A former Love in Action client recently e-mailed me. Now an out gay man with a delightful partner whose family is supportive of the couple, (although his own father is not yet), he told me that he experiences unexpected difficulties.
I think I’m trying to sabotage my happiness, because I believe that I don’t deserve this love that I found. I can’t believe I’m (sa)ying this, because I thought I had left all of this behind. It’s coming out in all sorts of ways….panic attacks, some violent, dark thoughts, obsessing, because i’m having dark thoughts….it’s a vicious cycle, and i want to put an end to it.
In response I wrote something like this:
There are some big myths both in some churches and parts of the “gay community”
The classic Christian testimony is that before Christ, someone’s life is a mess, lost in sin and despair, apart from God. They give their heart to Jesus and experience a new life filled with joy and peace and purpose.
The classic coming out scenario is that before coming out, life is a mess, lost in shame and fear and self-loathing, apart from the true self. They come out and experience a new life filled with joy and peace and fabulous parties. (A trans male friend of mine says that there can be similar a similar myth for some folks whose choose to have sex reassignment surgery).
Okay, these are stated simply, but you get the point.
Both are bullshit (pardon my language)
These life changing events can bring much joy and peace, but both the old feelings and situations exist and new feelings, difficult feelings arise. Coming out is a long-term experience and happens in phases and can be tumultuous, particularly if someone attempted to suppress same-sex attractions and gender differences for years. Once out, we still have the same old things to deal with–family, fears, doubts, etc.
In my play about my ex-gay experience I compare the coming out narrative to Lazarus after Jesus raises him from the dead and liberates his friend from the tomb. The recently resurrected man stands still wrapped up in the binding and blinding grave clothes. Jesus says, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” thus asserting that the coming out experience is not a solo act but takes the hands and hearts of others in our lives to help us to become whole. (It takes a village…)
Being out and being whole are two different things. Some come out and leave it at that, but that is the first step of a larger journey. Just like some get “saved” and leave it at that and never develop a spiritual life. Coming out (or embracing oneself, being real, transitioning or whatever the change experience) does position someone where s/he can better face the challenges of life, the past and the future.
So it makes sense that you feel loads of stuff right now that seems contrary to the life you have finally allowed yourself to enjoy. We are encoded with superstitions, doubts, shame and fears that the church, family and society handed down to us. These bitter gifts get woven into our brains and emotions and needs to be undone. (a lot like racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia). Part of the work is to undo the damage internally–exhange those bitter gifts (even if you don’t have the receipt).
Do not conform to the patterns of this world–you are bad, you can’t possibly be happy, you grieve God, something terrible will happen–but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
Let’s shatter those myths and demonstrate a new construct that we can model for the wider world desperate to come of their own closets. (yeah, often straight folks live in closets too).