Wayne Dhesi Talks ‘R U Coming Out’

With austerity in full flow and the money taps likely to remain dry, it’s not exactly the most fertile environment for charities to thrive, even more so for younger organisations. But despite being just three year’s old, R U Coming Out is just getting started. 

Originally founded in 2012 as a website for supporting young LGBT with advice and candid real life coming out stories, support for the project has been so strong it’s on the verge of becoming an official charity. It even attracted a horde of celebs – including Gabrielle, Joe McElderry and Alesha Dixon – to its annual summer ball held at the RVT.

Chris Godfrey spoke with the project’s founder, Wayne Dhesi, in the aftermath of its star-studded Summer Party.


So how did you feel after the R U Coming Out Summer Party at the RVT? It must have been pretty emotional!

It was amazing, completely overwhelming! We sold every ticket. We probably ended up turning away 30 or 40 people a few days before the event who wanted to still buy tickets, but we just couldn’t physically fit anymore people in the room, which is brilliant.

Before the event I knew it was always going to be well attended, but I think what I didn’t plan on was that it would be by people who really felt connected to what we’re doing. A lot of people have said it felt like almost a private party, like a birthday party. There was a real sense of togetherness and – not to sound cheesy – love in the room. It really did feel like it was something quite special. My overriding feeling was waking up the next day and remembering how amazing the whole event felt. I think that’s something that we’ve just managed to create and harness effectively, the idea that people feel part of a cause. That’s the only way I’ve been able to grow the website to where it is at the moment.

Why do you think people feel so connected to it?

I think most people are willing to contribute and help any cause, but sometimes they don’t really know how. I think what I’ve done with the website is create that opportunity. So for the 300 people that have written and sent in their coming out stories it’s a very definitive way of them contributing back into the community somehow.

I think it has empowered them. So not everyone in the room at the event had submitted stories but they had all seen that sharing stories is helping that next generation of LGBT people come out. Whether that’s submitting a story or tweeting about it or sharing it on Facebook, or telling their friends, they all feel like that action, whatever that action is, is directly, positively affecting young LGBT people, which is proven by the emails we get.

I don’t stand in the street collecting money from people – the success of the website hasn’t been down to any financial input – it’s been the time and effort that people have put in to supporting me with the site. And I think people have seen me take that forward and they just want to support me.

It’s about thinking back to what it was like for them when they weren’t out and the lack of support they had. So many people say to me “oh if only there was a website like this 15 year’s ago, if only there was a website like this when I was coming out.” So I think apart from anything else it’s a very simple, easy way for someone to feel like they’re giving something back.

“It’s a very simple, easy way for someone to feel like they’re giving something back.”

You’re on the verge of becoming an official, listed charity. So what’s in store for R U Coming Out in the near future?

I was speaking to someone after the event and they were asking me what the plans are for the next five years. And whether I’ve got ideas of what I want to do it will be led by the people who are using the site and the feedback I get. That might sound a little bit risky, not having definitive plans, but there’s no point going down one route if it’s a route that’s not needed. People are steering the car and I’m just helping it along a little bit. I’m helping it move forward but whatever direction that goes in, it’s not up to me, it’s about what people are telling me.

The main thing is representation on the site. People are telling me there are not enough stories from BME, trans and bisexual people. So that’s a clear sign to me that that’s where my immediate focus needs to be. I need to make sure that when you click on the stories page it’s not just a sea of white gay men looking at you.

The whole listed charity thing was just something people mentioned to me. Again just very organic – it just seems right now, it just feels like the right step to take. I’m confident that we’ll be registered this side of Christmas and that means we can start to think about how we can better represent our amazing, beautifully diverse community and reach out further to the people who need our support the most.

We raised almost £5,000 at the Summer Party and this will go towards producing our first book. It will be full of coming out stories and essays and we’ll be sending it in to schools for free so teachers can use it as a teaching resource. I’m really excited about that and can’t wait to start work on it!



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