Coming Out – Overcoming the Guilt Factor

Coming Out – Overcoming the Guilt Factor

November 2nd, 2011 @

This is a useful article that I came across in relation to sexual confusion and sexual identity … in particular the process of ‘coming out’.

The checklist is interesting … ask yourselves these questions below to help gain clarification if you may be gay. I’m not sure that each question in it’s own right is sufficient, but the author does suggest that the threshold is answering 5 or more with ‘yes’. Either way, the questions are valid and should provide an opportunity for some personal reflection.

The coming out story is also useful as it touches on one man’s relationship with, and his experience of coming out to, his father.

As with most Menstuff challenges in life, the journey here is about finding oneself.

Please feel free to leave any comments.

Coming Out – Overcoming the Guilt Factor

Is guilt about your sexual identity causing problems in your life? If so, answer the following questions to see if guilt over claiming your sexual identity may be limiting your ability to live a satisfying life:

o Do you long to tell someone important in your life, (your parents, a friend, a sibling, or a colleague) that you are gay?

o Are you sick and tired of pretending to be heterosexual?

o Have you chastised yourself for being attracted to those of the same gender?

o Have you had heterosexual relationships in an effort to “make yourself straight”?

o Have you been attracted to the same gender for as long as you can remember?

o When you watch a love scene in a movie, are you attracted to the character who’s the same gender as you?

o Have you tried to squelch your same-sex attraction in every way you know how, but to no avail?

o Do openly gay or lesbian individuals or couples make you envious?

o Have you visited a place where homosexuality is acceptable, just to see what it felt like to be in an atmosphere of tolerance? (For example: a bar or club; a party or social gathering; a religious community; a town, city, or country.

o Have you had a sexual relationship with a same-sex partner?

o Are you drawn to books and movies about same-sex relationships?

o Do you fantasize about being out?

o Are you irresistibly drawn to members of the same sex?

o Do you often think that your life is a lie?

o Do you fantasize about same-sex relationships?

o Do you think God is displeased with you or will punish you because of your same-sex attractions?

o Do you wish you lived someplace where homosexuality was more acceptable?

o Are you in a heterosexual marriage or relationship but know you’re gay or lesbian?

If you answered yes to five or more questions, it is likely that you are gay or lesbian and feel guilty about claiming your sexuality.

As you can see, some questions in the quiz are aimed at people who aren’t sure whether they’re gay, and some questions are for those who do know but keep it a secret out of guilt. The quiz is structured that way because the guilt of same-sex attraction can obscure the truth and cause people to doubt what they think or feel. Many people who find themselves irresistibly drawn to members of the same sex feel so guilty about it that they become experts at hiding it from themselves.

I have worked with a number of people who sought my counsel because they didn’t know whether or not they were gay. In almost every case, the guilt of acknowledging their homosexuality was so great that it took therapy to help them break through it.

It is important to say that in the case of acknowledging homosexuality, guilt is not the only culprit. Shame can also be operative.

Guilt is feeling wrong or bad about what we do or do not do, and shame is feeling wrong or bad about who we are. Since sexuality is an integral part of our identity, people who have same-sex attraction often feel bad or wrong about who they are as human beings. When toxic guilt and shame are both active, it is an all-out attack on a person’s positive sense of self.

Escaping toxic guilt and claiming one’s sexual identity is the only road to a satisfying and meaningful life for the majority of people who are gay or lesbian. People who deny their true sexual identity can never live authentically. They become perpetual imposters, lying to themselves and others about who they really are.

Thankfully, homosexuality is becoming more and more acceptable. Social and cultural norms continue to change for the better as more and more gay people claim their sexual identity and come out. But societal change comes slowly, and homosexuals still suffer from discrimination and prejudice.

Todd’s story is typical of the pain and suffering that can occur when toxic guilt keeps someone from living in their true sexual identity.

Todd was a senior in college when he came to me for therapy. His father was the high school football coach in their small hometown. Todd, an only child, was very close to his tight-knit family. Thin and delicate, Todd didn’t exactly live up to the athletic aspirations his father had for him. His father was determined to make Todd into an athlete. Hopelessly optimistic, the father pressured his son year after year.

When I first saw Todd he was a wreck. His slender face, big green eyes, and anxious stare made him look like a frightened kitten. He explained that he was in a committed relationship with Scott and had been for over a year. His parents did not know. Having failed as the macho athlete his father hoped for, how could he possibly tell his father he was gay?

Scott took Todd’s reluctance to come out to his parents as a personal affront. For Scott, it was a sign that he didn’t really mean that much to Todd. Meanwhile, Todd was so anxious that he couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t eat, and wasn’t sleeping well either. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Todd couldn’t see a way out. How could he reassure his partner without risking almost certain rejection from his father?

Let’s analyze Todd’s guilt. Todd felt guilty on two counts; he knew he would disappoint his father if he came out to him, and he knew he would disappoint Scott if he did not. As we worked on sorting out Todd’s feelings he faced the reality that he had been a disappointment to his father all his life for not being the son his father wanted, a jock. Although Todd tried again and again to live up to his father’s expectations, he never could. In many ways, his father did not know his son at all. Scott, on the other hand, knew exactly who Todd was and valued and respected him greatly. In his relationship with Scott, Todd felt seen and heard by an important male figure for the first time in his life. He was not willing to lose that.

With support from Scott and other friends, Todd went home one weekend and came out to his father. His father’s reaction was just as he predicted: denial, anger, and finally tears. His father told his mother, and their solution was to insist that Todd go to therapy to get “fixed.” When Todd confessed he was already in therapy and had been for some time, they were baffled.

Their next ploy was to invite their pastor and a few members of the congregation over for an “intervention”. Surely God and the church would “fix” him. Todd was prepared for these tactics, and stood his ground. The church committee left, exasperated.

Finally, and sadly, Todd’s parents told him to leave and not come back until he had changed; they also cut off his funding for college.

Todd was sad and upset about their response but reported that he also felt a great sense of relief and felt “clean inside.” He got a job and applied for financial aid. Before he graduated, Todd and his parents reconciled. Although the topic of his sexual identity is taboo between Todd and his parents, they were willing to meet Scott and even allowed him to visit in their home.

I applaud the courage of gay and lesbian people who are determined to be who they are in the world. If you, like Todd, are stymied by overwhelming guilt at the thought of claiming your true identity, it may be time to get honest in order to live a satisfying and meaningful life. For some people that means coming out openly and publicly, for others it does not. But discovering and claiming who you are to yourself is the critical first step.

Overcoming guilt about your sexual identity is a journey that begins with self-acceptance. You must discover that you are as valuable and as important as everyone else. If your faith community would tell you otherwise, find a more understanding one! Claiming your sexual identity is a proclamation of who you are. You have every right in the world to this self-understanding and identity. When, where, and to whom one wants to come out is a personal decision and should be considered carefully and thoughtfully. Some people are very private about who they come out to, usually because they harbor some guilt about it or because they know their livelihood would be at stake (due to prejudice in the workplace or due to the nature of their career). Others do their best to make sure everyone knows they are gay or lesbian. People must be seen, heard, and experienced for who they really are in order to have optimal emotional health; it is not possible for that to happen if you are gay or lesbian and pretending to be heterosexual. If you are gay or lesbian and are still not out, I am sure you have very good reasons for it. One of the reasons is bound to be toxic guilt. If working through your guilt can set you free, then claiming who you are and coming out-even if it is to just one person-may be the necessary beginning.

Susan Carrell is a Licensed Professional Counselor, an R.N., a former Chaplain and author of Escaping Toxic Guilt: 5 Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilt for Good (McGraw-Hill). She counsels individuals and couples and is a popular public speaker. To learn more and sign up for her free e-newsletter visit http://www.escapingtoxicguilt.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com


Category : Blog &Coming Out &Featured &Sexuality

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