I have been thinking a lot recently about coming out and disclosure. The English Dictionary (1987) defines Disclose as: “1 to make known, 2 to allow to be seen.” There are as many gains and as many losses with regards to disclosing facets of our past or our present that may carry stigma.
Sometimes we are made to worry by external forces about what it would mean to disclose. We are often told by family or friends their concerns around us being open about different aspects of our lives or our identity. What they may overlook, is to be shut down from disclosing our needs is as stigmatising as the stigma they may be trying to protect us from. It causes a rift in our relationship with them; it makes their needs greater than our own.
To be open or closed about these aspects of our lives carries with it vulnerability and a heavy burden of shame. Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity”.
We know this every year by the increasing rates of those choosing to relieve their suffering through self-harm, or when life has become intolerable committing suicide.
I recall just before the summer being booked in my volunteer role for Keshet UK, being safe in my colleague’s car, driving up towards a Jewish Secondary School, a hard journey that took me back to my school days. I had to pinch myself to bring myself back into the present, remind myself it was summer 2015. In front of a group of students I told my story and what LGBT Pride means to me. The warm reception from the school told me life has changed somewhat since I went to school in the 1990’s. My question walking away from this experience is what were all those nerves about it is 2015 the world has apparently changed, hasn’t it? Why does my internalised homophobia still bubble away inside then?
More recently, I have both participated in and been an audience member of Let’s Talk About Gay Sex and Drugs. A monthly communication forum for anyone to come talk about how they perceive sex and drug use amongst the modern gay male community in London. What is beautiful about this evening hosted by Patrick Cash and supported by 56 Dean Street? It allows an open floor, an intimate environment and offers a place for people who may identify with having gay sex to connect and discuss the real issues. Every time I have attended I leave with a warm heart of people being authentic, about how creative our community can be.
National Coming Out Day was founded in the USA in 1988 by Robert Eichberg, a psychologist from New Mexico and founder of the personal growth workshop ‘The Experience’ and Jean O’Leary, an openly gay political leader from Los Angeles and then head of the National Gay Rights Advocates. The date of October 11 was chosen because it was the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. But in the UK we do not celebrate this.
For me disclosure or coming out is a choice, it is our right to decide whether or not to do so, but I do believe we sit in a position of ‘privilege’, of being able to have the strength and courage to disclose or come out. We provide a beacon of hope to those who still feel they cannot, and to those for whom it may still be unsafe for them to do so.
So the message I want to be leave you with is be kind to yourself, make sure you have the appropriate support in place, offer yourself some and others around you some compassion.