It’s PRIDE month! How exciting! B. Well is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ community and so excited to have a month dedicated to being PROUD of who you are. As a coach, I have supported several clients in the process of coming out. According to Merriam Webster, “coming out” is defined as to emerge; become known. Though this phrase--“coming out of the closet”- is often used in reference to LGBTQ individuals, I have realized that we all have to “come out” at some point in our lives. I understand “coming out” to mean announcing who you are in spite of what other people expected, assumed, raised, or hoped you to be.
I remember my “coming out.” I was raised to be a member of the Church of Christ and for the first 20 something years of my life I lived and believed in very specific ways. As I grew and developed my personal relationship with God I realized that the denomination I was raised in was no longer where I belonged. My thoughts and beliefs about God were vastly different than the ones with which I was raised. The God I now believed in was much more vast than one denomination. I had changed. When I went home, I started to feel uncomfortable allowing people to think I thought, believed, and felt in ways that I did not. I sat in the pews and cringed at statements I once would have “Amen-ed.” It got hard to be “in the closet”. So finally, I had to tell my mother that the ways she taught me to think about God and religion were not working for me. It was a difficult conversation because she was genuinely concerned for my soul. She told me she would pray for me and she accepted my position. Then I had to “come out” to all my church friends who I grew up with; some were supportive, others were shocked, and many joined my mother in prayer. One thing I know for sure, “coming out” is hard and scary; however, I also know it is critical to living an honest and loving life.
Coming out is something that we all have to do in some capacity when we are part of a family, group, or organization with expectations for who we should be. We have to tell our family we don’t vote the same way they do, we have to tell our co-workers that we don’t agree with a widely accepted idea, we have to tell our spouses that we have changed and something that we both agreed to no longer works for us, we change denominations, we announce our sexual preference, we break traditions and rules so that we can be in alignment with the truth of who we are. Here’s a little information about why coming out is so important.
Coming Out to Yourself
Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true” and it is by far one of the hardest things to do. We often struggle to be honest with ourselves. Self-acceptance is something that is learned. As we are changing every day it is important to note that self-acceptance is constant. We have to accept ourselves every day. Many of us find it difficult to accept ourselves. Before we can tell others who we are, we must first admit it to ourselves. Admitting, “I am a gay woman” can be as hard as admitting “I don’t want to be married” or “the Catholic church is not my spiritual place” or “Everyone in my family thinks divorce is bad but I’m glad I got a divorce.” The first judgement we must overcome is our own. Be honest with who you are, and exhale. Love yourself in that very moment.
Coming Out to Others
Most people who are “coming out” in an area of their lives are experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort because they are trying to continue being who others want them to be. Many homosexuals talk about trying to be heterosexual (some even marry someone of the opposite sex) and how uncomfortable they were. Imagine how many Sundays I sat on the pews listening to sermons that insulted my very being before I finally said, “I can’t sit here anymore.” It took me a while to admit to myself that this place no longer served me; consequently, I had to inform people why they wouldn’t see me on those pews anymore. No, we don’t owe everyone an explanation for how we choose to live our lives, but for those with whom we want to have intimate relationships, honesty and transparency must be present. Once we finally get in alignment with ourselves, it is important to announce our truth to others if we have an expectation to be loved. Beautiful things happen when you show up honestly. I found support from people who I never knew felt the same way I did. I also learned more about the thoughts and beliefs of those who did not understand my choice. Guess what? With time, I learned that my mother altered some of her previous beliefs to be more inclusive of new ways of being. Look how POWERFUL it is to show up honestly!
Living Out Loud
Living out loud is a constant commitment to letting people know who you are. Often we find it easier to allow people to assume that we think and feel as they do, it is easy to remain closeted in certain areas of our lives when we don’t want to deal with conflict. Someone might be out to their family but not out to their co-workers; or out to their friends but not out to their family. The thing that keeps people in the closet is the fear of loss. We fear losing friends, family, opportunities, and spouses. However, if we keep people in our lives because we are pretending to be who they want us to be, then we are exchanging our very soul for a relationship. Being honest with ourselves allows us to find people, jobs, and communities that will genuinely embrace us. Mahatma Gandhi says, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” We experience harmony in our lives when we don’t have to hide ourselves. We can then be loved in spirit and truth.
If you need support in your coming out process, B. Well is here to love you as journey toward living out loud!
Dr. Adrianne R. Pinkney
Integrative Wellness & Life Coach