Most of us thought we would come out to our parents and then be done with the whole uncomfortable topic of coming out. Little did we know that we were starting a sometimes awkward process that would continue for the rest of our lives.
You check in at the hotel and wonder if the hotel clerk is cool with the fact that you are two men asking for one bed.
You didn’t tell a work colleague that you are gay and now you’ve become closer and you’re embarrassed for not telling her earlier.
You feel the impulse to hold your girlfriend’s hand but you don’t see any other couples doing that in this neighborhood. So you don’t.
It’s your cousin Rita’s wedding and everyone is dancing with their partner and you can’t imagine doing that.
I Should Be Over It
Sometimes clients tell me stories like these rather sheepishly. They’ll say, “With all the political progress we are making, I should be over this.”
When you find yourself beating yourself up for not being “out enough”, it may be helpful to keep in mind a few reasons why being queer remains difficult.
They aren’t hard to find.
Reasons such as:
You are a minority not only in society but also within your own family.
Most religions still teach that queer sexuality is sinful.
The Republican Party actively fought your right to marry the person you love.
Most of us undervalue the impact of what happens to children and teenagers when their family, church, and peers tell them that their natural sexual orientation is wrong.
And if you dealt with additional challenges growing up—like an alcoholic parent, frequent moves, or poverty—overcoming homophobia can be even harder.
Difficult, Not Impossible
There are good reasons that most of us remain in the closet at certain times. No one enjoys worrying about safety or the experience of ridicule or embarrassment.
There are also important reasons to keep pushing ourselves to that edge of discomfort when it comes to taking the next step in coming out.
Each time we make that decision to be “discrete”, somewhere deep in our psyche we are reinforcing our belief that we are “less than”. We tell ourselves that these little moments don’t really make a difference. However, these experiences add up, ultimately limiting our ability to feel good about ourselves.
Yes, the political movement for equality advances when we come out. But on a more personal level, each time we take a small anxious step towards freer personal expression we undo some of the damage done by the culturally “made up” story that gay is not as good as a straight.
A lifetime of living slightly under the radar can lead to a lifetime of mild depression or anxiety. What small step can you make today to take up just a little more space in the world?