Accepting the Gay Announcement
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)
19th September, 20130 Comments
‘Coming out’, or declaring one’s 'different' sexuality, is difficult and complicated. No-one has to declare that they like the opposite sex (i.e. heterosexual) - society assumes they do. So, accepting that you aren’t the same as most of your peers and family can be an emotional turmoil and takes strength of character - and to then have to announce it or to tell others about this very personal part of you can be frightening.
Even with increased awareness and lots of ‘ordinary’ gay soap opera characters and gay celebrities it is still challenging for the individual - and for their family and friends. Unfortunately, for family and friends there is a general expectation that the acceptance of people with different sexual attractions should be easy and almost immediate. Life is really not like that, and for quite a few parents and family members it still is a challenge.
A lot of focus has been placed on helping gay individuals who are confused about their feelings, and in time most come to accept who they are. Little support, however, is given to parents, siblings and friends who are expected, almost immediately, to accept a ‘different’ person to the one they thought they knew - a person that perhaps the coming-out individual has spent years learning to accept.
Usually acceptance isn’t normally instant, and because of this family and friends can suffer feelings of guilt, loss and shame. The fact that this is understandable doesn’t make it easier. Coming to terms with an announcement around sexuality can take time; sometimes, because of religious or cultural beliefs that have been part of the person's whole life, it can become almost impossible.
Learning that a child, sibling or friend is gay, lesbian or bisexual is like discovering that the person you knew is actually someone different - or, at least, feels like this. In fact, they haven’t changed; they are still the person you loved and cared for. They have just comes to terms with a part of themselves and have made a decision to share this with you.
There may be a sense of mourning for the loss of what society still sees as the ideal - a wedding and grandchildren, or nephews and nieces. There may be guilt - "what did I do wrong and what will the extended family and neighbours think?". Anger is also not unusual - "How could they deceive me, let me think of a future that wasn’t to be or do things behind my back?".
All of these feelings are normal. Sometimes they can be worked through by talking to the person who has ‘come out’; sometimes talking to others in the same situation can bring about a normality or even a realisation that the end of the world is not actually nigh. In some situations there may be a need to talk to a professional, such as a counsellor, so that one can explore one's feelings without judgement.
Remember, few are lucky enough to just accept the coming-out announcement with no shame, anger and confusion. It will take time and may be difficult to adjust; but you have the control and you are the one to decide the way forward. Just don’t lose a son/daughter or sibling or friend because what they have told you is not within your normal comfort zone.
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