Coming Out Day: 'Growing up gay in a rural community left me feeling isolated and lonely'

  • Video report by Daniel Bevan

A teacher has opened up about the loneliness of growing up in rural Wales and being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

His comments come on National Coming Out Day - an annual LGBTQ+ awareness day, to support anyone 'coming out of the closet'.

Steffan Evans grew up in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, which hosted its first ever pride event last summer.

The 30-year-old said the event "meant the world" to him and that he works to give people the opportunities to express themselves that he did not have growing up.

Mr Evans said: "It was a very isolating experience. I wouldn't say it was a negative experience, it was just isolating.

Steffan Evans grew up in a rural community, which, he said led to him feeling "isolated" growing up.

"It felt so lonely and it still does. I mean, I'm thirty now and it can be quite lonely sometimes."

He added: "I've met an incredible group of friends at home now who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

"Now I feel just so supported and not isolated at all". According to the latest data, Wales has the highest proportion of people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual in the UK.

In total, more than one in 25 people in Wales identify as LGB.

Northern Ireland is lowest among nations (1.8%), some way behind Wales (4.3%), Scotland (3.4%) and England (3.3%).

Pride Cymru is the largest LGBTQ+ event in the Welsh calendar. Credit: Pride Cymru

Broken down into regions, only London has a higher percentage of the population (5.3%) who identify as LGB than Wales.

But in response to those statistics, director of communications at the LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall, said LGBTQ+ face rising discrimination and intolerance in the UK.

Robbie de Santos said: “The sad truth is that too many LGBTQ+ still feel unsafe simply for being themselves, and it’s vital that we all keep on fighting for a brighter future.”

It is a sentiment shared by Wales' Children's Commissioner, whose research last year showed that half of all pupils had witnessed identity-based bullying in school.

Wales' Children's Commissioner, Rocio Cifuentes, young people should be able to "feel their authentic selves".

Rocio Cifuentes said: "There is real strength in out diversity but we have to do more to ensure people feel safe and they are safe.

"We can tackle bullying when it happens and we can respond as schools and as society. And to enable young people really to feel their authentic selves."

But for some, Wales is a safe haven for those who cannot express themselves in the country they went to school in.

Numair Musad came to the UK to study and when he came out he realised he would not be able to return home to Pakistan, where homosexuality is illegal.

Numair Masud, who grew up in Pakistan, came to the UK to study but realised he couldn't return home after coming out.

He become an a refugee because of his sexuality but now feels free to be himself.

Mr Musad said: "I never really had the opportunity as a gay person to express myself in Pakistan.

"And even though I knew who I was on the inside, our inability to express who we are, to talk about it in a safe environment does have real practical implications for who we are as humans.

"The fact that the west, the fact that Wales, the fact that the UK can provide that safety is so important for us to focus on."

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