Coming Out to Yourself A Journey in Self Discovery

What does ‘coming out’ mean? For many it simply means accepting who they are, without preconceptions, without judgement, assuming an identity that is open and honest, both to themselves and to others around them. To others, it simply means accepting who they are in silence, not sharing with anyone their true identity with the possible exception of a few close friends. Whatever it means to you, what is important is that you accept who you are and are comfortable within your own skin, live in peace, and are not haunted by fears of being discovered and rejected by others. If you carry feelings of a deep dark secret you are not living a carefree harmonious calm life, rather one filled with stress and anxiety. Coming out to yourself in whatever manner you choose, will liberate you from a self-imposed prison and will lead you to living a free and more enjoyable way of life.

The Coming Out Process

Research indicates that people go through a range of stages before coming out and can remain in any one of these stages for an indefinite amount of time.

In the first stage, a person feels different from others, they know they feel different towards people of the same sex but it’s not always clear, if their feelings are of a sexual, romantic or of a friendship nature.

In the second stage they become more aware of their feelings and their attractions to people of the same sex. They may have had sexual liaisons with people of the same sex, but are not proud of their actions, have mixed feelings about their identity and may experience feelings of denial regarding their sexual orientation.

In the third stage, they begin to accept their sexual identity by mixing with other lesbian, gay and bisexual people, attending groups and events, and dating people of the same sex more openly. In the final stage, they begin to feel proud of their identity; they do not want to hide it, and want to share it with people they love, trust and respect. At this point, they may experience feelings of euphoria and pride, and truly feel they have ‘come out’.

Why come out?

Heterosexuals don’t have to worry about coming out as it is assumed in society that they date, love and marry people of the opposite sex. Homosexuals, however, don’t have this privilege, through their silence they are assumed heterosexual and thus are expected to behave accordingly by the current societal institutions that exist in North American societies. Feelings of isolation can ensue, causing social isolation and feelings of alienation. Through silence lesbians and gays have been kept in their place throughout history unnoticed, unseen and in an unnecessarily shameful position; hence the need for today’s Pride March events. Secrecy and silence leads to shame, self-depreciation and low self-esteem. It is for these reasons that coming out becomes vital if nothing else, to allow the true liberation of the human spirit, to free the inner core of any human being that feels confined. After all, do we not all want and crave freedom, whether it is personal or social? Coming out will set you FREE!

Nature vs Nurture

The nature versus nurture argument exists to explain whether or not homosexuality (or, lesbianism, bisexuality) in genetically based or not. The same research could easily be used to justify a heterosexual orientation. Does it really matter why you are who you are, genetically speaking; gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight? The challenge is to decide how you want to live your life, accepting whatever orientation seems natural and true to you. You may not be able to change who you are, but you can change your perception of yourself and through your behaviour, affect the way others see and relate to you. It all comes down to attitude and self-confidence, although your confidence will definitely improve as you assume your true sexual orientation.

If you’re reading this, it may mean you’re aware that you are not heterosexual and therefore, you’re already in stage two of the coming out process. You may now just need a few ideas, or tips on how to come out to yourself in a more holistic way. Remember, coming out is not a static, one-time event, rather, it is an ongoing process.

How to Begin

Research the following online or at your local library:

a. History of homosexuality

b. Your country’s (state, province) political position

c. Laws that exist that protect homosexuals in your (country, state, province

d. Gay and lesbian events local/national/international

Do the following:

1. Read a romance novels involving gays/lesbians/bisexuals

2. Watch a movie or TV show with a gay/lesbian/bisexual theme

3. Start a journal and monitor how you feel when you read information on lesbian/gay issues. Write on a daily basis what you’ve done that is gay/lesbian/bisexual minded and write your feelings about it.

Monitor your day and night dreams in your journal. Are they with people of your sex? Are you in a female or male role? Try to answer these questions in your diary. Don’t share your journal with anyone, these are your private thoughts and you need to feel free expressing them without anyone judging you.

Also, write down in your diary your relationship goals. Do you desire intimacy with a woman or with a man? Do you want to kiss, hug, and make love to that person? Do you feel happy, aroused at the thought of sexual intimacy with someone of your sex?

If you’re feeling uncomfortable and have conflicting feelings, you may want to call a Gay/Lesbian telephone help line to talk to someone anonymously. You may also want to seek out a gay/lesbian/bisexual friendly therapist. You can usually find one at your local LGBT community centre, or counselling centre; call in to find out if they have lesbian/gay/bisexual peer counselling.

Practice saying the following affirmations in front of a mirror:

For Women

• I am a lesbian

• I am bisexual

• I am a gay woman

• I love who I am

• I love myself

• I love the fact that I love women

• I enjoy sexual intimacy with women

• I desire women

• I am normal

• I am proud of who I am

For Men

• I am a gay

• I am bisexual

• I am a gay man

• I love who I am

• I love myself

• I love the fact that I love men

• I enjoy sexual intimacy with men

• I desire men

• I am normal

• I am proud of who I am

If it’s difficult to say these words, continue repeating them at least 10 times per day. Develop a routine, do it in the washroom in the morning or just before going to bed.

If you decide to claim your gay/lesbian or bisexual sexual orientation, and are feeling good about this decision, surround yourself with positive influences. Go to websites that are affirming, visit forums that gather likeminded people and participate in the discussions. Join face book or twitter and make new friends. Share your story and comment on the stories shared by others. Learn about the latest celebrity that just got married or are coming out. In this way you will find a sense of community and friendship and inevitably you will develop a sense of pride and self-worth that will resonate to others around you.

by Esmeralda Carvalho

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