I am fortunate to have a strong relationship with both my parents, but like many LGBT people, I was worried about coming out to them. This was particularly the case with my dad, who was born in the 1950s and had a very traditional upbringing.
I realised that I was gay around the age of 13. My dad would often ask me whether I had a girlfriend. I recall sitting in the car next to him, shortly after my 17th birthday. He wanted to know why I wasn’t dating more. Did I have a secret girlfriend? What was her name? Why did I not feel able to confide in him?
I studied modern history at Oriel College, Oxford, from 2003 to 2006. The atmosphere was completely different to that at my school. I was open about my sexuality from day one. The acceptance of my fellow students empowered me. I began to grow into the out and proud gay man that I am today.
My parents visited me halfway through my first term. My dad stood in the large bay window of my room, looking out at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin opposite.
For a fleeting moment I felt the urge to tell him. It was actually on the tip of my tongue, but I held back. I did not want to disappoint him. I had made it to the university of my dreams, I was now out to all my friends, but still I did not have the confidence to tell my parents I was gay.
In January 2010, I was diagnosed with HIV and then hepatitis C. In the midst of a low point, following my HIV diagnosis, I told my dad that I was not only gay, but also HIV and hepatitis C positive. He replied by telling me:
“I don't care that you’re gay, HIV positive and hep C positive – I love you anyway.”
I cried when he uttered those words. Years of accumulated uncertainty dissolved away. This was also one of the crucial moments in my own journey of self-acceptance surrounding my HIV.
A phrase I often repeat is that it can be hardest to come out to the people you love the most. I know my dad loves me unconditionally, and when Father’s Day comes on 16 June this year, that is what I will be celebrating.