By Malissa Rogers
31 year-old Wayne Dhesi, a youth worker, became a hero earlier this year after sharing his coming out story with a 17-year-old who had asked for his help. The boy had been ashamed and afraid to reveal that he was gay to his friends and family. But after Dhesi shared his own story, he helped the boy conquer his fear of rejection.
“After the young lad read these stories he told me that although they helped him he wanted to read more of them. This was when I had that Eureka moment,” Dhesi told dot429. “A website seemed like such a simple idea, but one that could work brilliantly if people took it to their hearts and took the time to submit their stories.”
Earlier this year, Dhesi decided to help others with their fears about coming out and created the website RUComingOut.com (RUCO). The website is a reflection of the fear or rejection felt by so many and showcases the journey that each person has to take, to come to terms with their own sexuality.
“I think one of the main reasons that people have responded so positively to the site is because the stories are real and we are finally giving a face to coming out,” Dhesi said. “We use ages, occupations and locations to make the stories easier to identify with. Being gay, lesbian or bisexual is nothing to be ashamed of so why not be proud and put your face to your story?”
Ten years ago, at the age of 21, Dhesi finally had the courage he needed to tell his friends and family that he was gay. He realized that although his decision to come out would be difficult, it was necessary, so he could live his life happily and honestly.
His desire to support people struggling with their own journey of coming out sprang from that fear he had carried with him for so many years - that being gay was wrong somehow.
Soon, he enlisted the help of Clare Moran, his friend of 13 years and asked her to write a submission about how she realized that she was gay. Moran agreed and began documenting her own path of self-awareness and soon became an advocate for other lesbians to share their stories of coming out.
“[Dhesi’s] hope was to show people that being openly gay was not a death sentence, but a relief of stress and increased confidence,” Moran wrote on RUCO.
The website originally sought to gather only a few written, first-hand accounts from gay men and women about the beginning stages of coming out. But soon Dhesi had received more than 100 submissions from around the world. The writers who have contributed their stories are men, women, transgender, gay, lesbian and straight and their ages range from 17 to 61.
Although Dhesi is inspired by every submission made to the website, one story stands out in his mind.
“Kristian not only dealt with the difficulty of dealing with being gay and coming out to loved ones, but also experienced a very traumatic period in his life health wise,” Dhesi said. “His story shows that although a lot of the time our goals can seem very far off, with hard work and determination we can achieve them and ultimately create our own happiness in life.”
Feelings of hatred, confusion, abuse and depression are all chronicled in the stories shared on the website. However, at the end of many of the stories, a feeling of pride and acceptance shines through the writer’s words, acknowledging the fact that it does get better.
“Many contributors have told me that they found the process of writing their stories very cathartic and sometimes quiet emotionally challenging. Other people have told me that they have enjoyed reading other people's accounts despite having come out years ago themselves,” Dhesi said on RUCO.
Although a large amount of the submissions on RUCO are from areas surrounding England, there are also stories written by people throughout the world. Ulysses, a 56-year-old Museum Curator from Newark, New Jersey, shared his ‘coming out’ story and his current life with his partner and their two adopted children in June of this year.
“We all have different stories. I have been lucky – I have been blessed. I never lose sight of that. I am part of the first post-Stonewall generation of gay people, and it awes me to see new generations coming out and making their way in the world,” Ulysses said in his story posted on RUCO.
The website is not only geared towards the LGBT community, but is also focused on reaching straight men and women, in hopes that these stories will raise awareness about the difficulty of coming out.
“Many of them told me that they never really thought about how difficult the process of coming out was,” Dhesi said. “These stories were an eye-opener for them about the positive role they can play in the lives of their gay friends.”
Dhesi has expressed interest in creating a book; documenting some of the submissions made originally to the website. He hopes this book will serve as an educational tool for teachers and a resource for people who may be struggling with ‘coming out.’
Currently the website is maintained and funded by Dhesi, but he is searching for partnerships with corporations to produce higher visibility and reach more users online. He has also planned to reach out to other LGBT organizations, in hopes that they will use the website as a tool to help other younger people who are on their own path to self-discovery.
“One day I'd love to be able to say that we have at least one story on the site from each country in the world - in fact, that would be amazing!!” Dhesi said. “I guess I'd love for RUCO to become the first place anyone would look to for support around coming out - that's the dream I guess.”