No, this is not the beginning of a Martin Luther King Jnr rip off speech. Recently, someone I know told me they were gay. They told me who else knew, including their brother. And due to having been outed by a friend at a wedding, so did a few of his cousins. His mother, however, did not know.
I told him only to come out when he is ready. And to do it sober. That is all the advice he will need.
That was over two months ago. But within a week, the truth had spread around the family with aunties, uncles and other cousins being aware. Having learnt this, I was furious. I still am.
No one has the right to tell his truth, especially this sort of truth to anyone else, including his family. Not to mention the fact that his mother still doesn’t know and it would be appalling for her to find out from anyone else but him.
And I believe it was this fury that caused my dream. A dream in which this individual is found hanging after taking his own life. That might seem dark, but it hit me even harder for one reason. The dream was almost an exact representation of my planned suicide when I was ashamed and in the closet.
My mind projected my suicide attempt onto this person in my dream.
Don’t minimise the process
There are a few reasons why this dream hit me so hard. The obvious one is that I’ve been through my coming out process and it wasn’t easy. Like I have mentioned before, it brought me close to ending my life.
That fact. That story drives me forward. It drives me to help others in similar situations. Those coming out. Those contemplating suicide. Those dealing with anxiety and depression. Usually, those all come together in a near-fatal package. It has become a central purpose in life to help those people.
Another reason is that we are potentially minimising the coming out process in the western world. In the UK, it has never been easier to be LGBT. We have more rights than ever before — more acceptance and support amongst the majority of the population. We are equal in law in more ways than ever before.
Many believe that coming out should be easier as a result. Most people don’t care if you are gay, they say. There is truth to that.
Except that coming out involves much more than merely telling people. The reveal of your sexuality is, in fact, the result of the process rather than the process itself. Coming out is instead a predominantly internal struggle. It is a struggle to square the circle that is being LGBT in a mostly hetero world. It is about overcoming the introjected values and conditions of worth that we have each built up throughout our childhood and development in a straight world.
Most of us grow up in a society where being straight is the norm. Most of the relationships we see are straight. Our married parents. The opposite sex partners of our siblings and friends. The songs, the films and the tv shows that predominantly feature hetero relationships. The teaching of all major religions… I could easily go on.
We are all raised in a straight environment. That leads to each of us introjecting values into yourself from society. These values teach us that being straight is the norm and deviating from that means we are abnormal. Abnormal things are rejected by society; therefore if you are not straight, you will be rejected. We learn and internalise this idea from a young age.
We want to live up to these introjected values, primarily if you are raised in a religious environment, and we create conditions of worth based upon those values. That means that the closer you feel you are living up to those values, the better you see your worth.
The issue arises when we feel we are not living up to those values and therefore feel worthless, a failure, ashamed or abnormal. That leads us to the Coming Out process with each of us having the belief that being straight is the norm introjected onto us by society at a young age. It is inevitable we will suffer an internal clash of identity and values when we realise we are gay.
Let it take the time it takes
That is why the Coming Out process needs to be treated with more respect and care than it sometimes appears to be. It is a process where an LGBT individual works through those introjected values and the conditions of worth attached to them. Hopefully, they will arrive at a point where they are proud of who they are.
It is at that moment that they may take the step of revealing to the rest of the world their sexuality. But no one should be outed by anyone else until that individual has reached that point.