Monday, June 22, 2009

Starting the coming out process

It is sometimes easy to forget that our community is diverse. We are comprised of individuals at different places in the coming out process. The coming out process is a remarkably individual thing and each of us will move through the experience in our own way. It is important to remember that each of us chooses the method of our coming out. For some people, this will be a relatively "easy" process while others will have a significant struggle.

An important tool is breaking through the isolation and shame of sexual orientation by sharing our personal story and listening to the stories of others. The public stories shared on the website as well as some of the emails I received highlight how important this is for many people. I'm moved by the amount of pain, fear, shame and guilt many people still struggle with in their process of coming out. I'm also moved by the courage expressed in the stories that can serve as inspiration to others.

While our stories are unique, it may be helpful for our individual growth by understanding the experiences of others. Hearing what worked or didn't work can be part of our growth and development. I think the responses highlight some of the things that helped. I encourage those who are earlier in the process to learn from you brothers and sisters.

Our coming out process is a repetitive process. Sadly, this means coming out is not a "finished product." When we meet someone new, or start a new job, or talk about what we did last weekend, we come out yet again. In each of the situations, we may go through quicker versions of the process. When I speak publicly, I often come out to the group. Almost every time, I have to go through process of identity comparison/tolerance. For me it occurs by wondering if the will they compare me to the stereotypes. I wonder if they are accepting enough, or will have to justify myself.

Coming out is only one piece of the puzzle. Implicit in the comments are references to many other topics. For any number of reasons, the coming out process is directly related to concerns such as guilt, shame, spirituality, risky-sex, and chemical use. Coming out will necessitate addressing these issues; and addressing these issues will also facilitate coming out.

What is the one thing you wish you knew in your coming out process?

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