A Thank You to Daniel Howell
Back when I was 13/14 years old, I was obsessed with Youtube. I consumed the classic 2012 Youtube group and fell slowly in love with Daniel Howell and Phil Lester (Dan and Phil).
Their humour, their obvious care and love for each other and their ability to just EXIST without a fear or complication. They were able to co-exist within their own bubble so casually and comfortably and for years that is all I wanted; to exist safely.
When they both came out in June 2019, I had swiftly moved past my obsessive Youtube phase of 13-year-old me and fallen face first into attempting adult life, through the eyes of university.
I had broken up with a long-term boyfriend, dealt with a whole load of family illness which lead to a family death and I was quite frankly unwell, mentally and physically. My first year of university was a learning curb I had tried to clamber over with a gap year but fell the moment my relationship fell apart.
At the back of my mind, throughout all this pain and unhappiness, was my sexuality. Something which seemed to follow me throughout the many years of self-discovery you have when you are 13 years old and attempting to examine yourself through the eyes of mass media.
When I was 19, I had told everyone under the sun I was bisexual. I needed to tell everyone so badly and so quickly so that they knew, and they couldn’t question; because then why would I question it?
So, my coming out, throughout university, was not necessarily a celebration but a statement of fact.
This should be what coming out is, it should be simple and easy and painless.
But for me, it meant that there were no conversations unless I pushed for one. There was no questioning unless I questioned myself. There were only the facts which I have presented, to myself and to others, on LITERALLY the first day of university.
A quick note should be that everyone at university has been incredible but that doesn’t truly stop self-hatred.
The complication of coming out is that you are always coming out.
I sit behind me on the teams call to my university, with a huge bisexual flag behind me, and I’m coming out to every single person that looks.
The heteronormality of the United Kingdom.
But coming out leads to so much more.
In June 2019, I watched Daniel Howell’s video entitled ‘Basically I am Gay’ and I cried and then I went to sleep.
The next day I watched Phil Lester’s coming out video and I did the same. Shutting the emotions away, for another day.
My mind, especially as this point in the year, could not handle the enormous nature of both of my childhood idols being gay and being even slightly like me.
The obsessive, 13-year-old, self-discovery of myself, was crying because I had seen the way these men existed, and I had wanted that so badly. And now they were like me, queer.
The focus on Dan’s video only comes later on in life as I begin to actually celebrate my sexuality as more than just a word which I could barely begin to understand. As I tried to navigate the concept of queerness, as existing in queer spaces as more than an imposter and as allowing my sexuality to be celebrated by friends who choose to accept me completely, not with religious undertones, I allow myself to celebrate myself freely
Phil’s video felt like a hug, a step to where I wanted to be when I was 30 and flirty and thriving. A step to a comfortability that I was pretending I had, when in the back of my mind I had no idea how to exist as a queer, bisexual woman.
Dan’s video came as a reminder that it was okay to not know everything. That your identity takes time to understand and at that time in my life, I needed that remainder.
Watching his video, even a year and a half later, I realise that the suppression I have felt for all these years is universal. Although I wore my sexuality on my chest for so long, I didn’t choose to allow myself to exist with it. It was a barrier, a word, a thought. Something I needed to understand but decided not too because being straight-passing is so easy.
I hurt myself to try to be someone and something I was not.
The 45 minutes of continuous talking about sexuality, so personally and so safely, was like the wakeup call I needed to understand that I was allowed to talk about sexuality. I was allowed to think about it as more than sex, as more than a scary, terrifying barrier to people, as more than just a personality trait but as myself. I was allowed to delve into a 45 minute conversation with myself about MYSELF and MY sexuality.
Sexuality is, and always will be, confusing and complicated. Coming out will never be the same from one person to another but I hope Dan Howell knows that speaking with such conviction, for so long, allowed me to understand that I am allowed to celebrate who I am.
The stories may not have been the same but the conversations, the discourse and the discussions around sexuality allowed us to exist more freely.
Now as I delve into a time in my life where I am allowing myself to be more openly queer and stable I notice a few simple things:
One is that I allow symbols to be more open within my physical life. There’s a bisexual flag in the background of my university calls. There’s queer art hanging from my wall. I had a rainbow top that says “I can’t think straight’ (thanks Bethan xx). The physical representations of my sexuality remind me that It is okay to be OPEN constantly (as long as you are safe).
Two: The discussion of my sexuality has moved, drastically, away from the discussion of sex and sexual acts in regard to me being bisexual. I used to find myself discussing lesbian porn a LOT when I was talking about being bisexual. Although I am always a fan of healthy discussions of sex and porn, I found myself doing it to prove my sexuality. You are allowed to exist in anyway possible.
The openness to discuss sexuality still has a long way to go but I am always glad to see the continued discussions being made by people I have always looked up to.
Plus thirteen-year-old me cried because she was so proud of them.
But mostly, thank you for being open. Thank you for being you and thank you for discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of sexuality.
Daniel Howell, thank you.