The First Step is Coming Out to Yourself

First, thanks to everyone who commented on my first blog post! I really do appreciate you taking the time to read it and share your thoughts with me.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is the process of coming out. When you hear about people “coming out,” it is usually described as a single event. Sometimes, I even picture a person in an actual “closet” jumping out to surprise their family and friends, “Surprise! I’m gay!”  

Of course, it never really works that way. Coming out is a series of events, usually starting with coming out to one’s self. And that process alone can take years! If you have never questioned your sexual identity, then you might not understand how someone can *not know* that they are gay.  

The mind is a powerful tool for self-deception. We try and fool our minds every day, like when we convince ourselves that we really don’t want that piece of chocolate that’s calling our name. Of course, if you believe that denying our true sexual identity takes a lot more bandwidth than overcoming a desire for chocolate, you are correct.  

“Why would someone do that?” you might ask. My answer to that question is: look around at our society. Is it easy to be gay in our world? Is it celebrated? Is it even tolerated in some countries? When you look at places like Russia, Uganda, and, closer to home, the American states that refuse to recognize marriage equality, you can see how the outside world is a powerful motivator to stay in the closet. And I haven’t even touched on pressures such as family expectations, religious beliefs, workplace rules, and friends’ reactions.  

Given all of these negative pressures, I’m amazed that anyone ever comes out to themselves! But, we do, and the reason we do is because, finally, it simply takes up too much head space and energy to stay in the closet.

Or as someone once explained it to me, “Staying in the closet is like pushing a huge beach ball under the water.  Yes, you can do it, but it takes such tremendous force and attention to keep that ball down.  Letting it go can be scary–which direction will it go?  How will I control it?  But, oh, the freedom!”

And coming out later in life has its own special issues. If you are or were married to someone of the opposite sex, you may wonder if this is just a passing phase. You may try to rationalize it or explain it away. But as someone once said to me, “Straight girls don’t stay up late at night wondering if they are gay.” I had to agree that this was true for me!

If nothing else, coming out to one’s self is a liberating first step in the coming out process. And it’s necessary to know yourself before you share *you* with the rest of the world. I’d love for you to share your thoughts about coming out to yourself in the comments below. Thanks!

9 thoughts on “The First Step is Coming Out to Yourself

  1. Rachel

    Great point to this post! Coming out is way more about taking the steps to feel comfortable in your own skin, the sense of relief and freedom. Self-acceptance and respect as opposed to others’ acceptance. And it is the hardest and longest fight to get there. To the point of “not knowing”, I know from my own experience that if you are not repulsed by the opposite sex, you may grow up thinking that your crushes on the same sex are just friendship feelings and it is easier to push that aside and just be in a “normal” situation. For someone on the mid-range of the Kinsey Scale, it takes a bit to come to the realization that the joy of truly falling in love and being in a comfortable relationship comes from a preference for someone of the same sex.

    1. Good point about how hard it is to figure out that you’re gay if you are even remotely attracted to (and attractive to) the opposite sex. If everyone is pushing you in that direction and you’re not completely repulsed by it, it can feel like, “hey, I can make this work somehow.” Square pegs can sort of fit in round holes 🙂 But then, like you say, there is usually something that’s not quite right. And then you meet an awesome girl who rocks your world, and it’s like that scene in the Wizard of Oz where everything goes from black and white to color. Love you!

      1. Kate

        That analogy to Wizard of Oz is perfect! That is exactly how it all felt to me. Like what have I been missing all these years? It was the color! I’m in the middle of trying to see if I can continue to fit a square peg in a round hole because that is what’s familiar and that is what I “should” do. But I’m realizing more and more each day that that’s not sustainable.

      2. Kate

        That analogy to Wizard of Oz is perfect! That is exactly how it all felt to me. Like what have I been missing all these years? It was the color! I’m in the middle of trying to see if I can continue to fit a square peg in a round hole because that is what’s familiar and that is what I “should” do. But I’m realizing more and more each day that that’s not sustainable.

  2. Denise

    As I age I have really started to interpret sexual expression as a form of communication. Earlier in my life I think it was maybe just an event. Now..it’s a way to interact that is far more intimate than a simple physical event. Maybe, when it’s just a physical act, it doesn’t matter as much how you define your identity. Maybe, as we mature, that intimacy is so much more important that it can no longer be denied. Whether gay or straight, understanding the importance of your sexuality to connect with another person is a powerful reality. I would think that perhaps it is more about that intimate connection through sexuality that is how someone would identify as heter / homo sexual. I would think, at least in some cases, enjoying the act itself with either sex, is not the defining characteristic. I can see how this could be extremely confusing to a young person just learning who they are in the world. My wish is that we can create an environment where people are free to grow and learn and communicate in safe and loving ways and become who they are meant to be.

  3. Virginia M.

    So happy you are able to be your true self. I can imagine how family expectations can make one think they have to follow a certain path. I actually try as best I can to use gender neutral language when talking to my stepson about his future lovelife. I’ll say “when you grow up and fall in love with someone, you’ll want to be with THEM” or “whoever you love will be special,” etc. It’s a small thing, but when I hear someone else in the family start in asking him about girls, I cringe. I don’t know who he’ll be attracted to (he’s only 11), but I want to be the one person he grows up with who wasn’t putting a certain expectation on him. Does that make sense?

    1. Denise

      I do the same thing with my daughter. I actually say “or girls, if that’s who you are attracted to”. I think the more people see that, the more it will be accepted.

  4. It is this point, “Is it easy to be gay in our world? Is it celebrated? Is it even tolerated in some countries?” that makes me wonder why anyone believes a person’s sexual or gender identity is a choice. Or worse – a phase – like hula hoops. Given the choice, why would someone choose a path that is so difficult in so many cultures and so scary? I hope that one day this is not the case and everyone can feel safe and loved no matter how they identify. But I really don’t understand this “choice” thing. You are who you are and you should not only be accepted, but celebrated, for that.

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