Friday, October 28, 2011

On Coming Out

It is healthy to come out. I am thinking colloquially of "coming out" as a homosexual, but it can be used for any situation where a person reveals a significant aspect of their lives. I am now reading some psychology about how bad it is to avoid situations because you are afraid of something you associate with that situation.

For example, while avoiding scary movies and haunted houses might seem to be an okay solution to someone with phasmophobia (fear of ghosts) or demonophobia (fear of demons), repressing those fears through avoidance, in fact, strengthens them. This is a little counter-intuitive. I'm not sure that going to Blockbuster, renting every scary movie in stock, and watching them alone on a stormy night on your laptop in some secluded shack in the woods is the best idea, either--even then, your fears have some control over how you have chosen to act. In order to live a values-based life, one must learn to accept his or her fears, anxieties, and dilemmas as they are, and learn to experience situations that involve those fears with mindfulness. As I wish to do this better myself, I will practice. Indeed, I write this because I struggle with these problems.

Everyone has fears. Fears cause anxiety. Perhaps all of us, to some degree, cause ourselves to experience anxiety about our anxiety, or depression about our depression. But we can avoid this compounding effect by practicing mindfulness. This means taking note how what you think ("I can't believe I still struggle with this." "I will never succeed."), what you feel ("I am so tired." "I feel afraid."), and how you feel (sweating, increased pulse, dizziness, nausea, etc.).*

I was 18 when I came out to my family. (I am 23 now.) I came on Christmas Day, at night, after all of the festivities were over. I was between semesters at BYU. I was afraid. But I had also spent the months, and perhaps even years, leading up to the event, falling into habits of self-destructive behavior that I thought would ease the pain of feeling so different and fundamentally unaccepted.

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to say what I wanted to, "I am gay," when the time came, so I typed a letter which I read to and left with the members of my family. I was so scared of how they would react, of where my life was going, of how I could ever face them after they knew. But I said it, and handed each member of the family a copy of the letter. It said,

"I don’t even know how to begin. I am gay. However sordid that may sound to you, I am so pleased with myself for finally being able to say it. I want you to understand how amazing it is for me. Simply typing it right now, a week and a half before you will read this, seems to release, ever so slightly, some valve from a vacuum that has been sucking in and collecting so much self-hatred, guilt, and shame over the years. I want you to realize how at peace I feel right now, knowing that with the release of this terrible secret also comes the release of some of those terrible feelings. Do you now see why I must tell you? I simply cannot keep holding this secret inside of me...

"I hope you understand that by telling you, however you react to what I am saying, I sense that it will be a positive thing for me..."

Needless to say, it seemed a monumental, awkward, and disconcerting Christmas. But now I look back upon it, and it feels strong, brave, beautiful, and good.** No person who intends to live a joyful life can be apologetic for the truths of their lives. Easier said than done.

*I wish to learn more about this process--so please share if you have ideas or book recommendations.

**This is a variation of the Latter-days quote about the Sunday comics: "Sometimes it all still feels like a mass of dots. But more and more these days, I feel like we're all connected. And it's beautiful... and funny... and good." The comics look like a mass of dots when you hold it too close to your eyes.

Photo credits, top to bottom:

Note:  This blog is a repost of the original from my personal blog.  Hope you'll forgive me for reposting. Justin here, by the way.

1 comment:

  1. Justin, as always, your post is "strong, brave, beautiful, and good"

    I love your writing. And I love your story of coming out to your family. What courage. I'm glad you were able to do it so early on. I know that a lot of people live in fear for a long time and it does become destructive.

    Thanks for sharing!