Family Therapy Magazine’s featured article in the January/February 2013 issue, “Coming Out, Then Coming Together” by Dr. Eliana Gil, PhD., (http://www.aamft.org/imis15/Documents/website/JF13Singles.pdf) highlights Gil’s work with two lesbian women in their early 40’s who were struggling with a life transition as a couple. Through Gil’s use of expressive therapies, the women uncover some of their deeper fears, in turn creating the space for them to work through these fears together. The therapeutic work with Gil was clearly successful for this couple, but it was the description of the families that these women came from that highlighted how even those with the most loving, supportive and well-meaning families are still marked by our society’s pervasive homophobia.
For those of you that find your source of grounding and strength in your families-of-origin, ‘coming-out’ with your same-sex desire may be one of the first times you face the prospect of being truly stigmatized or disappointing to your loved ones. The fear of a negative, unsupportive reaction from the place in your world where you have felt your safest may have kept your same-sex desires from surfacing. When homophobia carries into your family, peer groups, community, and the greater world around you, its no surprise that many do not come out until later in life, if at all.
What message do you get from the family member who responds to your ‘coming-out’ by saying “What you do in your private life is no one else’s business” or “ I always had a feeling but I didn’t want to mention anything because I felt like it wasn’t really my place”? How do you differentiate between support and tolerance?
Sexuality exists on a spectrum, and is constantly in flux with all of the changes that occur over the course of your lifespan. You may fall anywhere along the line and there isn’t one point that is “normal” even though society has deemed that there is. Why would you (or anyone else) expect to want the very same thing as every other person every day of your life? Can you imagine being told that you must eat cheeseburgers every day at every meal and that desiring any other food would be considered “abnormal” or “disappointing”? Why is it that your same-sex desire is up for judgment by your family members, friends, community and society at large?
If you have learned to detach from your sexuality to keep your family happy, do you wonder where you channel this energy? Do you keep yourself distracted and hyper-focus on academic success, a career or your children? Do you get caught up trying to numb the feelings with drugs or alcohol? Do you suffer from bouts of depression or paralyzing anxiety? Are you struggling to accept an intimate partner when you haven’t learned how to fully accept yourself?
Cultivating self-acceptance, kindness, honesty and balance in your life can help reunite your lost parts into your everyday self. Are you able to embrace all of yourself?
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