coming out · Interview with LGBT+ · Questioning yourself

Interview with the creator of The Outcome Project. 

Thanks for doing this interview with Pride matters.
Can you explain what Outcome is all about? 

Outcome, in a nutshell, is a portrait project of LGBT+ people, representing the notion of ‘it gets better.’  In detail, I photograph LGBT people as they are now – as out adults – referencing part of their daily life; the tools of their trade for example, while they hold a childhood photo of themselves. Visually showing the child they once were, to the adult they are not, after coming out.  Outcome hopes to stand for an optimistic outlook for anyone growing up feeling different and isolated, not quite sure who they are or if anyone else feels the same. Furthermore, Outcome helps to breakdown stereotypes of what an LGBT+ person looks like or can achieve, because there is no absolute definition.

What inspired you to do this project?

I was inspired to start and develop the project out of a desire to do more portraiture and needing a concept, I chose a gay theme, as I was now out and could talk about these things and be confident to associate myself with a gay related project.  Outcome quickly became clear that it could do some good to the audience. Showing young LGBTs, that they are not alone and being gay/bi/trans etc is OK and you have all these portraits serving as role models.  I’m now responding on twitter to young people telling me they’ve had the courage to come out, because I’ve reached out to them, simply by saying “be brave, you’re not alone.”

What is your background?

Born and raised in south east London, I had a typical childhood. Family holidays, good school, plenty of friends and things to do in the school holidays. Really I can’t complain.  However, in the back of my mind I knew I was different and just tried to hide that part and deal with it when I was older. I got older and still did not deal with it. My own insecurities held me back, fearful of outing myself I started to become introvert, but found comfort in school work, creative work and TV. An awakening and, needing to grow up, I started to deal with my confidence and came out. With hindsight I should have got it over with sooner.  This is a message I wanted to express with Outcome, don’t let fear hold you back, go out and grab life, it’s yours to live!

When you was questioning your sexuality how did you feel?

I tried to hide it – hide it from others and even myself. I was too scared to deal with it or let others know. I told myself when I was old enough I’d probably move away and be out with the new people in my life. A ridiculous thought because I love my family too much to leave them.  So I let the fear build up and delayed coming out.  After having done so, the great weight had lifted. Looking back now, with hindsight, I should have got it over with and enjoy life. Which is partly my message with Outcome, showing it does get better and a life out of the closet, can be a happy & rich one.

Do you think it’s easier to come out in 2016 than ever before? 

I do think it’s easier, than maybe 20 years ago, as there is more acceptance and less prejudice against LGBT people – but still not enough. I do, however, think that it’s still incredibly difficult. I have met alot of people and heard alot of coming out stories through working on my Outcome portrait project that I know for some it has been very difficult. Yet we talk about coming out, but it is the feelings of fear, isolation and anxiety before coming out that we all share. Incase the reaction is a bad one. You prepare yourself for a negative reaction and this is not a good feeling; of impending doom.

Do you think the questioning stage could be made easier? 

The questioning stage will be different for everyone. I remember not having any questions, I just didn’t want to deal with it.  At least with social media nowadays, if anyone has questions they can reach out to find their answers through self-help/well-being organisations and charities.  I think it is difficult to target people to help them with their questions – they will seek the answers; we just have to make sure the answers are there and clear. So for instance, I’ll make sure Outcome is visible and accessible for people to see the portraits and get to see some role models through that. Other websites offer case studies and other people’s stories to help support.

I understand that you raised the funds through crowd funding. How successful was it raising capital for a LGBT project this way? 

Working with Arachne Press, the publisher of my Outcome book, we set up a crowdfund.  Money started to trickle in, then it poured in and thankfully we got more money than first requested.  I found that people who wanted to help could see how a project like Outcome is important. I had messages from people saying they wish they’d had seen something like this when they were growing up. Which is really humbling to think a project that came about roughly 2 years ago, can have such a positive influence on people.

Clearly your project does add to the mix of helping people to find comfort in their gender or sexuality, but what else could be done? 

Yes, my Outcome project helps to demonstrate there are LGBT in all walks of life, breaking down stereotypes that do still exist. Also, the portraits stand as individual role models for those growing up realising they may be different. To see so many people, in different professions and at different stages in life stand proud as out LGBT people, it gives a reassurance that you’re not on your own and it does get better.  I think more can be done by having something brought into social science classes. A presentation for example, of Outcome with some role models giving talks.  This does already happen through some great organisations – such as Educate & Celebrate.  I also think more can be done within our own community. I had great help from a friend who had already come out and helped me tackle the fear I had about it – we need to look out for others not quite out of the closet and make a welcoming family for them, incase things don’t go too well with their coming out.

Do you think some form of lgbt fund would help projects like your own? 

I could see that working. Working with my book publisher, we successfully crowdfunded enough money to produce the book and prints for the large exhibition I have at the University of Greenwich, coinciding with National Coming Out Day.  However, crowdfunding is hard work and a lot of begging and sharing links for money. An existing LGBT fund would help project such as mine a great deal.

Sign up to Tom’s Outcome Thunderclap:

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/46902-outcomebook-exhibition?locale=en

To order Outcome the book:

https://arachnepress.com/shop/#!/Outcome-LGBT-Portraits-Pre-order-due-October-2016/p/62912054/category=18323013

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