Not Coming Out
Tommy Longrigg

Not Coming Out


Voters Rating 9 / 1000



Not Coming Out gives readers a memoir of a young man's adventure into life itself. I have written it with a desire to tell what I hope is the entertaining and interesting story of my leaving home and embracing discovery, but I also hope it will inspire and encourage others to see that taking that first big step out the door is truly life-changing.

I believe it could be regarded as falling somewhere between comedy and drama; it is, after all, based on my life in the real world. I have found that real life usually shifts between those two genres, and so naturally do books about people's lives.

The characters in the book either are entirely, or heavily based on, real people whom I have encountered during my time here in China. Names have been changed to protect identities, and I have amalgamated some people into certain characters to keep the narrative clean and flowing. One might call the book a somewhat 'unreliable' memoir due to that fact, but I have no doubts that the prevailing truth throughout will be sufficient to carry the day.

In terms of positioning, I believe that Not Coming Out not only covers a broad comedy-drama genre, but can speak to a huge spectrum of readers. It tells a frank story of real life which, despite being set in the Far East, is full of universal situations, feelings, dilemmas and actions, and will (I hope) resonate with Westerners and Asians alike. 


Tommy is 18 years old, fresh out of secondary school, and on a mission to realise his dreams of going to Oxford. Months earlier, he had received a rejection letter, shattering his lifelong ambition to study law there. Encouraged and supported by his favourite teacher, also an Oxford alumnus, he succeeds in getting a second-chance interview to gain a place at the very top of the wait pool. The interviewing professor is impressed by Tommy's mettle, and decides to put him atop the list, on the condition that his admission be deferred a year. Tommy demurs, and is then faced with a key question: "What should I do with this upcoming year?"

Three weeks pass, and Tommy still can't decide what to do. He is bombarded with suggestions, some practical, some downright crazy. He returns to his school to speak with his teacher, who gives him the idea to take the time to go overseas somewhere - somewhere far away - where he could work as a teacher.

But where?

Tommy hadn't even been out of Europe before. At that time, his idea of 'far' was an Italian olive grove or some Greek party island ruled by Club 18-30. Tommy chose to commit his fate to the only authority that could be trusted to throw up a relevant result: Google. He searched "teach overseas far from home" - and resolved that the first place to show up would be his choice.

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It all happened very quickly.

Within a month of writing an email to a school in Dalian, China, Tommy was furnished with a visa, plane ticket, currency and a job on arrival. Apprehension started to take over as Tommy realised the gravity of it all. This was compounded when he landed in Dalian. North-eastern China, to find a very disappointing dry, dusty and windy construction site a world away from the images of the city he had Googled. To top it all, his luggage was left in Beijing...Not a good start.

After a rocky first day, saved only by meeting his roommate, Rick, Tommy was feeling rather down. Day two didn’t begin well: he woke up on a rock-hard bed, hungover, luggage-less, sinking into deep regret; he should never have embarked on this trip. He didn't know the language or customs, knew next-to nothing about the city or country outside of: "It's a big country and its capital is Beijing."

"What am I doing here?" He constantly asked himself.

After lying there for about an hour, thoughts whirring through his head at a mile a minute, he decided to go along with the plan for a while. After a month or so, he’d make up some family emergency and get the hell out of there. It was the perfect plan. As far he was concerned, he should never have come all the way out there to China. It wasn't his place.

The days that follow brought new surprises. Rick revealed the city to Tommy, where Tommy learned to enjoy its sights and sounds; work started and Tommy discovered that there was indeed truth to the teachers' mantra that "teaching is a rewarding career" – a line he had heard throughout secondary school; even the luggage arrived safely. Rays of sunshine were finally piercing the dark clouds of doubt that were plaguing him.

After the first full week of work, Tommy and Rick went out for a night on the town, finishing in the biggest club, Nightman. There, Tommy met Wei, a man who would change everything in his world.

A year in China proves to be the most valuable educational experience of Joe's life. The power of independence, adventure, and discovering a corner of the world becomes a force of positive change.

There are things he learns that he didn't know before, such as the Chinese language and culture, and more importantly that life in China is not some Orwellian nightmare.

There are things he comes to terms with that he never had the chance to before - such as being gay.

Finally, there are things that he discovers are more important than mere glory and reputation. Oxford, once the be-all and end-all of his ambition, finally makes a firm offer. Too late.  

Tommy's making a new life in China. He’s pursuing a life there. He’s staying put.

He’s not coming out.

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