Coming Out While Married

One of the most challenging situations to come out in the midst of is a heterosexual marriage.  Add children to the mix and the guilt can be excruciating.  This is not a rare occurrence I have discovered, so how does one deal with all the ensuing pain and guilt?  And how do you create a new lesbian or bisexual lifestyle and still maintain your straight friendships and close familial ties?  There is no simple answer, but the best advice I can offer is to join an LGBTQ or divorce support group, and find a gay-friendly therapist or coach, because girlfriend, you are in for a journey.  In the best of all worlds, sign up for all of the above and see what works best for you.  You cannot have too much support at this time!
 
Recently I have been meeting women who understandably afraid to leave their marriage nest, and some who are in the midst of a painful separation, finding it difficult to say goodbye to their old life.  It requires great reserves of strength to give up the life you’ve known and venture out like a vagabond into unknown territory.  You may feel that you don’t have the right to bring your children on such a “selfish adventure.”  You may tell yourself all sorts of unkind things, but be assured that honoring your true nature is not a selfish act.  It is the trailhead to discovering your true path and purpose. Only by being true to ourselves can we begin to be truly there for others and really make a difference in the world.
 
Take heart that I’ve also spoken with many women on the other side, who have created a wonderful new life for themselves, but it took time and a commitment to the goal of finding deep connection, love and intimacy within relationship.  Sometimes it helped to know that by being true to themselves they were teaching their children how to do the same.  Being a role model to your children, the neighbors, the world is a very powerful framework from which to gain strength.
 
Sometimes we may feel the “vagabond adventure” would be too disruptive of our children’s lives, but people get divorced all the time and manage to cope with overturning the apple cart.  Sometimes we do not have the financial independence to leave.  We may be dependent on our husband, particularly if we have been staying at home and raising the children for years. We may feel we won’t be able to provide for ourselves or our children sufficiently if we venture out on our own.  What steps can you take to help prepare for your journey now?
  • Do you want to learn some new skills to be able to provide for yourself and your children if you have been dependent on your husband?
  • What laws do you need to research in terms of child custody to make you feel safer about being able to keep your children?
  • What kind of emotional support system do you need to have in place to come out?  Is there someone you can tell that you know will love you no matter what?  What if you were to start there?
  • What physical support system do you need in place?  Do you have some place to go in case you need to leave your home?
No matter what your situation is, if you don’t have a system of support right now, take the time to build one up.  If you can talk with a friend, and find a way to meet other lesbians, this will help.
 
I have heard many women on their path to coming out lament that they are “Too old to be coming out.”  Know that there are women in their 50s, 60s and beyond that are still learning about their sexuality, sometimes after a husband has passed away or after the kids went away to college.  There is no such thing as being too old to come out and the advent of online dating makes it easier to find women in your age range, even if you are in a smaller town.  (You may have to drive a few miles to meet them!)   
 
Embrace this change in your life as though it were your next adventure (it is!), even if it feels horrible at times and you wish that you could wave a magic wand and be straight again.  It is life’s surprises that are the opportunities causing us to grow the most.  
Advertisements

Preparing for your “Leap of Faith”

Most of us are divided on the issue of being “special.”  On the one hand, we want to be unique, and on the other hand we want to fit in with the rest of the crowd.  The need to fit in dates back to our early tribal ancestors and is not to be taken lightly; if you were an outcast in those times you would not have survived. When we take the risk to come out, we are rubbing up against our primordial need to be loved and accepted by our clan.  We are risking exclusion.  Logically we know as adults that we have the means to survive without our families if needed, but it is nevertheless a scary step to take.  If we are still a youth, we may risk being kicked out of our homes, or bullied.  Even as adults we may be dependent on a husband or other caretaker that we now risk losing, particularly if we have been staying at home and watching the children for years. We may feel we won’t be able to provide for ourselves or our children sufficiently.

What can you do to develop multiple streams of support and take steps to grow your network of allies?

  • Reach out to gay people who you know and respect.  Ask if you can speak confidentially with them about your situation and ask what resources they found helpful when coming out.
  • You will likely be able to find a gay-friendly therapist in your area.  Social workers these days are trained specifically on issues of diversity and inclusion, which includes the LGBTQ community.
  • Find a support group.  In New York, Identity House offers coming out groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.   There is nothing as healing as being with other people who are going through the same thing as you.  You can laugh, cry and share your mutual struggles. I have also found internalized homophobia dissolves in the presence of a group of women whom you love and respect that are also coming out.
  • As a coach, I am here to talk if you need additional support.  I host an inexpensive and completely confidential Coming Out Group that meets in Brooklyn, New York, and am putting together a group via phone so women from anywhere in the United States can call in. Contact me at Jan@lifeaftertherapy.com if interested.

We do have to make a leap of faith to come out, but rather than rely on total trust that we “leap and the net will appear,” we can take steps to build a web of information, skills and support to make our landing pad soft.  Realize that just taking a few steps means you’re already on your journey–be proud of yourself for your bravery.

What is the antidote to the fear of being different?  Sharing your story with others who can relate. Relishing in the very differences that make you unique.  There is no one like you.  Share below what makes you unique and tell us your story!

In closing, I had a mixture of difficult times and great support when I came out. I was bullied in high school for it and the thing that kept me strong was knowing that I was helping to change the world.  By bravely stepping forward and claiming who I am, I was showing others that they could do the same. Teegan and Sara have released a new song on bullying, which I thought I would share. How will your coming out make things right?  How will it change the world?

Enjoy building your net!

Teegan and Sara

Oh Come all Ye Faithful: Grappling with Religion and Coming Out

Pope Francis made headlines and waves soon after he took office when he made the statement “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized.”  (The “they” he is referring to is of course homosexuals.)

It can be particularly challenging to come out if we have been raised in a religion that does not accept our sexual orientation.  In fact, it causes many of us to leave the religion in which we were raised as we no longer feel supported, accepted and nourished by it.  Even if we were not raised in a particularly religious family we cannot have lived in this world without being influenced in some way by religious belief.  We take heart however, that many (if not most) of the worlds religions seem to be evolving away from hatred and exclusivity into a more welcoming stance of love and inclusivity when it comes to sexual identity and orientation, as witnessed by Pope Francis and numerous churches now allowing gay marriages and even pastors.

The religions that are desperately trying to cling to the old way of thinking are afraid of change, and (IMHO) it is better to be understanding of this than angry.  Change can be very frightening for us all, and yet it is a necessity of life and is one of the most beautiful things about the world we live in; Imagine a world of caterpillars with no butterflies. Metamorphosis and growth are basic laws of the universe; it is built into our DNA.  For those drawn to fundamentalist religion, the world can be a tricky place to navigate since they must face many contradictions within their religious texts and explain many outdated (sinful) sounding passages that propose things like taking people from neighboring countries as our slaves and stoning a girl to death if she lives with her father and is not a virgin.  But for the fundamentalist, change is too scary to face, and we may just be the biggest lesson staring them in the face. Sometimes if human beings are not forced to change, we stay within our comfort zone.  Life within that comfort zone does not allow us to stretch and grow as we were meant to do.  We are here to explore, play and expand!

How does understanding all of this really help us if a relative or someone we are close to insists on using religion as a reason to condemn our lifestyle?  If we approach them with the attitude of wanting to change their belief system we will surely end up with much ramming of horns. The first question we must ask ourselves is “Do I accept myself completely?”  If we do not accept ourselves, then we cannot expect others to accept us, and so we must practice self-love before all else.  Next, we must practice allowing the other person to evolve at their own pace, and accept where they are in their journey.  By accepting our religious zealot friends and family we may find that they will eventually become less judgmental of us.

I would love to hear your stories of how you have dealt with religious oppression.  (Please respond below.)

In closing, from the spiritual perspective I often turn to Abraham Hicks as a resource.  This is amazingly powerful if you watch it through until the end (9 mins): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_c7NWWiUnk

Peace and joy to all this holiday season!

Jan

Coming Out for the Holidays?

It’s the time of year when we frequently gather with family for the holidays.  Sometimes we’d rather be with our chosen family than our birth family, largely because we feel we can be more authentic and real.  Often times, we’re asked questions from dear old Aunt Margaret or Cousin Keisha that we may consider nosy, but that’s usually because there’s something we’re trying to hide.  Questions like “Who are you dating?” and “You’re not seeing anyone, a pretty girl like you, what’s wrong with men these days?” can be mildly uncomfortable to excruciating.

Some of you who have accepted your identity but not shared it with others, may be considering coming out for the holidays.  There’s no better way to shut them up at the dinner table than waving a rainbow flag and proclaiming “Aunt Margaret, I’m gay!”  That’s not usually quite the way it works out in reality, of course.  Sometimes we come out by directly announcing that we are gay, and sometimes we choose subtler, but also direct ways of coming out.  What’s your particular style?  Do you want to proclaim it or pass it off as normal conversation?  Here are a couple of scenarios, but the possibilities are endless.

Scenario 1:

Aunt Margaret: “So Jan, who are you dating these days?”

Jan: “Oh, well I’m not seeing anyone seriously, but there’s a girl I like at the Food Co-op I work at in Park Slope.”

Aunt Margaret:  “Oh my, I didn’t know you liked girls.”

Jan: “Me neither, until recently. I guess I always kind of knew…Do you mind passing the gravy?”  (Depending on how close you are with Aunt Margaret, less could be more.)

Scenario 2:

Aunt Margaret: “So Jan, who are you dating these days?”

Jan: “Oh, well I’m not seeing anyone seriously, but I’ve been meaning to tell you all something for awhile now. I’m a lesbian.”

Aunt Margaret:  “Oh my, well what a time to tell us at Thanksgiving!”

Jan: “Well, no time like the present they always say.  And besides, you did ask.”

Which way feels best?  Of course Aunt Margaret could react favorably or unfavorably in either situation.  Your chances of getting a favorable reaction is better when you go into it with as positive an attitude as you can muster, and expect a good response.  There are of course no guarantees, and you need to respect that they may need time to adjust.  Also curious for any transmen out there, how would coming out for you look different?  They may have already adjusted to the fact that you are a woman loving women, but adjusting to you as a man may take even more time.  What do you think is the best way to present this?

Whether you’re ready to come out this holiday or not, write about your favorite scenario in the comment box below!  For those that have already come out, let us know what worked for you.

If you need support, feel free to reach out: Jan@LifeAfterTherapy.com

Warmly,

Jan

Is it the right time for me to come out?

Is this the right time for you to come out?  First ask yourself, do I know that I am lesbian, transgender or bi-sexual?  If you are still deciding, that’s fine.  If you never land on one thing, that’s fine too!  If you don’t know exactly how you identify, you may want to come out as questioning, which is the “Q” in LGBTQ.(Some also say the Q stands for “Queer.”)

Next ask yourself, am I safe?  Some countries have laws against homosexuality. Some states in the U.S. may still have sodomy laws that never got wiped off the books, but it’s not illegal here. Some families are abusive, or might kick you out of the house.  Ensure you have some place to go (a back up plan) if things don’t go as you would like.  Make sure you have some type of support if possible before coming out to family.  Is there any one you know who is gay or any type of gay or trans community where you live where you can make some connections and have conversations with others similar to you?

Can I support you by giving you a place to voice your story, your opinion?  Can I coach you as you’re deciding if this is the right time to come out and to whom?  Whether you think you are lesbian, bi or trans (f2m), I would like to offer you my support as you go through the coming out process.

Contact me for a free phone session:

Jan@LifeAfterTherapy.com

I also offer in person (for those in NYC) and tele-support groups (for those in the U.S.)

Let’s talk!

Coming Out at Such a Tender Age

Coming out is a long road.  In reality, we come out again and again throughout our lives, whenever we start a new job, or join a new group.

This Youtube video is a must watch. I cried — in a good way — that (s)he could come out as transgender at 8 yrs old:

I came out to my parents at 14 years old, which is the youngest I have heard within my particular lesbian circle of friends. (And in Oklahoma!)  But in some ways I had it easy, my mom found my girlfriend’s love letter to me, which she believes I “accidentally on purpose left out” for her to find. Many people were supportive, others were not, and when I came out to my entire school several years later, I was bullied quite badly.  A teacher who hadn’t taught me, but could see how difficult it was for me because she saw people taunting me in the halls, approached me and said “I just want you to know I support you.”  That meant the world!

I came out in the 80s. Apparently today new records are being set for the age kids are coming out.  But there are still many of us struggling, and sometimes coming out later in life is even more difficult.  Think about it, you’ve been living a certain way for so long so it’s going to be that much more difficult for you to get used to seeing yourself in this new light (or new identity),  and for your family and friends to see you differently.  When we come out, we have to be patient with the people we come out to — we have lived with this news awhile and we must give them the same amount of time in some cases to get used to it.  Many will surprise us and accept it right away.

What is your latest Coming Out Story?  Who do you still want to come out to but you haven’t yet mustered the courage?  How do you plan to do it?

Whatever way you do it, make sure you’re ready and have the proper support.  Finding some type of community whenever possible can be a good first step.

Write in the comment box below!  I want to hear from you.