For Release: 9am Monday 1st February

Coming out has long been synonymous with being gay, but as Evan Davis says in this candid video - that’s no longer the case, with ‘coming out’ now being part of a wider narrative.

In the video, Evan talks about his “long and tortuous” process of coming out to his parents, who he told he was gay for the first time - on Christmas day. For the first time he speaks about the close links between mental health and coming out - adding how terrified he is every night he goes on TV.

Evan spoke ahead of the National Student Pride event, which is happening in London this weekend at the University of Westminster, and gave advice on coming out and dealing with mental health. These are the two key focuses of Student Pride, which unlike other pride events, is focused on a daytime event with panels and discussions - not a parade.

In line this release will find the video, embed code and full transcript of the interview. We can also provide the original video file for you to put into your video player. Please see the notes to editors.

In the interview, Evan elaborates on how understanding his sexuality was a long and tortuous process.

“Coming out to myself was a long drawn out teenage thing, it was pretty tortuous really and I was resisting it for quite a while then suddenly I just let go, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Indeed. Evan broke every rule in the ‘Coming Out advice rule book’, choosing Christmas Day with the whole family at the table to make his move.

“I said to myself I was going to tell them by Christmas this year, and at three o’clock on Christmas afternoon, and I still hadn’t done it so ok it’s got to be now, and the whole family was there, so I did a kind of ‘hey guys, I’ve got something to tell you.”

Evan, was fortunate to have a good coming out experience with his family, and with a little help from his brother, he speaks with warmth about this memory. However, for many LGBT people in the UK - coming out remains very difficult. Why is this important? Evan says Coming out and Mental Health are inextricably linked.

One in four of us will face mental health issues in our life. But the statistics are worryingly more acute for students. A recent study by the National Union of Students produced for parliament showed 4 in 5 students faced mental health issues in the last year.

On top of the pressures any students face, LGBT students are faced with even more. Another report by the NUS’s LGBT arm in 2014 showed that 1 in 5 students face homophobia, and 1 in 3 face transphobia. That’s why National Student Pride’s key focus this year is breaking down the taboo around Mental Health. We’re talking about it because we believe every story we tell about mental health gives hope to others.

“good mental health and being authentic and being true and comfortable with yourself are inextricably linked so I think it’s much easier to have a sound, comfortable mind when you’re one person and you know what that person is and you’re comfortable with it”

Talking about Mental Health, Evan Davis had this to say:

“I think it gets better, I can remember when I was younger, having a lot of uncertainties and stresses about things because a lot of experiences are still quite new and you don’t know where you are or what you’re gonna do....

...there are kind of acute stresses and I have loads of those and I get terrified every night I’m on TV. So there are those short-term stresses and I think the best approach to those is ‘hey short term stress, I’m just gonna ride with you, I’m not going to let you defeat me’, the harder ones are the more chronic stresses, the long term ones and there’ll be feelings of loneliness or discontent or dissatisfaction or something even more chemical in the brain that’s causing problems and I think in some ways, those are more difficult, and those ones you need to basically get help and talk to someone”

Evan Davis has been a long time supporter of National Student Pride, last year hosting the #VotePride debate at our event that saw LGBT policy announcements ahead of the elections, and set the LGBT debate in the run-up to the elections. In previous years, he has chaired panels on the ‘T in LGBT’, and Homophobia in Sport.

The R U Coming Out panel that Evan was speaking ahead of is now confirmed to have:

  • Adele Roberts - Radio 1 DJ
  • Jaymi Hensley - Union J

  • Charlie Craggs - Nail Transphobia Campaign

  • Sherelle Garwood - Stonewall Youth Leader

  • Chaired by Wayne Dhesi - RUComingOut.co.uk charity founder.

 

Full Transcript available below. PLEASE CREDIT: National Student Pride is this weekend 5-7th Feb at the University of Westminster and G-A-Y and open to all. Student ID is not required. See the full line-up here www.studentpride.co.uk/2016

Video Link: https://youtu.be/0OiVR_ibniw

Video Embed: <iframe width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0OiVR_ibniw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Email press@studentpride.co.uk to request the video file for your own player.

National Student Pride is being platinum-sponsored in 2015 by EY for the sixth consecutive year. Liz Bingham (Managing Partner for People, UK & Ireland at EY and Student Pride ambassador) said: ‘We are very proud to support National Student Pride for another year. At EY we are passionate about enabling people to come together in an environment where they feel included and respected. National Student Pride enables LGBT students to do just that’. Law firm Clifford Chance are gold sponsors. Aviva, IBM, Lloyds Banking Group and Enterprise Rent-a-car are silver sponsors.

Notes to editors

  1. Last year’s event was given the British LGBT Awards ‘Best Event’ award beating London and Brighton Pride in the category.

  2. This year's National Student Pride event takes place from February 5th to February 7th. The focus of the weekend is a daytime festival on the 6th with the biggest LGBT careers fair in the UK, discussion panels on coming out, mental health and LGBT YouTubers plus live music and a Lip Sync Battle hosted by RuPaul drag queen Alaska 5000. You can see the full line-up here www.studentpride.co.uk/2016

  3. On Sunday the 7th an intimate screening of the film MILK will be screened with a Q&A Session with Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s Nephew. Tickets for this are £3.50 and open to all and is playing at the ‘Birthplace of British Cinema’ and first to open in the UK on Regent Street by Broadcasting house. www.studentpride.co.uk/tickets

  4. The event began at Oxford Brookes University in 2005 as a response to the Christian Union’s ‘Homosexuality and the Bible’ talk. National Student Pride continues spreading this message of acceptance in its 11th year and continue to fight the LGBTphobia that is unfortunately just as prevalent as it was when we started. That’s why a University campus is our choice of venue.

  5. Students from over 120 Universities from Scotland to Cornwall attend the event, last year over 1400 attended.

  6. Every panel at Student Pride has confirmed, at least, one LBQ women, one trans person and one person of colour. Diversity is vital at events - the LGBT community is a huge spectrum that goes long behind four letters, our definition of LGBT certainly does. Speaking at Student Pride 2014 Stonewall Co-Founder Lisa Power MBE said, “if they come for us it doesn’t matter if we are L, G, B or T. They’ll come for all of us” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. This drives everything we do - Solidarity with voices that need amplification.

  7. Paris Lees wrote in her Attitude column after the 2015 event "The welcoming of Trans people by gay community is exciting, one of the most exciting things to happen for trans progress since the Internet. Nowhere was this more apparent than at Student Pride.”

  8. Tickets for the event are now on sale and are available on the National Student Pride website. www.studentpride.co.uk/tickets

  9. A host of media sponsors who year on year have a huge contribution in enabling the event has already confirmed coverage of the event including Attitude magazine, Gay Star News, The Telegraph’s LGBT History Month Magazine, audioBoom and QX magazine. - Last year the event made international headlines with Dustin Lance Black’s comments on Hollywood agents and the announcement of a Trans storyline on Eastenders. Information on press passes below.

  10. You can request a video file to upload into your own video player. Please contact press@studentpride.co.uk

  11. We suggest that with any write ups around this video you include links to Mental Health services and helplines:

  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393

  • Metro, LGBT charity that offers counselling and mental health advocacy

  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk

  • HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41

 

National Student Pride is sponsored by:

Platinum: EY (6th year of sponsorship)

Gold: Clifford Chance (5th year of sponsorship)

Silver: Aviva, IBM, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Lloyds Banking Group

Photos & logos can be downloaded from: www.studentpride.co.uk/press

Want to speak to students or sponsors regarding quotes and comments?

Interviews & press pass requests?

Please email: press@studentpride.co.uk

 

Apply for press passes here: www.studentpride.co.uk/presspass


FULL TRANSCRIPT


Jamie Wareham - National Student Pride: I thought what we would start with is looking back at what you have done with Student Pride before. Tell us something the last couple of years that you have been doing whilst working with us.


Evan Davis - BBC Newsnight Presenter: I love student pride and what I’ve been helping with is chairing some of the panel sessions and I have to say they’ve been really, really good panels. We did a politics one last year in the run-up to the general election, I’ve interviewed people on stage there talking about trans issues, the T in LGBT, Time for T, and I’ve looked at sport, not my strong subject, but I’ve chaired a sports panel of student pride too. I always enjoy the event.


Jamie: the thing I like about Student Pride, unlike other pride events, is that we talk, which you don’t always get to do among other things. How important is that element of discussion?


Evan: I think an event like student pride, has to have two legs if you like, it’s got to be a party and a social thing but if it’s just a social thing you might as well go out anywhere on a Saturday night. The really other important leg is the dialogue, the conversation, the panel sessions, it’s always heartening to see them packed out, loads of people come, and they take an interest, they’re engaged, and they do ask questions and they clap and laugh in the right places but I think it’s really important that we sit down as a community together and we just swap stories, talk about issues, talk amongst ourselves, and just develop like a community consciousness of some type and student pride really contributes to that with its day sessions, a very varied panel, they sometimes have important people,  they sometimes have celebrity people, it’s just a great mix.


Jamie: Obviously, one of the panels this year is about coming out. It’s something that can easily be seen as a topic that we’ve talked about, and a lot of people see it as something you do once then it’s over but that’s not really the truth is it.


Evan: The key thing about coming out is it’s a process and it happens in stages, so I think the most important step is that you come out to yourself and that you know what you are, and that can take quite a while because you often have confused feelings, you’re not sure what you want to be and what you want to be may not be the same as what your body is telling you that you are so there’s coming out to yourself, and you’re never going to come out to anyone else very well until you’ve come out to yourself, you can swap thoughts with other people, but really that first step is what am I. The second step I think are the people very closest to you, particularly parents and that’s often a pretty difficult conversation and a lot of the time that is when people have broached it, with family or very close friends who may not have guessed, and then the third stage, probably the easiest, is people at work or colleagues or friends and it’s so much better that they know who you are, if you aren’t trying to maintain a double life and you don’t have to pretend you’re something you’re not. By and large, human beings function best when they’re being themselves, and when they’re authentic, and they’re not trying to cover things up or lay on a front or an act, work is very important and there are those three stages and there may be some years between them, and you may have to come out multiple times, because you may have one job where you’ve been relaxed and comfortable, and then you move to another job and you’ve got to go through the whole thing again. So I think it is worth thinking of coming out as a process as much as a kind of, it’s the 25th of March, that’s the day and it’s all done, even though it does often feel like once you’ve told your parents it feels like I’m over the hill, it’s all done, plain sailing now.


Jamie: do you have a 25th march moment?


Evan: Coming out to myself was a long drawn out teenage thing, it was pretty tortuous really and I was resisting it for quite a while then suddenly I just let go, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My parents, that was one I said to myself I was going to tell them by Christmas this year, and at three o clock on Christmas afternoon, and I still hadn’t done it so ok it’s got to be now, and the whole family was there, so I did a kind of ‘hey guys, I’ve got something to tell you, and it went very well actually, I mean there was a lot of discussion and there was some angst on the part of my parents, and a whole lot of different things, but I think it went pretty well, and I have to say, in that particular case, having told one of my brothers, just a couple of days in advance that I was gonna do this, he was very helpful, he was kind of waiting for it and was there to just kind of make sure it went very smoothly, so in fact the way it went was ‘I’ve got something to tell you, can you guess what it is?’ and then my brother who already knew a day in advance said ‘Oh you’re gay!’, which meant I didn’t have to say the words and that made it a little easier than me having to spell it out. I think that was a bit of a 25th March moment, where I thought ‘now, I’m pretty comfortable’, but there was a lot of subsequent decision to be made about how out I am at work and who I tell and who I don’t tell and what sort of public profile I want to have at work, but more just among my colleagues like ‘how gay do I want to be in front of my friends and colleagues at work?’ and in the end, the best thing is that you just be yourself and not be anything that you’re not, I just can’t stress enough, it’s tiring trying to be something that you’re not, and pretending that you’re something that you’re not and hiding gaping great bits of your life from your colleagues at work or leading a double life and it’s tiring. I’ve been there, if you can avoid it.


Jamie: Has there been times where you’ve had to hide your sexuality at work, was that something that you did?


Evan: My experience was in my earliest jobs was that it’s not that I wanted to lie to people, or lead a double life, and it certainly wasn’t that I was embarrassed about it but I just wasn’t public about it, so it never came up, and I would never talk about and if there was a kind of ‘what did you get up to at the weekend?’, you would just censor out and redact all the kind of stuff that was gay and it was pointless really, I’m sure a lot of them would have worked it out, so I tried never to lie but equally it was constantly thinking about what you were saying and treading on eggshells, and I think it was a terrible mistake, it was hard work, it was just hard work, and once your colleagues at work know, it is an enormous relief and you can relax. My tip incidentally on coming out to colleagues is the sooner you do it, the easier it is, it’s not easier to do it in two years’ time than it is to do it today, it’s exactly the same in two years’ time as today except in two years’ time you’ve got to explain to them why you haven’t told them for the last two years, so you might as well do it today and get it out of the way, and then it’s easier for the next two years and when you eventually do it you don’t have to explain why you’ve been leading a double life so just the sooner you can do it. My advice is when starting a job, make sure you’ve done it within the first 48 hours, and it never has to be talked about again.


Jamie: I think one of my favourite kind of messages comes from Harvey Milk. His hope speech that every person who knows a gay person, it suddenly removes that element of fear, and I just wonder how important is that message still? Does that still have a massive impact today?


Evan. Massive. It’s really important when you come out I think, when you tell colleagues, or family or friends that you don’t look too embarrassed about it. In fact, that you don’t look like it’s too bigger deal, I mean I’m in the camp that thinks the way to come out is not to sit everyone around and say now my dear colleagues I have something to tell you that’s very important to me, I want you to know that I’m gay. You can do it that way, but I think it almost sends a very subtle signal of defensiveness or unresolved issues in your own mind about it. I much prefer the totally casual approach, which says kind of like ‘I assume you all already know’.  So instead of sitting everyone around and saying I’ve got something to tell you, my one would be ‘my boyfriend and I went to see the James Bond movie last weekend, have you seen it?’ then, there will be a little flicker of ‘did he just say my boyfriend and I?’ but they’ll take their cue from you if you’re casual about it. If you’re heavy about it, I think they’ll be more heavy about it, so you mustn’t be defensive and I don’t think you need to be all assertive, and you don’t need to make a big political speech about it, I think you just want to look relaxed. In some ways, you don’t want to make too bigger deal of it, so I think the subtle political message is to be quite casual about it, not to police the language everyone uses and make them feel like ‘oh god, am I using the right term?’ and ‘am I using the right words?’ and ‘how should I treat this person in the office?’, you just want to make them feel totally relaxed, and the best way to make them feel relaxed is to be relaxed and just be casual about it.


Jamie: I wonder how Harvey’s message about coming out as being gay links with coming out as having mental health problems? Is that something you see tying together quite well?


Evan: I think the issues of coming out, being true to yourself, and comfortable with yourself are inextricably linked and I think the issue of mental health, good mental health and being authentic and being true and comfortable with yourself are inextricably linked so I think it’s much easier to have a sound, comfortable mind when you’re one person and you know what that person is and you’re comfortable with it, now I don’t say it’s easy for everybody to get to that stage and we know there are a lot of LGBT people who have, if you like, cognitive dissonance of some kind, issues in their mind that they’re struggling with, but the sooner you can talk those through with somebody, share the difficulties, get to a stage where you’re comfortable with yourself and people are comfortable with you, I think the easier it is for your mind to be calm and settled, so I think it is important for people if they find themselves in angst or anguish about unresolved sexuality or gender issues is to try and work those through and talk about them because it’s very hard for your mind to be settled if you’re all over the place on feeling uncomfortable mainly with something that’s very innate to you. The truth is, your body will sometimes just tell you what your feelings are and if you don’t like that, it can be easier to change your state of mind rather than change your body’s natural desires at times so I think it’s very important to get comfortable, and that is back to be comfortable with yourself and come out to yourself, and come out to other people, and really important here, if other people are comfortable to you, and most of the time they will be, if they’re comfortable with you as you are, it’s easier for you to be comfortable with who you are, which gives you a sounder mind, and a settled disposition, so I think those issues of mental health and coming out are absolutely, inextricably linked.


Jamie: I feel as well with mental health is it’s seen as this big horrible dog in the corner, but I feel sometimes it’s a lot more subtle than that, such as anxiety about deadlines, and as me personally working as a journalist, I know sometimes deadlines rack on my head when I’m sat in bed. Having been in this career so long, I was wondering how you deal with those looming deadlines?


Evan: I think it gets better, I can remember when I was younger, having a lot of uncertainties and stresses about things because a lot of experiences are still quite new and you don’t know where you are or what you’re gonna do. Obviously, the more you do, the more practise you get at life and the more practise you get at work and the more practise you get at whatever your job is and the more kind of relaxed you feel about things, so that is the first thing to say, I think it does get better. Obviously, middle age brings a whole lot of new stresses and strains and we won’t go into all of that but I think it does get better but I do think there are kind of acute stresses and I have loads of those and I get terrified every night I’m on TV. So there are those kind of short-term stresses and I think the best approach to those is ‘hey short term stress, I’m just gonna ride with you, I’m not going to let you defeat me’, the harder ones are the more chronic stresses, the long term ones and there’ll be feelings of loneliness or discontent or dissatisfaction or something even more chemical in the brain that’s causing problems and I think in some ways, those are more difficult, and those ones you need to basically get help and talk to someone, either to friends or counsellors or professional help but the shorter term stresses that you’re always going to face in life, I think the best advice is to just try and ride the ups and downs and realise that you’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days, and not to let the bad days get you down too much, perhaps the best thing on the short term stresses or the ups and downs in life is to try and bottle the good feelings when things aren’t going so well and not let it go to your head. Take some of that, put it in a bottle, put it in the fridge, and bring out those highs on the bad days and remember life is full of ups and downs.


Jamie: Thank you so much for talking to us, I think with that message of hope - seeing big names talking about these sort of things, it makes such a big difference to people. Have you seen that with your attitude magazine article last year?


Evan: Let’s face it, you’re taking a journey when you come out and the more you can have made that path a well-trodden path, the better it is for everyone else, if you’re trying to make that journey through a rainforest of trees and undergrowth then it’s really difficult but if you see that other people have trod that path, it’s much much easier, and there are a million different coming out experiences so the more we can share our own and the more people who are about to embark on that journey can read some of the other experiences that people have taken, the better it is. So, it’s all about swapping stories and I swap mine and hopefully a few people will read that and they can swap there’s when they’ve made that journey and I think that is a really important community function because it is a difficult step for a lot of people but what I would say is that it doesn’t go smoothly for everybody but I think that what most people find is that you can build up a much more fearful picture of it in your head than the actual experience. I know so many people that have been petrified of it and once you’ve done it, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. It’s like running into the sea when it’s freezing cold. It’s freezing, it looks cold, I’m never gonna get in there, but once you’re in and you’re splashing around a bit you think actually, it’s really not that bad. It’s about building it up to be not such a big deal. If others can show it wasn’t that bigger deal for them in the end and it went ok then hopefully that inspires others not to be too scared of it.


Jamie: How important is it that coming out becomes part of the wider narrative, not just about being gay?


Evan: It’s very important that coming out is not just seen as being gay, because the essence of it is around authenticity, and being comfortable with yourself, and others knowing who you are and being comfortable with you. If you think of that as the overriding principle then it’s more about just disclosing things that are then not going to get in the way of your relationships with other people, most of the work, most social life and family life is about relationships in some form or another, it’s about dealing with people, it’s about having a bond with them and often that’s about trust. A lot of life is actually about trust, so that means you want people to disclose as much as they possibly can and not to be hiding things that are alienated to their identity. We’re all gonna have secrets, there is room for discretion in life, let’s face it but things that you feel are innate to your identity, I think it’s helpful to everyone around you to know what those are, and that’s not just being gay, I think the gender issues are very important. It’s just helpful for people to know who you think you are and for them to be comfortable with it so disclosure is more than just a gay thing. The principle is that I am what I am and I want you to know what I am and I want you to be comfortable with it and to accept me for that.











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