Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guest Post: The Hardest Stage of Coming Out

Hey, Tyler here. I contributed a bit to Justin's post last week and I'm happy to be a guest today. While contemplating just what part of myself I wanted to put online, I considered many options.

At first, I was sure that I would have to speak about my Southern Baptist upbringing and being raised in a rural town where my dad is the pastor of the biggest church in the area. "That'd be entertaining," I assured myself as I considered witty stories and zingers to include. It's certainly an interesting facet of my life that I don't get to speak about at length very often.

Then my mind jumped to my college experience, specifically my trouble transitioning from feeling trapped in an ultra-conservative Bible belt town to finding freedom at a larger university (The University of Virginia) where I was able to be myself. However, that wouldn't be the whole story, and it's truly just skimming the surface of some of the issues that many religious homosexuals face. It wouldn't be fair to take one of the "easier" roads.

So I've decided to confront arguably the biggest enemy in my ongoing journey to being comfortable with myself, both as a gay man and as a Christian...myself.

It's no secret, coming out is rough. For every smooth announcement, there seem to be ten horror stories of abandonment and anger or hurt. Families, especially those where religion is emphasized and valued, can be the worst environments to open up a conversation on sexuality. Parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins can all quickly change perspectives when they're informed one of their own is gay.
Friends and acquaintances, sadly enough, can be much the same. The pressure to come out and the fear of doing so can be debilitating for many.

My personal experience has taught me that we may be our own worst enemy when it comes to acceptance.

I remember when a guy I had been interested in for months finally had the nerve to ask me if I was interested in other young men. I was in ninth grade and I had known for years that it was indeed true, but this was the first time that anyone had forced me to truly consider it. I remember staring blankly ahead for what seemed like years and finally shakily admitting that I was gay. I knew in that moment that my life would never be the same, and I could never go back to my life before I admitted it to myself.

I refused to tell any friends or family members for years after because I hoped that it would eventually change and I would be straight. Sometimes I pushed it to the back of mind and sometimes it dominated my thoughts, but I would pray weekly that God would relieve me of my "issue" (the term that my parents and many still use to describe it to me) and to restore me to where He wanted me.

Since then, I've tried to make progress with myself. I require my own acceptance more than anyone else's approval, and I can honestly say that I make progress every day. It's difficult, there's no doubt about it, but it's a sort of daily reward.

I wish I could say for sure that the story has a happy ending, and I believe that eventually it will, but I'm still trying to find personal acceptance 7 years later. And 7 years is nothing compared to some of the personal stories that I have heard of men and women who spent a lifetime trying to deny aspects of themselves, either the gay or the religious, who never found much satisfaction in either facet of their lives.

As cliche as it may sound, the first step toward acceptance from anyone else has to start within. The good and the bad news is that we're harder on ourselves than others may be.

So, open question to have you worked toward personal acceptance? How has this journey with yourself affected other relationships in your life? What progress have you made and where have you struggled?

Thanks for the opportunity to put something out there!


  1. Wow. You actually posted. I have to be honest, I didn't think you would. Mostly, because a lot of my guest bloggers forget or ditch out on me and I usually have no guests. But this time we had two! That's so awesome :)

  2. Now, to answer your question at the end. I agree with what you wrote about how the hardest person is yourself. I was much harder on myself than anyone else has been. And honestly, my process was very hard. I think I had to touch the rocky depths of my personal hell before I began to realize that I could love and accept myself.

    I started out wanting others to love me and accept me. I wanted constant validation (which I still appreciate), but it never seemed to be enough. After such a long time hating myself and feeling miserable I began to realize that I couldn't just feel sorry for me and wish that someone would save me. I had to do something about my situation. I had to learn to love myself the way that I am; I had to quit trying to be what I thought was "perfect". I had to come in (like I wrote about a little bit in my last post and I had to listen to myself. Since I started doing that, I've realized that I'm so much happier than I've ever been. :)

  3. Examine how you love and respect the ones you hold most dear, then ask yourself if you love and respect yourself in the same ways. Often times, I find I love and respect others far more than I do myself. Its shocking really, how we do that... out of all the people we live with the one we forgive the least and criticise the most is ourselves.
    Life seems to be a process of acceptance, and sometimes it feels like we discovered a part of ourselves that was already there. We then proceed to beat ourselves up for not seeing the seemingly obvious sooner. I think its during those moments that we need to be kindest to ourselves. True beauty isn't a superficial thing; it grows on you over time, and moments of self-discovery are truly beautiful. They are moments to be savored, and can be easily marred by the human tendency to self-abuse.

    Anyways those are my rambling thoughts :) great post!

  4. This is a great blog entry. Sorry for the "spam":


    we are a team of researchers at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, USA. We are currently working on a study that seeks to develop a more thorough, scientifically evaluated understanding of the challenges and risks associated with coming out.

    In order to recrute participants we heavily rely on help from LGBTQ webpages and centers such as yours. We kindly inquire, whether you would be able to promote our study advertisement and link through your webpage, newsletter, Facebook, and/or Twitter, Google+, etc.

    This would not only help us, but also serve the LGBQ community by furthering scientific understanding of this sometimes challenging process. In the long-term, it is our goal to inform prevention and educational measures for LGBQ individuals and the general public.

    Please consider this text below:
    The Case Western Reserve University Department of Psychological Sciences is currently recruiting participants for an online study of LGBQ individuals' experiences with the coming out process. The purpose of this study is to determine whether certain factors related to individuals' relationships, family functioning, religious beliefs, and emotional experiences predict how "out" someone is. We are also interested in whether how "out" you are is related to symptoms of anxiety and depression, and under what circumstances. To participate, individuals must identify as LGBQ (non-heterosexual) and be at least 18 years of age. The study will take approximately 45 minutes to complete, and can be completed on any computer with an internet connection. No identifying information will be completed for this survey, and all answers will be kept confidential. Please follow the link below in order to participate.
    We have received a number of questions regarding the "T" missing in our study announcement: The study is conceptualized that if you identify as transgendered but straight, the questions may likely not apply. If someone, however, is trans and considers her/himself as gay/lesbian, they could do the study if they want. Nonetheless, after lots of deliberation, we decided to leave the transgender label out of the study announcement.

    In the future, we plan to do a study on being transgendered and issues such as stigma surrounding that. A LGBTQ parenting study is also in the planning stages.

    We hope for your support. Please let us know if you have further questions and/or concerns.

    Kind regards,

    Department of Psychological Sciences
    Case Western Reserve University

    FEAR (Fear Emotion Anxiety Regulation) Institute: