Sunday, April 5, 2009

So You're Gay

What I want to talk about today is something that I have not particularly talked about here for quite a while -- "coming out" and the things that go along with it. I can give a personal story or something along those lines, but I'm sure it would be quite similar to most others. Rather, I'll give my observations on the act of coming out itself as I'm sure you will find that more useful and generic.

No person is able to be happy if they are not themselves. If you are living a lie, pretending to be straight if you're not, you will never be happy. Period. Your subconscious mind and your consciousness are not working in tandem. Equilibrium will never be achieved. Period. You can rationalize it and put it off for as long as you want, but you will not be happy until you address the problem.

At first you realize that your different than most people. But you don't understand why. Eventually you rationalize that you simply idolize certain people that you've begun to develop precursor infatuations for. I want to look like them. I want to live like them. I want to be confident like them. I want to be rich, exciting, charismatic, (etc.) like them. You don't understand sexual attraction to this person or persons. Based on the rules that you were taught as a child you are unable to classify it as sexual but rather classify it as envy, a feeling that you no doubt have dealt with as a child.

(Interestingly, those who are brought up in an environment where homosexuality is acceptable don't exhibit this feeling as much if at all because they have a basis on which to categorize their feelings.)

Eventually as months or years begin to tick away and you begin to understand that there are other types of sexualities, even subconsciously, you will begin to question who you are more and more. Internal and conscious belief in bisexuality is next. You stick to that old rule set you're brought up with (the one that dictates homosexuality as bad) and rationalize homosexuality (of which you still know little) into bisexuality. Homosexuality is still not comfortable, and indeed may not even be vocalized and certainly will not be acted upon at this point.

After a long period of soul searching and water testing you allow bisexuality to continue to slide. Eventually you accept that you are gay and you think that it's over. You'll be in for a surprise or two. You've only just begun. Even when you accept that it is true you are not ready to act upon it. Likely you couldn't even say it out loud to yourself. ("I am gay.") Even thinking about it is difficult because you still hold onto the belief that you may be straight. You know you're not somewhere, but it's not really sticking in your mind yet that the rules have changed.

Eventually you understand what you're subconscious mind and your body had been telling you all along and that society had been forcing you to disguise. You are gay. But you're not comfortable with it. You're not comfortable looking at others. Your not comfortable talking about it or even telling others that you are gay. You have to test the waters some more.

Time passes and pressure builds in your mind and you have to do something, you have to tell someone. You come to the conclusion that at some point you don't care anymore if your friends care or not what you are. You will come out to them. You've decided that their friendships are not worth living a lie to yourself. Equilibrium is further adjusted. But you're still as unhappy as ever.

Next can take a few directions. Indeed the last step could be later on as well. You may not tell your friends first. Generally, you tell those you trust most first. For most teenagers that turns out to be friends. For some it is family or a religious figure or teacher or neighbor or someone you are attracted to (etc.) Your continued coming out to the rest of the people you know can take any length of time afterward and is not necessarily complete before the next step is taken.

You feel comfortable where you are and who you are and you begin to look at other people in a sexual way. Perhaps for the first time, but not necessarily. At any rate it is for the first time in a meaningful way. You want something more than just staring. Over time this builds and you feel more secure in who you are and what you want. You feel more confident in your ability to seek out others.

Around this time you have to start figuring out a few things all of which have easy ways and hard ways. Unfortunately it isn't your choice really which one you follow. You may straight out begin flirting with everything that walks. Many do. Others don't. Others will stand back and try to find someone for certain that is also gay. It's a personality trait and nothing more. It is not a marker of progress in any shape.

Eventually you will find someone that you want and that wants you in return. Herein lies more complications. That person ideally will be along with their coming out at about the same amount. Then there is no complications. The further two people are apart in coming out the more difficult an actual relationship will be because the two people have different goal and different mindsets. The one that is ahead will not want to fall back into old habits and the one behind will not want to be rushed into something that they cannot yet understand or deal with. If the distance is great, disaster can strike, or nothing at all. The relationship may either explode causing great damage to the person behind or might fizzle out because the one that is behind is unwilling to stick their neck out yet because they haven't tested the waters of their sexuality enough to do so.

In the end, you find someone that you can be with and you are happy. The relationship may work out and you'll be happily ever after, but more likely than not it won't. Just because two people are emotionally set enough now doesn't mean that this is all that they need. They need to be compatible as well. Many times issues can arise if two people try to force something to work out of fear that they will never find anything else. Other times, issues can be worked out. Likely, you will have to date around. Many people never find a person to "settle down with" but the same is true with straight couples, so you shouldn't be discouraged.

Even in the relationship itself there are barriers to your happiness and success. But they should not be dealt with all at once and should not be determining factors as to whether one will put themselves out there initially or if they are to try a particular relationship. Most of these boundaries encircle sex, intimacy, and public interaction. For both men and women there is anxiety towards having sex for the first time and this anxiety plays an unnaturally large role in most people's lives before the actual act as there are numerous steps that must occur before that in a stable relationship. Rushing into sex, just as in heterosexual relationships can be disastrous to the relationship, particularly if it is your first time and even more so if it isn't your partner's. The same as with straight couples, think about the baseball analogy (1st base, 2nd base, etc.). There are stages and stable relationships by and large will have to meet each one in order, deal with the ramifications, remain stable, and then move on to the next base. Rushing runs the risk of failure for one's first time and especially in gay people depression regarding failures if you break up.

Granted, that is a safe approach. Others prefer to dive in head first. It is again the same aforementioned personality trait. You must be understanding of yours and of your partners' traits here, or you will fail. Either you could push too hard or they could if your personalities don't quite match. If you do match personalitywise (not matching not equaling incompatibility just difference) then you will not have this problem. Some people will go fast and be fine with it. Others will have to go slow, as described above. In couples where one person is one way and one is the other, the aforementioned consideration must be taken or else the relationship will fail. None of this is unique to homosexual relationships. It is true for everyone. In fact, heterosexual people will undergo much the same thought processes as gay people in regards to their first times.

Moving on from there, either your first relationship worked, which is very rare, or you have to look for another partner. Each subsequent time it becomes easier to engage in the relationship as you have to feel around in the dark less and less. You begin to understand yourself better and better. You will begin making goals for what you want and you will begin to understand the types of people to go for and the types of people to avoid. Again this is true about all sexualities. You may find someone that works quickly or slowly. Most people eventually find someone, if they don't get stuck along the way by trying to rush or not being able to complete one of the steps for one reason or another.

After saying all that, you shouldn't worry about the process. It WILL happen in its own due time. You cannot rush it. The human mind seeks equilibrium so you will always be moving forward and learning even when if feels like you are losing ground or failing. Nothing I've said is guaranteed to happen. It's different for everyone. Some things will happen in different orders. Sometimes extenuating circumstances will accelerate or slow down your own process. All we can do is understand that the only thing in common for everyone is anxiety. EVERYONE will feel lost. EVERYONE will feel strained and impatient, listless and anxious, fearful and scared, frightened and alone, but also resolute and defiant.

In the end you will find happiness in who you are not who you want to be. That won't stop you from trying to be the person you want to be, but you will be happier as you grow into that person. And remember, that coming out is not a one shot deal. It will happen to you every time you meet a new person. You will think about it. Every time. The difference is that you will feel increasingly comfortable doing it each time. Again, it takes time, but you'll get there in the end. No matter the place that you are at, you will have an easier time if you associate with people who are also gay be it in a club or a meeting or in your own life. That continued exposure helps you accept yourself faster and helps you to feel comfortable with new aspects of being gay faster and easier.

That's all I've got for tonight. It's not complete and it's not guaranteed. It's not a quick fix or a short cut. It is just my way of seeing it which is biased with my own opinions and position in it. You can make your own path. I've merely given one that makes sense to me.

As always,

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