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!