Gay firefighter ‘pretended to have a girlfriend’ to hide his sexuality from colleagues

Nick Couch, a firefighter, opens up about his identity as a gay man working at the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

A gay firefighter admitted he felt he needed to pretend to have a girlfriend in the past to hide his sexuality from colleagues.

Nick Couch, a firefighter based at the Honiton Fire Station, spoke openly in a video about his past and present experiences as a gay man working for the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

Couch, who has been a firefighter for 24 years, recalled how he knew he was gay from a young age. But he felt the need to pretend he had a girlfriend when he became a firefighter at 18-years-old.

“I think because I was so young like when I knew and then I thought like even walking around the high street ‘oh, I’ve just joined the fire service at 18, oh I’d better have a girlfriend’ because everyone else had wives and everything else,” Couch said, laughing.

He continued: “Imagine if I turned up and said ‘Here’s my guy’.”

Couch said he was unsure if he would have felt comfortable coming out publicly earlier in his life. He believed he had to my “ready in myself” to be able to tell his colleagues and loved ones that he was gay.

The firefighter shared that he did eventually come out to his family at the age of 25 and said he slipped a letter through his sister’s door to tell her the news.

But he said it took him a bit longer to feel comfortable sharing his truth at work.

“I’d like to think that everybody liked me on station – and then to come out and say to everybody that I was gay – I didn’t want them to think any differently of me,” Couch said.

However, he said he was warmly welcomed and accepted by his colleagues when he “came out to the guys” in 97.

“It never changed the way they thought about me or the way we worked together as a team,” the firefighter said. “It was a weight off the shoulders definitely after telling them all.”

Couch explained that people will have to be “ready in themselves to find the courage to come out”, but he said that individuals shouldn’t be frightened as they will be “really accepted”.

He added that “we live in a different culture” than when he first joined the fire service, and he said that LGBT+ identities are more “widely accepted in life” now.

“Just embrace the moment and enjoy life for who you are,” Couch said.