Here, photographer Tom Dingley talks coming out and why he was inspired to create his #Outcome Exhibtion.
The idea of ‘coming out’ brings up mixed emotions. A resurface of the fear I had about it, but also the anticlimax and relief that came from it. Through my own pessimistic view on things and the fear of coming out, I would keep putting it off and hiding this part of me. With hindsight, I would have got to it sooner and got on with being me, because life out of the closet is so much more than I had imagined! The experience has inspired me to show others the positive side to growing up, through my own portrait project; #Outcome.
I have heard a wide variety of stories how ‘coming out’ was for other people and it is a mixed bag of experience, the important thing is, you grow up and it gets better. The fear is still there for young – and older – people coming to terms with their sexuality or identity. A fear of reactions from their family and friends, but also a combination of anguish and acceptance of themselves. This is where #Outcome aims to show they are not alone to begin with and the opportunities for them are no different from anyone else.
The premise for the project was to photograph LGBT+ people referencing part of their daily lives; profession, hobby or passion, while holding a childhood photo of themselves. Admittedly a simple concept, yet a powerful message of the notion ‘it gets better.’ Visually showing the child they were, to the ‘out’ adult they are now. I was inspired by other great projects and positive campaigns and I hope #Outcome will stand amongst them as a way to help those realising who they are.
I think it is important for projects like mine to exist and be seen, I have come across a complacency within our own LGBT community that once you come out, it’s easy – or that coming out is not as difficult anymore. I would disagree.
The approach to coming out for each person is different and it is still a daunting and for some, lonely time. We have all been through this process, good or bad, and as LGBTS, that joins us together. Our own stories/portraits do help those who are struggling with their identity, by standing as a good example and being role models.
We are making greater strides to achieving equality and attitudes are generally more accepting here in the UK, yet homophobic bullying is still very evident in schools, where growing up LGBT can be a difficult time. A recent study found that 95% percent of pupils have heard the term ‘gay’ used in a negative way.
My project shows young LGBT that ‘gay’ is OK, they are not alone, and there is a rich life out of the closet – and after school – for them to go and grab. At the same time, for a straight audience, #Outcome breaks down stereotypes of what an LGBT person looks like and can achieve. From my experiences through doing this project, stereotypes are still very fixed in place, which is something to address.
Therefore, I am working with publisher Arachne Press, to crowdfund and get my #Outcome project published into a lovely hardback photo book. This will lead us onto touring the project as exhibitions in the UK. Further, we hope to use the portraits and book as a resource for positive work in schools/colleges and communities – inspiring positivity for those growing up LGBT and promoting equality.
If you would like to help the project reach the target funds the link is: kck.st/1LvoKpu – or: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1477491501/outcome-lgbt-portraits?ref=nav_search
If you want to get in touch with #Outcome you can do so on Twitter & Instagram: @OutcomeLGBT and use the hashtag #Outcome.
A book featuring pictures from the Outcome project is being launched alongside a week-long exhibition and events at the University of Greenwich from Monday 10 October, to coincide with National Coming Out Day on 11 October.
On Wednesday 12 October there is also a Q&A Panel event where you can meet Tom and some Outcome participants to hear their coming out stories and participate in the discussion.