Gay Men’s Health – Coming Out
"Coming out" represents different things to different people. For some gay men, coming out is a liberating experience, giving them an opportunity to finally be open about the person they are. For other gay men, coming out is extremely traumatic, especially if they have come to associate being gay with negative and shameful feelings. In a heterosexual world, coming out of the closet gives gay men and lesbians an opportunity to be open about their sexuality and to let everyone know that they are attracted to members of the same sex. For most gay individuals, coming out is a step towards self-acceptance.
One of the challenges individuals face when coming out is the reaction they are likely to receive from friends and family. Some boys know from a young age that they are gay and are open about it and are accepted as they are by their relatives and their peers. For others, it isn’t so easy to be open, so that they try to repress their sexuality. Clearly, if you’re brought up in a religious household where homosexuality is regarded as a sin; it is understandable why you would be reluctant to be open about being gay. However, trying to repress your sexuality can lead to problems too.
If you don’t come out and instead try to repress your feelings, you could end up becoming depressed and anxious. If you do seek out other men, but try to keep your relationships a secret, this can add to the stress, especially if there is a chance your sexuality could be discovered by someone else. There will always be a concern that word could get back to your family and friends, and this almost makes it seem as though being gay is something to be ashamed of. Clearly, this is not the case, and there have been major steps in society to recognise that gay relationships are just as valid as straight ones.
Coming out opens up so many doors, because being openly gay gives the chance to enter into a civil partnership, so that you and your partner have the same rights as a straight married couple, whilst you can also have children if that is something you want. To hide in the closet basically means that you cannot accept yourself as you are, and so you end up missing out on the chance to lead a contended life as a gay man. If you are ambivalent towards being gay and try to avoid dealing with your sexuality, you may just be storing up problems for the future with regard to your mental health.
Of course, it isn’t always easy to come out, especially when it can affect the relationships you have with friends, relatives and colleagues. There is always the risk that being openly gay could count against you in the workplace and that you could be discriminated or bullied just because of your sexuality. You may also have concerns that being out and proud could be dangerous, especially if it increases the likelihood that you could become the victim of a violent attack. However, there is legislation in place which is designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace and to punish those who incite or commit violence against someone because of their sexuality.
You therefore have to weigh up the pros and cons of coming out. In a diverse, relatively tolerant society it is important to be honest about the person you are and so it is never too late to come out and to embrace your sexuality. It is always going to be tough, however young or old you are, but there are so many more experiences to be had when you’re open about being gay. There may be some people who are not happy that you’re openly gay, but that’s their problem. You are who you are, so why should you let other people’s prejudices grind you down and stop you accepting that whether you’re gay or straight all that really matters is that you’re happy?