grace and Sugar Rush are the reason I do what I do now, it’s the reason I wanted to be a film director – for the representation. There’s something special about that feeling when you discover an artist or actor or author or tv show that speaks to you. Growing up different can be hard at times, but when you see yourself on tv or in a book you feel seen and that’s a bloody lovely feeling.
Complete the sentence, if I knew ____________ back when I was first figuring myself out, I would tell my younger self that _____________________?
If I knew where I would be at 31 back when I was first figuring myself out, I’d tell my younger self that you don’t need to have everything figured out right away – give yourself time to grow and explore new avenues, meet new people, make mistakes, travel, explore and learn from your past so you can become the best version of yourself in the future.