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Coming Out Issues

Coming out issues

Identifying yourself as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and disclosing this to other people is often referred to as ‘coming out’.

During my specialist clinical work in Chennai (India), I had two very interesting scenarios of men coming out as gay. The first person had to come out as a gay to his wife. He is a man who knew he is a gay and had sex with multiple male sexual partners. Yet, he got married to satisfy his parents and get a social status but then was not able to perform sexually. While in the married relationship, he had an affair with another man which was found out by his wife and when questioned the man had no other choice and did come out as a gay. The story does not stop here. The wife has not only applied for a divorce and made a demand for big moneybut also filed a criminal case against him. Note, marital disputes are generally not criminal cases but because homosexuality is considered illegal/act of crime in India, this case has been filed as a criminal case. If this man had the courage to come out to his parents, then he could have avoided all the trouble that he and his parents are facing at present.

The second scenario is a man who knew he is gay from very early days (late teenage). His elder brother knew about this but thought it will go away over a period of time and did not discuss this with anyone. He lived in the US for few years where he had the best opportunity and support to come out as gay. Yet, he did not come out as a gay to his parents or any relatives/friends in India. His parents found a relative girl to get married to him and he too agreed for the marriage fearing coming out with his parents and disappointing them. After much struggle, a week before marriage when much of the arrangement was well underway, he had the courage to come out as a gay not to his parents but to the bride itself. This created anger, disappointment, restlessness between the two families and relatives. But, he is glad now that he did it rather marrying a girl and then having to fight the emotional and legal battle as we saw in the previous scenario.

The reason for giving the above two scenarios is for readers to understand that coming out is not an easy step and not a singular event. It needs a lot of courage to come out and face the consequences. Coming out is a challenging and confusing process and has the potential to create big mood swings. It is somewhat easy in a society that accepts homosexuality and has social support services to support sexual minorities. Whereas, in societies that does not accept/tolerate homosexuality it is not only difficult but also has legal consequences that could ruin a person’s career/life.

There are 4 basic steps that you could follow or be mindful during the process of coming out –

1)     Making sure you’re ready: Having time to fully come to terms with being a gay before coming out to others can mean you are more prepared to deal with any misunderstanding or prejudice you may face.Try and ask the question – “What if” and find answers to all possibilities. This means, you are ready to face any outcome.

2)     Choosing the right approach and time:Different approaches are right for different people, depending on their situation and relationship with the person they want to tell. In the 2 scenarios I discussed above, the timing of coming out (before / after marriage) had major impact on the individuals and families involved.

3)     Ready to face the reaction/outcome:Friends and family may not react in an understanding way, and relationships can be changed significantly. Coming out can sometimes result in loss of job which in turn can lead to financial hardship.

 

4)      Seek help: when you are not sure, seek professional help but make sure you seek the most appropriate health professionals.