'Lockdown isolation helped me come out as LGBT'

By Michael Baggs
Newsbeat reporter

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image copyrightNathan McCook

"I'll be coming out of this pandemic as a completely different person," says 19-year-old Nathan.

"If I was to look at who I was a year ago, just over a year ago, I wouldn't recognise who I am now."

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everyone's lives over the past 12 months.

Some have been affected by the health effects of Covid. Others have seen their job situation impacted.

But for people like Nathan, that change has been how he'll live his life, forever.

"I became a dad in the same year I came out as gay," Nathan tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Nathan lives in London. Just before coronavirus hit the UK and the first lockdown began in March 2020, he was in a relationship with a woman - and trying to ignore his feelings about men.

"I was so happy hiding, thinking, 'it's cool, it's fine, I'll get on with the life I'm supposed to live or that other people want me to live'," he says.

"The relationship I was in didn't work out - for obvious reasons."

'Alone with your thoughts'

Then lockdown happened and we were all stuck inside for months, with only the occasional NHS clap to remind us there were people outside our homes.

"Before that, any time I thought about men, I just quickly got rid of that idea," says Nathan.

"Then you get put in isolation, and you're alone with your thoughts.

"When you're alone, especially as alone as we were in lockdown, I think you start to slip into who you really are."

At first, Nathan thought he was bisexual. He started dating someone (who he was in a bubble with) and told his family he was bi.

image copyrightNathan McCook
image caption'Never in my life have I had so much time to think and find new qualities about myself,' says Nathan

He was worried about telling his dad, but when Nathan told his family, they accepted him and his sexuality.

Then he had to come out to them again, before too much time had passed.

"In September, it was coming up to the due date, when I was supposed to be a dad. So I was completely lost in everything for a little while," he says.

"Then October, November, came around and I felt the need to clarify to myself, more than anyone, that I wasn't bisexual - I'm just full on gay.

"I'd been disguising it this whole time because I was terrified of who I am."

So he came out again to friends, family and on social media, as gay.

"It kind of took a bit of time to get there," he says. "It didn't just happen overnight."

'Space to figure out who I am'

For Georgina, a 23-year-old from Bristol, her coming out happened between March and June 2020, in the final months of her university life.

When lockdown hit, she stayed in her university house with her two best friends.

"We were getting ready for our exams, but they didn't really matter, so literally all we did was talk about ourselves, reminisce, and i just felt surrounded by love," she tells Newsbeat.

image copyrightGetty

"It sounds really weird to say, but those moments in lockdown with my best friends were so meaningful."

She identifies as bisexual, but is still trying to work out which part of the LGBTQ+ umbrella she feels most comfortable with.

Before the pandemic she says it felt like everything was planned out for her. She'd gone to school, sixth form, taken a gap year, headed to university and found a boyfriend.

"I didn't really have any space to figure out who I was or what I wanted to do," Georgina says.

'I wouldn't have come out otherwise'

In November 2019, she spent the night with a girl she met in a club and things started falling into place from there.

"I don't think I would have come out if it wasn't for the pandemic," she says now, "I don't think I would have had the space or the the time to reflect on who I am."

She also discovered, over the past year, that most of her friends are LGBT as well.

"We've been able to form closer, tighter, more understanding friendships," she says.

'I'm living the life I've chosen to live'

Georgina says when the pandemic ends and we return to normal life, she expects hers to be very similar to how it was before "but probably happier."

As for Nathan, he'll be returning to something totally different.

"I know, I'll definitely come out of this a little happier," he says. "I thought I'd never act on my feelings, I'd never to do anything, but it'd be fine and I'd live my life extremely happily.

"But now it's the complete opposite of that and I'm living the life I've chosen to live. I never thought I'd do that."

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