Watching my niece and nephew coming into their teens reminds me of an aspect of coming out as bisexual, gay, lesbian, or queer. Imagine a heterosexual 12-year old girl who has her first crush on a boy. There are plenty of movies and books that describe the overwhelming powerful feelings, including the debilitating tongue-tied awkwardness. Then when a friend or family member discovers the crush, our heroine feels shame and embarrassment at having her feelings discovered; her desire is to hide and she may even refuse to talk about it. As this girl matures into her teens, she becomes more comfortable with her sexuality. She spends countless hours with her girlfriends giggling and talking about boys, learning to relate to the opposite sex until there comes a time when she no longer gives those awkward moments a second thought.
I believe that bisexual, gay, lesbian, or queer individuals that come out as being attracted to the same sex in adulthood often experience this period of awkwardness as well. In addition to the shame that can be associated with homophobia, these individuals may go through this same growth process of discovering that they are tongue-tied around certain individuals, mortified if another soul discovers their feelings. Accompanying this late rite of passage are the years of stifling messages from society that being attracted to the same sex is shameful, evil, wrong, and the list goes on.
My message for those that are in the process of coming out is to be patient with yourself and remind yourself that many heterosexual individuals have also gone through the growing pains of discovering their sexuality, albeit without the burden of homophobia. My message for straight allies and bisexual, gay, lesbian, or queer individuals that have been long been out, give your friends and loved ones that are in the process of coming out the time and space to explore their sexuality without the pressure of having it occur on your timeline.
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