- Posted by Jon Harju
- On June 20, 2019
By Lisa Lyons, Registered Psychotherapist
We live in a heteronormative society in which heterosexuality and gender binary are assumed. We still face evidence of homophobia and discrimination as well as hate crimes directed at LGBTQ2 people, and some cultures within our culture remain extremely homophobic.
Meanwhile, new trends have emerged as a younger generation of LGBTQ2 people explore changing identity issues, and more commonly accept and express fluid gender and sexual identities. Transgendered people who do not identify as either male of female face their own challenges in self-exploration and accepting a fluid gender identity.
Coming out is a significant process in the lives of LGBTQ2 people. It is a process rather than an event.
4 steps to start the coming out process or transitioning
1. Be open with yourself
Opening up to the possibility that you may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender or even just questioning means that you are on a path that is uniquely yours. It is because of this that coming out and living more openly and authentically can be such a liberating experience. Coming out is about you and no one else. Focusing on yourself and what’s important to you will help you in the process of living the life that you deserve. Throughout the process, it’s normal to feel:
2. Talk About It
Every coming out experience is unique to the individual, yet, there is a commonality in choosing to be open about who we are with ourselves and others – even when it’s not easy. Coming out and living openly isn’t something that you do once. It’s a journey that you make every day of your life. Talk to other people who you trust about what you’re feeling and experiencing and seek their support. Learn from others’ experiences of what works and what doesn’t work for them. Ask questions. Listen. Reflect. Talk some more.
3. Seek Support
If you face specific challenges, are struggling with the process of coming out/transitioning, or with negative reactions from loved ones, it may be beneficial to work with a counsellor or therapist. A qualified therapist can provide a safe, supportive and affirming space for you to explore your identity and the potential impact of coming out. You may also have LGBTQ2 support groups in your community and these can serve as a valuable resource.
4. Being open with others
Most people come out because they can’t keep hiding who they are any longer and they want to be more open and honest in their relationships. Once people do come out they often feel better in being able to be open and honest rather than hiding such an integral part of themselves. Along with this feeling of liberation may be a recognition that our individual decision to live more openly helps to break down barriers of stigmatization and stereotypes. In doing so we make it easier for others to follow our example.
The benefits of coming out or transitioning
- Living an open and integrated life
- Closer more genuine relationships
- Increased self-esteem related to living authentically
- Reduction in stress and anxiety associated with being closeted
- Connecting with others who are LGBTQ2 and being part of a community.
The risks of coming out or transitioning you may experience
- Unpredictability of others’ reactions can present risks
- Not everyone will understand or be accepting
- Family, friends and coworkers may express negative emotions and even hostility
- Some relationships may change
- Harassment or discrimination
- Physical harm
- Increased anxious and depressive symptoms – and even thoughts of suicide
- Use of drugs or alcohol to deal with difficult emotions
You are the one in charge
You are in charge of when to come out, how to come out and with whom you chose to be open about yourself. Coming out as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, or two-spirit is a continuous act of bravery. Being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid. It means even though you may be scared, you do the thing you’re afraid of anyway. Whether it’s for the first time or the first time today, coming out may be the most important thing that you do all day.
Lisa Lyons is a Registered Psychotherapist with Snapclarity and has a private practice in London, Ontario. She specializes in supporting LGBTQ2 clients around identity challenges and their life transitions.
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