My Greatest Fear in Coming Out

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I’m so tired of it all: living two lives isn’t something I can maintain while also living a thriving life. Picking and choosing what I do and what I talk about whether I’m “out” to the person I’m with is terribly exhausting. My last post spoke of a time I overcame my fear and opened up to people; certainly, that was a very good experience.

But as great as that moment was, that’s not the norm for me at all.

I am a long way from overcoming my fear of openness on a day-to-day basis.

The days when I am successful and don’t live in fear are few and far between. Much more common is the day when I am completely stressed over fears that are irrational and blown way out of proportion.

One of my deepest desires — when the time is right — is to be open with anyone about anything in my life without a moment’s hesitation. I’ve had a few glimpses into the freedom this kind of openness and vulnerability can bring, and it’s so good; it’s life-giving and encouraging and I want more.

And it’s quite possible for me—I’m not worried about how my parents or friends will react when I come out to them. But at the same time, I find myself unwilling to take the steps necessary to reach that point.

Why? I think to myself.

And I can’t come up with any rational explanation.

Sometimes it’s as if “coming out” and getting rid of the wall between my same-sex attractions and the rest of me will somehow make my sexuality more real.

It won’t; it can’t. Neither side of my life is any less real than the other, even today. But even though I know this, I don’t feel like it’s true.

So what do I do about it? I don’t really know. My brain usually works very rationally and logically, but this isn’t like that. And with all these irrational thoughts going on in my head, it’s hard for me to figure out what’s going on.

Thinking logically does help some with the intellectual side of my fear. But what’s so crippling about this fear is emotional, not intellectual.

It doesn’t matter that I know my family and friends will take it well — I’m still afraid. My terrible, crippling fear of openness, even as I want it so badly, just doesn’t make sense.

When I finally start to open up more to people, will that be the beginning of the end of my bouts of anxiety? I hope so. But the cynical side of me thinks it just as likely that some other fear will creep in, take its place, and the cycle will start all over again.

Do you also experience fear — rational or irrational — about “coming out” to friends or family? What’s holding you back from coming out and generally being more open with others?

* Photo courtesy Helen Harrop, Creative Commons.

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  • Ernest

    It took me a long time to tell the 3 people who know about this side of me, and the thought of anyone else knowing brings feelings of dread. I know there is the internal contradiction of wanting to be closer to people/wanting people to feel that they can be closer to me, and me keeping this area of my life firmly locked away and guarded as something more important than a national secret. There are so many aspects of fear about it – about what friends and family would think, how the church community would/might react, what friends/family I would loose, how I would be seen (negatively) differently, the questions I would get…some fears more irrational than others, but real fears nonetheless.

  • Steven Michael

    I had a very hard time telling my parents, even know I knew they wouldn’t change (and probably already knew). But no matter how much you KNOW, there is always that “what if?” in the back of your mind.

    I think a lot of it is that divide you’ve mentioned. We’re so used to living in two different worlds, or at least hiding behind masks, that it’s hard to let that go. I’ve done so much in trying to craft this persona for people, that i fear what will happen when that’s gone. Of course the biggest question is, how will they treat me?

  • I never wanted to tell anybody who was straight that I was gay. NEVER! I had no plans to. EVER! But that is not what God had in mind. I had come back to the church after twenty years being apart from fellowship. I was content to sit in the pew, pray, listen to the word of God, trying to figue out why He had shown me so much mercy when I should have been dead. But then that kid came forward and asked for prayers in front of the whole congregation, because he was gay. It was an act of courage that I had never seen, and certainly would have never undertaken myself. But in that moment, I realized I wasn’t alone. There was someone else who was going through exactly what I went through.
    I outed myself to the pastor, the youth minister and the boy’s father, offering my experiences in homosexuality so that this child might not go through what I went through (and it was a living hell). The boy had run away from home to his grandmother’s. I counseled the father to go and get his son and bring him home; that the story of the prodigal son was not a parenting tip. He brought his son home. Things are not perfect between them as their whole little Baptist world was destroyed that day; but they are together.
    I have since told many people and began writing my blog. The scariest thing I ever did though was give my testimony to a Wednesday night class of middle aged folk. I had to let go of all the bitterness I still held from the night that I heard the false sermon that all gays go to hell. I have been asked to give it again to another church that helps me deal wiith my addiction to porn. I am still terrified and find it hard to trust. I still expect pitchforks and torches I suppose; but I hear nothing but astonishment over my celibacy and words of encouragement. It is the enemy who keeps whispering to me “Judge not, lest you be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) ; but it is the Holy Spirit who reminds me that this verse is written for me only.

    • mike

      I used to be more open, but now am more guarded. Not everyone needs to know, wants to know, or should know. I am trying hard to listen to His voice to hear His will. So I love Bradley what you wrote: “But that is not what God had in mind.” I want to know God’s mind as to whom I should share a very personal part of me which no longer defines me. I am much more than that — so much more!

      • I think you have it right. Tell who you must, lead only by the Lord. Like I said, I had not planned to tell anyone and only did to serve someone else. In giving my testimony , it is also an act of service and helps me on matters. of trust.

  • Ashley Lavergne

    All the time. I’m not 100% closeted. There is even a poem talking about it in my poetry blog on the internet for all to see, but few people read it enough lol. I have spoken to certain people about it and key friends do know about it as well as my husband. What keeps me from being more open about it are a few quite specific things. Big number 1 I still don’t know how my husband will feel about me being more public about it – he’s still getting used to it and it makes him uncomfortable and I am patient with him in this. I am hesitant being more open because most of my family doesn’t know and my pastor doesn’t know. My family matters because they are my family. I have a few siblings that say pretty homophobic stuff. I don’t know how my parents will take, but the day will come eventually. I think it will kind of be like Tom – “Im going to this retreat with gay Christians because I’m one of them” – I can’t exactly disappear for a weekend and say nothing. My church matters because even though I am not ministering currently at my church I am a missionary supported by them and I don’t know if that would cause any issues. I honestly don’t even know where they stand on certain things. It’s a meeting I’ll need to have eventually and can’t avoid forever.

    • My way is the best way! I highly recommend the “reveal and disappear” method.

    • Eddie

      Oh, I wished I could have taken you to that SSA conference back in November Ashley along with your husband of course.

      • Ashley Lavergne

        which one?

        • Eddie

          The Hope for Wholeness conference they had in November ’16. Heading to their “5 day” conference in July.

  • excusemydust

    You really hit the nail on the head when it comes to anxiety–in fact, it’s perhaps one of the most concise analyses I’ve ever seen: “emotional, not intellectual.” All the rationalization in the world can’t eliminate the seed at the heart of whatever the source of one’s anxiety is. I will say that I come at this issue from a perhaps unique perspective: as a gay person, I don’t know how to be open about being a Christian–in part because I struggle with my identity as a Christian, and whether I can even claim the term. I will say this, though, about the topic of openness: there is tremendous strength in being vulnerable and sharing your story, and it’s even more important if that part of your story is something you struggle internally with, because it is only once you begin sharing that you can start to examine, in community, the threads that tie your story to others’.

    • I have to say, even writing this post was not easy at all. It brought up so many emotions and fears. I definitely struggle with identity too, though for me it’s more to do with my sexuality. I’m sure this is another part of my anxiety as well.

  • Jimtom23

    Since I have never acted on my same sex feelings and don’t plan on it, I don’t feel the need to share that side of me with anyone. Since I am 55, still single and not the most masculine fellow you will meet, I would say that some people suspect. A couple of people have asked me. Of course, I denied it. Also a few men have made verbal advances towards me too. I just acted oblivious to their comments.

    Over the years, I have mastered the art of being emotionally disconnected from most people. It can be exhausting at times.

  • george

    I also have never acted on my attractions and never plan. I just never wanted physical relationship with my gender.
    In my case , when I first time shared my burden to someone I was about 35. And later I shared it to my few trusted close friends. In my case I needed it very much. It really made my life little bit easier. You need some people with whom you are who you are as a whole person. It does not mean that you will be totally free from the struggle, but you will feel the good portion of relief. But first think of people who will understand and will not judge you for that.

  • Ashley Lavergne

    I also recently wrote a poem called “Church Closets,” not just about “the closet” but secrets we keep in general.

    Do you stand where I stand with your hand in my hand, with your side by my side as I look on with eyes wide? Do you hear what I see and do you see what I hear because I’ve gone far too long without anyone else here and the silence that once taught me has now come to haunt me as my privatized cries fall on deaf ears. For I was under the illusion that if I hide my confusions that they’d all eventually go away, but if I disguise my face to hide my pain I’ll never obtain any spiritual aid and the tragedy of a story untold is that of a heart which alone grows cold beneath the secret skeleton’s chest – a rotting rib cage that dies yet never rests.

    If only church closets could tell the stories of the souls that die inside them. Of those who feel the need to hide that which they believe defines them only to find that secrecy is that which truly confines them to suffocate in a shallow grave of claustrophobic head-space. For we all supposedly have skeletons in the closet, but what if we’re the ones who’ve decomposed inside and the bones are all that’s left to hide of what used to be our closed off minds?
    Because the secrets we keep in church closets deep are of the most perilous kind – we lock ourselves away just so they can’t say whether or not we’re worth God’s time. We die in isolation to give you the gratification of the thought that we might be just like you.

    Did you ever come to think that our stories might be important too? The stories that nobody wants to hear, the stories that everyone fears, the stories where we finally tell you about the giant pink elephant that’s always been standing here! Stories where the moral is that you’re basically wrong, that it’s finally time to change up your song, that our hiding is the lying that you’ve been living for so long.
    And we know it’s not the whole story you’ve missed, but when our characters become complex it’s those chapters you skip because when the time bomb finally begins to tick it’s so much easier to just plead ignorant.

    So do you stand where I stand with your hand in my hand, with your side by my side as I tell our stories with eyes wide? Do you hear what I see and do you see what I hear because I no longer want to go on without anyone else here.

  • Not a guy but I relate so hard to this post.

  • Alan Gingery

    Dear Tom,

    Good post. Emotions are real and a gift from God. They help us navigate through life. Sometimes emotions can make us freeze and that is not really their purpose. They are actually there to help us act. They ring the warning bell so to speak so we can do something.

    Yeah! I get it. The first time I came out to my best friend of 30+ years it was a tough thing to do and I felt anxiety and fear. But I also felt that God wanted me to do this, so I acted even though I was afraid. Since that time, I have told 51 friends or family members about my SSA. It is not hard for me anymore. I don’t share indiscriminately with anyone I meet. I need to feel I can trust whomever, but I no longer fear doing this. I have told 3 pastors, family members and lots of friends. The 51 doesn’t include scores or men that I know from support groups or websites like YOB. And I have felt loved and supported by all of them.

    Every guy is different. I can’t advise you or anyone else to come out or not, because our life situations are so different. There is something wonderful about being known just as you are (light and shadows) by someone you trust. And there is risk in doing so. I doubt that anyone would reject you outright for coming out, but some people may simply not understand how to support you and may feel uncomfortable. Often enough our Christian brothers and sisters don’t know what to do with the Christian who has SSA. The answer, of course, is to love them like anyone else, but these nice people may have their own fears about loving you, because it is so far out their experience.

    Bless you and may God supply all you need and especially when you face your fears. 2 Corinthians 12:10.