Sunday 24 June 2018

I'm worried my boyfriend won't ever come out

Leo Varadkar leaving RTÉ studios with Miriam O’Callaghan after he revealed he was gay two years ago
Leo Varadkar leaving RTÉ studios with Miriam O’Callaghan after he revealed he was gay two years ago

Mary O’Conor

I am a gay man in my early twenties, and have been in a relationship with a closet gay man for the past eight months. I have been in other relationships in the past, but none like this. I am truly in love, yet my partner being in the closet does impact on our relationship a lot. I'm often referred to as a 'friend', I'm pushed to the sidelines when family comes to visit, and all this makes me think, am I just a secret?

My partner was open with me about his situation before we embarked on our relationship and I said I didn't mind as I didn't think he would be closeted much longer.

However, months have gone by and I'm still just a friend to his family. He's met my family and they know about him and how he is not yet out. But a lot of this has impacted on my mental health - I've been recently diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.

I find myself second guessing our relationship, asking myself if he's ashamed of me, of being gay, and asking myself if he'll ever come out.

One thing that always sticks out in my mind is that if anything were to happen to him, I'd never know. None of his family would know to contact me. I'd be left in the cold. I'll always miss big family events; he'll have his life with me, and his other one with them.

I've thought recently about giving him an ultimatum, but I'm afraid that it would backfire and leave us both walking away.

Is this the best decision? Or can I really have a full and open life with him?

Mary replies: I wonder what is going on for your boyfriend that he has not come out to his family. It is very sad, in an era where we lead the world in legalising civil partnerships and then same sex marriage and when we have an openly gay taoiseach, that your friend remains so firmly in the closet.

It may be that somebody in his family very much disapproves of the gay community on either religious or other grounds and so he feels unable to come out. But at the same time, I feel certain that at least one person in his family knows or guesses at the truth. He may not be aware of it but it would be very strange if somebody hasn't speculated about his sexual orientation.

You have been presented as a 'friend' and surely this will contribute to their wondering as to what you really are to him.

It would be quite in order for you at this stage - eight months is a sizeable amount of time - to ask what he intends to do about all of this and to let him know how it is affecting you. Explain that you were fine with it at the beginning because you thought he would be coming out very soon. I have seen people wait until both parents have passed on before they came out, and you don't want to have to be waiting indefinitely as this would not be good for your mental health.

You should also explain that as things stand you have no rights whatsoever and if he were, say, to have an accident or sudden illness, you would be left out in the cold and that is unacceptable. There is no need to give an ultimatum but you do need to know what his long-term plans are with regard to your relationship.

Perhaps you could talk about him coming out to just one family member to whom he is particularly close and whom he feels he can trust. In that way you would then have at least one person whom you could depend on to let you know if anything were to happen to him.

For sure he is not ashamed of you - all this is to do with himself and his relationship with his family. But it could be an awfully long time before he feels that he can be open with them about your place in his life.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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