UCL Department of Geography


Dan's Coming Out Story

Dan Tsai shares his experiences of coming out.

Dan Tsai
Studying at university is undoubtedly one of the most formative experiences in a person’s life and it certainly applies to me too. As a then-closeted Asian guy graduating from a remote boarding school in Yorkshire, I was really excited about the prospect of coming out at a London university.

I have watched tonnes of coming-out videos on YouTube, which have given me so much useful advice and helped me on my journey of coming out. I have also read lots of stories (both positive and negative) online about the coming-out journey of others. I was both excited and kind of scared about what it could be like for me. I kept asking myself how people would react and whether I would get to live the exciting life I had imagined.

My coming-out experiences

So I first came out at 18. After going backwards and forwards in my head, I finally reached out to a girl-friend of mine back in high school and came out to her. The process was slow to begin with. My palms and my head were sweating. When I finally did it, I felt such a sense of relief and was drained after the adrenaline rush. I was so happy that one of my best friends was so accepting!

Needless to say, coming out is not a singular event but a continuous process. The first positive experience definitely made the process of coming out that much easier at university. People’s reactions were mostly accepting and made me feel really welcom at UCL Geography.

Professor Anson Mackey and Professor Helene Burningham set up an LGBTQ+ group at the Geography Department in 2015, during which time I was in my second year of undergrad. Because of this, I got to learn so much more about them and also really begin to learn about trans issues, something that I vaguely understood previously. It made me much more aware of the solidarity LGBTQ+ people share and past and current political events (e.g. Stonewall, decriminalisation of homosexuality and marriage).

Intersectionality and mental health

Of course one of the most exciting aspects of coming out was that I finally got to date and explore what that was like! Having seen so many of my straight friends going through this in high school, I felt I could finally catch up with them at university in this regard.

Dating is in itself daunting, but more so for the POC members of the LGBTQ+ community. Sadly, racism and fetishisation still exist today and there is so much that we as a community must do to confront and combat these issues. Conversely, on a personal level, I have also learned the importance of finding healthy coping mechanisms and support networks when faced with these issues. Talk to your friends/parents/therapist about it, seek support from them and heal from these traumatic experiences. Exercise as a way to release negativity. Surround yourself with positive people who love and respect you. Most important of all, be kind to yourself!

The journey of coming out has been bittersweet. Nonetheless, it has built me up so much more as a person. It allowed me to learn many wonderful stories and meet fascinating people. I have also become more empathetic to people’s lived experiences across the axis of gender, sexuality, race, culture and religion. I encourage you to come out when you feel safe and comfortable to do so, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me should you ever need advice!