There’s an old joke, WASPs have lives, the rest of us have ‘lifestyles’. While I personally don’t love that mindset, I can not change how our society uses their words. If your “lifestyle” has a flag, you’ve likely had one of the most universal questions within our communities, “should I come out, can I come out?” Once that question has come to mind, a slew of others soon follow such as:
- Will people I care about understand?
- Will they treat me differently?
- Will I lose relationships?
- Will I lose my job?
- Will my life fall apart?
- Ultimately, all these questions are, will I be safe?
It would be a lie to say, “yes, you will be safe, nothing bad will happen to you.” First I don’t know you or your situation well enough, and I can never guarantee how others react. I can say these stressors lead to individuals being much more likely to experience significant serious mental health concerns. Fortunately there are ways we can work towards keeping ourselves safe, happy, and as out as we can be as our most authentic polyamorous, swinger, LGBT+, alternative faith / lifestyle selves.
It’s Not a Phase, Mom!
I don’t know, maybe for you it is. There are certainly examples of those that came into the polyamory, swinging, or kink world who did/not find what they were looking for and left. Even if it is not, coming out does have phases.
- Awareness. The moment you first question whether or not you should tell them, the stress of having a secret begins.
- Assessment. In this period, the person begins riding the cyclone of tell them / don’t tell them that can make a Rom Com writer envious. This can last moments to months. On one hand is all the (mental health) benefits of being free and authentic, on the other are the potential risks that can come with disclosure.
- Decision. Whether you made a weighted pros and cons list, had your tarot read, or asked a stray cat you’ve decided. Yes, No, or For-Now. Wherever you have landed, you have reflected on yourself and are now living an intentional life. Congratulations! Be proud of yourself. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living and you are most definitely living a more worth living life.
So Like, is there a Handshake or do I Rent a Billboard?
Aspects such as internalized homophobia, cis-heteronormativity, and religious abuse all weigh heavily on our ability to accept ourselves and attempts to be accepted by others. When we begin struggling with decisions of how we feel about and want to identify ourselves there are some helpful approaches.
- Find a community. The most insidious things we do to ourselves happen mostly in isolation. Finding out you are not the only one, learning about the struggles of others, and seeing their successes can be life changing. Also, the memes tend to be fantastic.
- Practice some self compassion. This looks like forgiving yourself, embracing challenge and growth like Lewis Robinson, expressing gratitude for yourself, and working on building mindfulness.
- Decide your level of ‘out’-edness. It’s not all or nothing, though any amount of out implies some risk
Be prepared to keep coming out like clowns from a tiny car. Even the most loudly out and proud individuals run into people outside of context that are not aware of how they lead their lives. Example:
One of these celebrities is RuPaul, most famous as the best dancer at the Love Shack (baby!) and being a defining icon in the LGBT+ world, the other is Lance Reddick, Fringe famous for not being LeVar Burton. Still, if you were picking peaches in Fredericksburg over the summer and either were next to you, would you realize? Another example:
Here we have Michael Jordan, notorious co-star from Space Jam and Nike Jumpman model pictured alongside self proclaimed photograph model and mad-scientist hair style innovator Albert Einstein. Can you guess which wrote to their wife, “one should do what one enjoys, and won’t harm anyone else” based on the belief that monogamy wasn’t natural for people? I bet you have a theory.
Simply, you may wind up explaining why you live and love the way you do almost as often as you argue about whether or not beans belong in chili. They do and I will die on that hill!
Coming out can be a scary process, it can also be exciting. Each little bit is a moment of self discovery that is building a bit more of yourself. Be patient with yourself and others. If you or someone you know is struggling with their identity and could use some support, feel free to contact me below for a free consultation.