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Tips for Coming Out

Tips for Coming Out

By Kyla Winlow, LCSW

Coming out is a journey. I definitely experienced the rainbows and joys of living my truth by coming out. But there were also some cloudy days and stormy weather along that path. Here are some tips I have picked through my journey:

  • First, I want to take away the pressure of needing a name or label for this part of you. You don’t need to identify as gay, lesbian, queer, pan, bi, asexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, or any other term. Sexuality exists beyond labels for it. You can decide what language to use or not use—maybe coming out is introducing your partner as your partner with no need/desire to label it.
  • Have support! Maybe you have a close friend or family member who you know will accept this part of you with open arms, or you might find support via an online community. You need to know that you are not alone and that someone has your back.
  • Before coming out, consider if you are dependent on anyone who you are going to come out to, such as family members, a spouse/partner, or a boss. Coming out could impact your finances, employment, health insurance, housing, or tuition. If coming out might affect these parts of your life, create a backup plan.
  • Be prepared for an array of reactions. Just as our sexuality is a journey for us, it can be a process for our loved ones, as well. Sometimes, a friend or family member grieves the loss of what they expected our lives to look like. Though this can be painful for us, this is not about us—this is about them and their process. Unfortunately, people may respond worse than needing time to grieve. Some of us will lose family, friends, or communities. One of the scariest reactions can be violence—we cannot ignore the statistics of hate crimes against the LGBTQIA community.
  • Consider safety. Does this situation feel safe? I’m talking about that gut feeling in your stomach. Listen to that vibe or those hairs that are standing up on the back of your neck. It might not be the time to hold your partner’s hand as you walk down the street in a place that does not feel safe. THIS IS YOUR CHOICE. You get to decide in what situations you want to share this piece of you and in what circumstances you think that it is best that you don’t.
  • If it’s not just a matter of your safety; if you don’t know if you want to be outed or seen as different, I’d encourage you to consider the other side of this coin. Imagine if you saw more queer people showing each other affection when you were younger. How might that have felt for you? I think it would have helped me feel less alone and different. Unknowingly, you may be offering support to someone who needs it by outing yourself or by letting yourself be seen.

In closing, coming out is as unique as our individuality. People often ask me if their experience or journey is typical, and the answer is yes! Whether you came out when you were a young child, if you came out later in life, or if you are still contemplating the decision to come out, you are normal. That was and is your journey. Honor it because it brought you to where you are today.

If you liked this post and want additional advice on coming out, you can read Tips On Coming Out at Work.  If you or a loved one need any assistance with this process, you can check out our fantastic LGBT therapists, read more about LGBT counseling, or contact us to make a counseling appointment.

Need some more resources? Looking for ways to connect with the LGBTQ community? Check out some of these links:

https://www.hrc.org/resources/resource-guide-to-coming-out

https://diversity.utexas.edu/genderandsexuality/publications-and-resources/

https://www.genderbread.org/

https://www.glaad.org/

https://www.equalitytexas.org/

Photo by Greg Nunes on Unsplash

Being Yourself is Enough

Being Yourself Is Enough: LGBTQ+ Edition

By Kyla Winlow, LCSW

“Being enough” is a theme throughout Brené Brown’s books. One quote from both Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfections that always resonates with me is, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It has become a mantra for me in many areas of my life including my identity as part of the LGBTQ+ community.

I often hear people talk about their experience of feeling like they don’t fit into a community. I hear things like, “I am not feminine enough, masculine enough, gay enough,” and the list goes on. Where do these messages come from? Sometimes they come from within the LGBTQ+ community, sometimes from the outside world, and sometimes from us. I grew up feeling like I didn’t fit in, especially not in the LGBTQ+ community.  I often received feedback from people confirming that belief-they would say, “Well, you don’t look gay.” Or “But you’re pretty!” The pretty comment really ruffles my feathers but that’s a whole separate blog post. This led me to explore how I want to express myself to the outside world. Should I only wear flannels (I do love flannels) or can I still wear dresses sometimes? Should I only have short hair?

Should I have a more masculine presentation? Or maybe a more feminine one? Here’s what I have discovered and continue to discover: I am the perfect amount of queer-I am enough. And you are too. Other people’s expectations or understandings of what we should look like are exactly that-their own expectations. YOU get to choose what makes you feel like the most authentic version of yourself. You don’t have to try to fit into any box.

Here are some things that continue to help me settle into and flourish in my identity:

  • Notice. Notice what makes you feel your best. This can change day to day. This is also an opportunity to bring some mindfulness into daily activities: What are you feeling as you get ready for the day? What makes you feel that you are being true to yourself? What are the stories you are telling yourself: Are you making decisions based on what you want or what you think other people expect?
  • Accept. Accept whatever it is that makes you feel your best. This is important. If you feel like your authentic self when you are strutting your stuff in heels and a dress then give yourself permission to accept that piece of you. Again, this can be an opportunity to invite some mindfulness into the moment. One technique I use is pausing to place a hand on my chest, take a deep breath, and offering myself acceptance. “I am enough,” or “I accept this piece of me.”
  • Do It. Do what brings you joy. When you accept yourself for who you are today, in this moment, you allow yourself to be free. And remember, whatever you are doing is enough. You are enough.

If you liked this post, you might also like our post on Tips For Coming Out At Work or What’s Next After Marriage Equality?

If you feel that we could be of assistance to you or a loved one, do not hesitate to contact us to make a counseling appointment or get more information about LGBT counseling on our dedicated page.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

What's Next After Marriage Equality?

What’s Next After Marriage Equality?

by Adam Maurer, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, LGBT and couples therapist

A Peek At The Gay Agenda

After a wonderful pride week, we wanted to take a closer look at LGBT issues.  We have a great deal to celebrate this year.  Last June the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is now the law of the land.  Same gender loving folks are able to get hitched in every state, even those big square ones in the middle where birds drop from the sky because there is nothing for them to perch on for miles; I want to say Oklahansas?  And while this is a momentous occasion, one that will be remembered for all of American history to follow, we still have a long way to go to bring equality to our nation.

It would be tempting to stop advocating for equality.  In my own life, my marriage to a hot little biscuit ( also known as my husband) is now legal in Texas.  The siren song of Netflix could easily entice us to cozy up on our couch with our pooch and enjoy each other.  We both work for organizations that are LGBTQ+ affirming and most unsupportive fiends and family have long left us to our “sinful lifestyle.”  (Side note:  A sexual orientation is not a “lifestyle”, being a Jimmy Buffett “Parrot Head”, that is a lifestyle.)  All in all, it would be comfortable for him and I to enjoy a quiet life far away from the daily injustices that continue in our queer community.  And though it sounds wonderful, it wouldn’t be.  There are too many people in my tribe suffering to be complacent, so let’s look at some of the areas where we still need to advocate for our community.

Work

LGBTQ+ people in Texas, and many other states, lack protection from workplace discrimination.  According to the Human Rights Campaign’s website:

There is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination; there are no state laws in 29 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 32 states that do so based on gender identity.  As a result, LGBT people face serious discrimination in employment, including being fired, being denied a promotion and experiencing harassment on the job.

This is a great burden for our tribe.  For a moment, imagine how productive you might be in your workplace if you had to choose between constantly hiding a part of yourself, or living authentically all the while knowing that you’re risking your livelihood.  And for people reading this who are thinking: “yeah, but I don’t tell my co-workers about the sex I have, why do LGBTQ+ people want to flaunt it,” please consider this:  Every time you tell a story about what you did on the weekend with your spouse and kids, you are flaunting your sexuality.  When you hang up the new Christmas photos of your family in your cubical, you are flaunting your sexuality.  When you bring your wife or husband to the company picnic, you are flaunting your sexuality.  Sexuality is about much more than sex, it is about relationships.   

Gender identity has even less workplace protections in our country.  The lack of protections for gender non-conforming individuals forces them to be invisible, risk harassment or worse, have no income.  For a moment consider what gender you identify with, now think about what it might feel like to be told you must present as a gender other than yours while at work.  Would it be uncomfortable, humiliating, unnatural?  How easy would it be to close a deal at the office while caged in clothing that does not reflect a basic facet of who you are?  What effect might that have on your self-worth?   What would happen to your productivity at work? It does not take much imagination to begin to understand what gender non-conforming people face in many workplaces.

As long as people can be denied an income for simply being their professional selves in the workplace I cannot stop advocating for equality.  There is a need for a federal law that classifies sexual orientation and gender identity as protected groups from discrimination in the workplace.  We need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  This is only one area where we need to have a change happen.  LGBTQ+ youth need our support as well.

LGBTQ+ Youth Homelessness

Being a young adult is tough.  Teenagers try to develop their own identities and ways of interacting with the world while still being under the rules of their caregivers.  Once a person turns eighteen years old in our society, that person is legally considered an adult and caregivers are no longer responsible for their needs.  Many young adults continue to depend on their families (emotionally, financially) as they launch into college or a career.  This is true for some LGBTQ+ youth, but unfortunately many queer youth are not able to remain with their caregivers because of their queer identity.  LGBTQ+ youth are either forced out of their homes by families who are not accepting; or they run because of mental, physical, and/or emotional abuse they face in their home just for being themselves.  The Williams Institute estimates that 40% of homeless youth identify as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. (http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Durso-Gates-LGBT-Homeless-Youth-Survey-July-2012.pdf)  Once a youth is on the streets, their world becomes about survival instead of thriving.  Youth may turn to having survival sex, ie: sex work or offering sex for food and shelter as a way to remain alive.  Survival sex puts people at risk of STIs, abuse, and a prison record.  All things that make it difficult to launch into adulthood.  At a time when most kids are learning and growing into a productive member of society these LGBTQ+ youth are fighting for their lives.  It is easy to understand why my husband and I cannot shut ourselves into our comfortable world when people from our community are suffering.  We need to figure out ways to help these youth deal with their situation in the moment, while providing a path for them to utilize their full potential.  Luckily, Cindy Lauper, yes the famous singer from the 80’s and wrestling manager for Captain Lou Albano, has already started a non-profit called “From 40 To None,” (http://fortytonone.org)that focuses on this very issue.  There is also The Ali Forney Center (http://www.aliforneycenter.org) which works to provide LGBTQ+ homeless youth services that allow them to have a safe space to finish the business of growing up.  With some ground work already laid out in New York, there is a plan to help our queer youth here in Texas.

Workplace discrimination and LGBTQ+ youth homelessness are not issues that are neatly contained within one part of a person’s life.  In therapy, I often help clients consider how marginalization impacts their whole functioning.  How well might a child concentrate in school if he continual worries that his family will disown him if they find out he is gay?  How much energy might a partner have to listen to her wife’s concerns about their children when she’s spent a great deal of energy passing as straight in her office?  Part of being an effective therapist for the LGBTQ+ community is understanding what social issues they face, processing the impact of those issues on a client’s concerns, and advocating for social justice.  So this Pride, I will not only hold my head up a little higher as I celebrate our recent victories, but I will connect with my tribe so we can continue the work we have ahead of us.  Netflix will just have to wait as we advocate for those without a voice.

If you or someone you know is looking for an LGBT Therapist, do not hesitate to contact us to make a counseling appointment and we will be glad to connect you with one of our LGBT counselors! If you would like more information about what the process entails, you can read more about LGBT counseling. If you liked this post and want more LGBTQ resources, you can read Being Yourself is Enough.

Photo by Stanley Dai on Unsplash

Tips On Coming Out At Work

Tips on Coming out at Work

by Adam Maurer, Just Mind LGBT therapist, LPC, LMFT

Some people will never have to come out at work.  One sashay to the copier and the whole office seems to give each other knowing glances.  Except for Phyllis, the woman from payroll who ALWAYS leaves the break room wreaking of broccoli and fish.  No one has made eye contact with Phyllis since she accidentally sneezed while helping Bob blow out the candles on his birthday cake.  But I digress; while some inner divas will blow the office closet’s door off its hinges, the rest of the LGBTQ+ community has to develop a strategy to come out in the workplace.

The first step to coming out at your job is to consider the culture of your workplace.  Does the company offer partner benefits or does every officemates’ family photo include a wife, a father and 2.5 children?  The State of Texas does not protect LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination; so consider how much money you might need to save to be financially stable if you are fired.  It can be helpful to think about which coworkers might have a difficult time accepting you and prepare for any conflicts that may arise.  Some folks who enjoy the privileges that come with heterosexuality may not understand why your sexual orientation needs to be discussed at work.  This coworker typically doesn’t realize that when he drones on and on about his weekend trip to the hardware store with his wife, he is discussing his sexual orientation.  You may be the first LGBTQ+ person to reveal your minority status to a colleague, so ready yourself for whatever questions they may conjure up.  It can be helpful to consider what subjects you are comfortable talking about and what topics may cross your boundaries. When people have their first interaction with the LGBTQ+ community they may not be familiar with the accurate terms to use, or they may expect you to speak for all people under the rainbow.  This may present the opportunity to help coworkers understand new perspectives, but know that you are not obligated to be the ambassador for all things LGBTQ+. 

So, let’s say that your workplace seems pretty accepting and you feel ready to come out.  All you have to figure out now are the logistics.  There are many ways to come out at work so think about what works for you and consider the culture of your company.  Some people like to do it like a band-aid, one quick action and it is done.  In a tight-knit working environment personal announcements are often made at weekly meetings, providing a platform to share with everyone at once.  If coworkers share things such as illnesses, pregnancies or engagements during these meetings, it might make sense to share your news with everyone this way too.  This method might be too bold for some folks.  Another means of coming out is to simply put up a photo of a partner and wait for coworkers to inquire.  (A work-friendly LGBTQ+ website left open on your computer can be substituted for a significant other.)  If news travels quickly at your job, one nosey cubical neighbor can break the story for you.  Some people find it easier to first identify a potential ally at work and then come out to that person.  Coworkers who are possible allies might identify themselves by: talking about LGBTQ+ family members in a positive way, their involvement in LGBTQ+ friendly organizations, discussing TV shows and movies geared towards LGBTQ+ folks or by self identifying as a member of our community.  Once a support is established in the workplace, it can be easier to open up to other colleagues.

Coming out offers a number of potential benefits.  It allows employees more energy and brain power to devote to work tasks.  Consider how much effort it takes to actively hide a part of yourself; changing pronouns or making sure your wrist is never limp.  It is exhausting!  New dating opportunities may develop.  A coworker might have been daydreaming of you for months, and coming out offers that person a chance to take you out.  Your courageous honesty may even inspire the company to become more LGBTQ+ friendly.  Coworkers may have a difficult time remaining unsympathetic about LGBTQ+ issues once they realize that they work alongside a member of the community.  There are a number of positive possibilities to coming out at work.  When I reflect on the number of hours people spend at work in a lifetime; I find myself hoping that people can find a safe environment that embraces them for their many attributes, and encourages them to be true to themselves.  If you need some support in coming out at work, therapy can offer a safe space for you to figure out what might work best for you. 

If you would like more general advice on coming out, you can read Tips for Coming Out. If you or a loved one need any assistance, you can check out our fantastic LGBT therapists, read more about LGBT counseling, or contact us to make a counseling appointment.