Danette

Why This Mormon Lesbian Shouldn't Have Waited So Long to Come Out

At the age of 27, I announced my sexuality to family and friends: an agonizing decision, since my religious background (Mormon/Church of Latter Day Saints) does not agree with homosexuality. 

Though I was in adulthood when I came out, my teenage years bore many instances where my homosexuality shone through. I chose to ignore these; I dismissed them (or, to use another word, suppressed them) as something that would eventually go away and eventually be gone forever.

My lesbian sexuality, however, never disappeared.

While my suppression seemed to work throughout my adolescence — I was no longer a lesbian! (supposedly) — it did not last into my adult years. I got married to a good man and we had a daughter. After my baby was born, the combination of years of denying my true self and hormonal changes affected me in such a way that I could no longer ignore my sexuality.

I went through a difficult period of time where I isolated myself from my family and friends, most of whom follow my same religion. After I announced my lesbianism to those I cared about most, I had an intense feeling of abandonment. It was not a good time for me to finally release my sexuality and finally accept it myself — I’m unsure that there is ever a good time.

While I was now free from the burden I’d been holding inside for so long, I had a new burden that wasn’t much easier: I now had a family of my own, and I was scared to lose my husband as a friend and my daughter as my own. Many battles between my spouse and family ensued.

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I give you this background about my situation to offer some advice as an adult.

I will begin by saying, I doubt that coming out as a teen is much easier than it is to come out as an adult. It’s probably more difficult, in a sense, as you are finding yourself and discovering all that is within you.

Then again, for me, I believe if I had come out as a teenager, my family would have had an easier time with my announcement. Not that it was all roses — but it’s clear that coming out as an adult after having started a family caused more problems for me than, I feel, it would have if I would have done it when I was younger.

My point is: no matter when you decide to tell your friends and family of your sexuality, it can be difficult. But now, looking back as an adult, having suppressed my lesbian sexuality all throughout my adolescence, I need to tell you: suppression is not the best plan of action.

So here’s my advice: If you know your sexuality or gender identity, despite your religious beliefs or family values, be true to yourself and care enough for yourself to be open about who you are.

There is nothing wrong with being a part of the LGBT community. There is nothing more liberating than identifying and realizing that you are part of a great movement and society where you belong no matter how you feel or what your sexuality is.

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Sure, it’s easy to justify not coming out: people won’t understand, my family won’t love me, I’ll be made fun of. It is easy to shy away from that part of yourself by hoping it will go away or hiding it from yourself.

So, if you're struggling with what to do about your sexuality, coming out and finding the real you, I suggest you make a plan.

·       Decide when and how you’d like to let your family and friends – the people you care about.

·       Don’t wait too long to share it with others.

·       It’s okay to be selective with who you tell. Maybe you only want your parents, siblings, and best friend to know at first. Something to consider, though, is that the people you initially tell may share with others. While you can request that they not speak to anyone about it, be aware they may not honor that request.

·       Be prepared for the worst possible reaction. If you’re unsure how people will react, expect that absolute worst scenario. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a measure to prepare and protect yourself.

·       Consider counseling. If you don’t already have a therapist or counselor, it may wise to seek one out, preferably one with LBGT experience.

There is nothing wrong with expressing who you are and how you feel.  Be true to yourself and love yourself always — there is simply nothing better.

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

What Adults Can Learn from LGBT Youth

Recently, I attended a conference for the LGBT community. It was an enlightening experience and I encountered LGBT people of all ages and from all circumstances, including differences in race, home life, religious beliefs, and more.

I was most impressed, though, by the LGBT youth I met there. This is you

You are so strong and so bold to be living your life as authentically as possible. I suppressed my feelings about being a lesbian for many years and came out as an adult. You, however, have chosen to branch out, find yourselves and express your true self. It was simply inspiring to see such a strong group of young people.

I also met family members who fully supported their LGBT children of all ages in their life's journeys. I hope this is the case for you, too: that your loved ones treat you with respect and love you just as you are.

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Let me share a few things I, a lesbian adult, learned from you, an LGBT teen, at my recent conference visit.

1.   It’s okay to believe in who you are.

You’ve inspired me to be me and believe in that. I am a strong individual who can be like you and love myself. 

2.     I don’t have to be closeted and alone.

I watched so many LGBT youth at the conference interacting and forming new friendships. Not that you were in cliques, but you were loving and accepting of each other. I saw you being “out,” coming together, and making connection so you don’t have to be alone on your journey.

3.     Strength comes from within -- and it's infectious.

So many of you exuded strength beyond anything I have possessed. You encouraged and showed others how to be strong and how to share that strength so others can feel and grow from it.

4.     I can live happily in the LGBT community no matter how old I am.

I was so impressed how comfortable you were in your own skin. I loved watching your happiness and how it spread. It showed me that in my journey as an adult, I can be happy just the way I am ,and that many of you already are living happily just as yourselves.

In the end, I found that you, as youth, are a driving force in forging the LGBT community's way forward. You are strong, new pioneers opening up the way for many others to express their sexualities and gender identities.

You are the new generation who will lead and create a brighter future for us all.

 

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley / Flickr.

Looking for LGBTQ Youth Advice? 'THE IMPACT PROGRAM' Might Help.

As a part of the LGBTQ community, it is vital to find support from organizations and individuals, whether it be family, friends or for- and non-profit organizations. There are specific organizations that work with the wider LGBT community, as well as folks who worth specifically with you: LGBT youth. Searching on the web is a great place to start.

THE IMPACT PROGRAM at Northwestern University is just one of many awesome websites (besides Acts of Greatness!) that caters specifically to you as an LGBTQ youth. The Impact Program is a research-based organization that receives funding from major foundations such as the National Institutes of Health to find ways to improve LGBTQ health, as well as increase understanding about LGBTQ people in society.

That might sound a big heavy and boring, but trust me: Sites like this can provide a means of support you need from people who make it their job to understand teens.

On the Impact Program's site, you can learn about their studies on LGBT youth and sexuality, read their youth-centered blog that answers questions many LGBTQ youth have -- maybe even some you've had.  Like:

You can also participate in interactive media such as quizzes and videos, and create videos of your own to reach out to and encourage other LGBTQ youth.

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Websites like Acts of Greatness and the Impact Program can help you find your sense of self or help others while doing so. You’re not only learning but you can share your own experiences to serve other youth who are in similar situations and need support. 

So, why don't you take some time to check it out and see what it can do for you? 

 

Photo courtesy of The Impact Program.

4 Hard Truths about LGBTQ Self-Acceptance

As an adult lesbian, I’ve sometimes found it difficult to find self-acceptance. I don’t know if this is the case for you as adolescents coming into adulthood, but I imagine you have either been through this at some point or may be going through it now.

I wish I had all the answers as an older, wiser person, but the truth is, I don’t. I have, however, learned a few things along my way of coming out and growing into who I am. Here are some of them:
 

(1) It’s okay to dislike yourself -- as long as you work towards getting over it.

You might think this is counterproductive and kind of dumb. It came naturally for me and possibly you too. I learned that disliking myself for some time and because I didn’t fit in or was unaccepted by others actually caused me to have a better appreciation and greater self-love once I got over the initial self-hatred.

 

(2)  Feeling alone is normal.

Whether you’re approaching something new or coming out, it’s normal to feel alone at times. It can be very discouraging and sometimes it may even feel impossible to continue on solo. But there is some consolation for you: eventually your aloneness will be met with new friends, supportive family and organizations and other sources you never imagined. It's hard to trust in what you can't see, but take my word.

 

(3) You can’t change how others think of you. You can only change how you think about yourself.

 Others will form their own opinions about you and your sexuality. That’s okay. They are entitled to those opinions and no matter what you do, you cannot change them. You can, however, change yourself and how you view yourself as a person. Over time, you will learn to love yourself and see yourself as a valuable person.

 

(4) You may feel like giving up on yourself and others -- but it'll be worth it to stay strong.

At times, you might feel hopeless, worthless or even suicidal. Do not give up on yourself! You are worthy of living, a wonderful human being, and you deserve happiness. Also, don’t give up on others. They may be shocked, in disagreement with your life; however, they have the ability to come around and accept you just as you are. Don’t think because their initial reaction is negative that it will always be that way.

 

There are no words to describe the relief you will feel once you accept yourself as you are, even if some initial experiences can be momentarily painful. You are loved, valued and important as a future generation. You forge the way to more acceptance for all and to show it’s okay to be who you are and love it.

 

Photo courtesy of  lint machine / Flickr.