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LGBTQ people share how they revealed their sexuality to others for International Coming Out Day

For many LGBTQ people, coming out of the closet is a monumental step in their lives.

The first International Coming Out Day was organised in the United States in 1988, held on the 11 October to mark the anniversary of gay rights activists marching on Washington D.C. in the year prior.

Since then it has been a red letter day for activists.

But the day doesn't impress all - opponents from within the community have struck it down; claiming an obsession with forcing people to come out of the closet is unhealthy, citing pressure put on stars like Ricky Martin to open up about their sexuality.

This year's Coming Out Day comes as global gay rights take a dark backward step, as the Ugandan government plans to criminalise the "promotion and recruitment" of homosexuality with the death penalty.

Same-sex acts are already illegal in the east African country - which threatens a life sentence - along with many nations across large parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

It took until 1967 for homosexuality to be decriminalised in the United Kingdom.

But it was as recent as 2003 before Section 28 - the law imposed by Margaret Thatcher's government banning councils and schools in England and Wales from intentionally promoting homosexuality - was finally repealed.

With a survey earlier this year finding British attitudes to same sex relationships in the UK have plateaued, how important is it to come out to LGBTQ people?

Five people share their stories of how they told their nearest and dearest and the reaction they received.

Georgia, a 28-year-old teacher originally from South Shields, explains the reaction of her family to learning she is a lesbian

"I think I was about 15 and still in secondary school, I remember questioning whether I really wanted to be like some of my peers or whether I actually felt different about my sexuality.

"I had a boyfriend at the time so I even told myself the classic 'it’s a phase' line again and again.

"I decided to tell someone how I was feeling. That person was my cousin, Samantha. She’s practically a big sister to me and she was totally cool about it.

"Despite the 10-year age gap between us the response was what everyone dreams of: 'Oh right, cool. So who’s your girlfriend?'"

But that's where the simplicity ended for Georgia.

Despite initially receiving a positive reaction from her mum, who seemed adamant she focused on her A-Levels, it later emerged things weren't as straight forward as they seemed.

"On a night out in her native South Shields, her brother told her: 'You're breaking mam's heart.'

"That was painful, just after a break up with my first girlfriend. It was a tough four or five years but by the time I finished university things had settled."

But, as they say, at the end of every rainbow is a pot of gold - and that's eventually what Georgia found with her parents.

"To be honest, my parents have now done the biggest 180 turnaround ever. They love a bit of rainbow and glitter after attending Manchester Pride with me.

"I don't really feel the need to come out anymore. I'm also very lucky in that I live with my girlfriend, so if I ever do meet new people, it’s a lot easier to drop into conversation than 'hey, I’m gay!'

"I’m so proud of who I am and my sexuality, so I’m biased about the importance of coming out of the closet. I think it’s definitely something that everyone should do, as long as they’re doing it for themselves."

Khakan, from Birmingham, explains how his coming out led to family feuds

"It was the era of Section 28, AIDS was being called the 'gay plague' in the media. I was worried if I slept with someone then something bad would happen.

"I remember going into my first gay bar. It was a place called Brief Encounter near Charing Cross station in central London.

"I was highly strung, anxious and very tense. I was also the only brown face at the bar - I had a sense of paranoia inside myself.

"I walked out after 30 minutes - but went back a week later."

After becoming a regular visitor to the bar, Khakan found the courage to tell members of his family about his sexuality.

"My mother's words always stay with me: 'Whatever makes you happy, makes me happy. If I can't share that, what kind of mum would I be?'"

Despite her acceptance, Khakan said his mother struggled with questions about his sexuality before coming fully to terms with it years later.

Not all in the family were so accepting.

Upon the marriage of his niece, who was the first person he told, her husband banned Khakan from their family home because of his sexuality.

After years of separation, the pair are now back in touch over social media.

Can he find forgiveness for his niece's spouse? "To me he is still family, it's water under the bridge.

"Everyone should be able to express themselves, everyone has the right to be treated as a human being. We are all human - we all have flaws and faults."

'William' - not his real name - is a gay man in his 20s and has decided, for the most part, to stay in the closet

"I'm not sure of the exact number of people I've come out to, but I would say I’ve directly told around a dozen people that I’m gay.

"They are all close friends - and a good number of them are from the LGBT community themselves.

"In a professional context, I’ve only told one colleague about my sexuality.

"It’s not really a case that I wanted to hide it - though for a long time I did, and I regret that - but more that I don’t want my personal life to influence my professional career in a way it shouldn’t.

"I have seen colleagues at my former workplaces who have been treated differently because they are gay; nothing malicious, but an implicit suggestion that they’re more emotional or insecure, or the token gay who has to be consulted on things like fashion and work gossip.

Credit: AP

"Even if it has been subconscious, I have seen people treat their gay colleagues differently, in a way which I think has held friends of mine back. I work in an industry which is relatively inclusive, where there are a lot of LGBT figures; but I don’t want to be defined by my sexual preferences.

"I want to be known for being good at what I do.

"Outside of the office, my biggest fear is telling my family. I come from quite a conservative background, and although I’ve played it through in my head, I don’t know how they’ll react and I haven’t found the right moment to bring it up.

"That said, I want that to change.

"I’m not ashamed of who I am, and I feel like I am becoming more confident as an individual.

"As I tell more people, I hope it’ll help me to thrive. I’m in a relationship with someone who makes me very happy, and I want to share that with the people close to me."

James, 34, originally hails from the Philippines but now works in the Falkland Islands

James was born in the Philippines - a country he says is gradually becoming more accepting of LGBT people.

He came out at the age of 16, after spending years hating who he was.

"Growing up I hated gay people, I think there was a bit of denial there. If I would see a gay person, I would try and stay away and give them staring looks so they knew I didn't like them."

After finding the confidence to tell his mum, who he said "didn't take it well," he promised to be a "respected person" who fights the stigma associated with homosexuality in his home country.

"She couldn't accept it straight away - she didn't talk to me for a week and she blamed herself."

Eventually after discussing it in more detail, she found she was able to accept her son.

A decade later - and needing to have a "reset in life" - he upped sticks and moved to the Falkland Islands.

The British Overseas Territory is probably best known for the fierce war against an Argentinian takeover in 1982.

Nowadays some 3,000 people live on the wind-blasted outcrop.

There's one town, no cash points and the only gay bar closed last year.

"It's very backwards - but I think people are very accepting about gay people coming in and out of the islands," says James, a chef by trade.

"I've been here four years, I'd say it's quite an achievement for the LGBT people I know here to come out.

"When we did the very first Falklands Pride three years ago, we managed to open the eyes of people. The public were very accepting in promoting diversity among the tiny island and it's grown into a bigger event every year.

"When it’s summer in the UK, it’s winter in Stanley. You can’t have an outdoor Pride event here because of the winds. You can’t go out in your fabulous costumes - so we have to do it in the Town Hall."

James recently visited London’s vibrant LGBT scene. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Stanley's gay scene doesn't come close - in fact it doesn't exist outside Pride events.

"It’s very different to the UK," he said.

"It’s like a rural town - imagine a place like Anglesey in Wales, but even there is much more modern."

Melz, 25 and from London, identifies as trans-masculine, non-binary and queer

"I started to feel different from a very young age, it's hard to explain. Both gender and sexuality are interlinked, which makes it hard to put an age on it.

"I now identify as trans-masculine, non-binary and queer. To me that means I identify as someone who doesn't conform to the gender boundaries set by society. I don't see something I fit into or feel constrained by within society, my presentation and identification speak to the experience I am going through.

"I came out as gay first - around the age of 19. It was easier to do as it's more accepted in society. Then I decided to start telling people I was trans. I've always felt discomfort with my gender, but never had the language to understand what I was feeling."

During their time at university, Melz told friends about their sexuality and gender: "They just laughed, but they were really supportive and it just went from there.

"Coming out beyond that felt more difficult. People from my cultural community found it a lot more difficult to understand.

"I come from a Ghanaian background, roots in colonialism means things are seen differently within the community."

Melz struggles to discuss the ways and words people have used to speak to them, but told ITV News: "It made me feel at the beginning like I was just wrong. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me and that I needed to fix whatever is wrong with me."

After some soul searching, they arrived at the conclusion to "move forward and come to a place where I understand some people will never get it. And that's never going to stop me living my life to its truest.

"I think coming out is important - to be yourself is a very important step. You need to be able to accept yourself. Whether you come out and tell other people is up to you - it's not something people can do easily.

"It's just about knowing yourself and what is right for you.

"At the moment I am transitioning to a more masculine body, one not defined by societal stereotypes.

"I think attitudes need to change - that starts with people stopping being transphobic.

"We need to look at the ideas of where gender has come from - it's not a truth that has existed in all societies forever, trans people aren't dangerous and that climate of fear needs to be challenged."