Discovering your sexual orientation or gender identity can be a terrifying or confusing experience. The Pain inside... Coping by hiding... Some people find that they experience significant social anxiety, depression, even suicidal thoughts. You are not alone! A therapist can help guide you safely through your coming out process and have a confident voice in your life.
Coming out is a process of understanding, accepting, and valuing your sexual orientation or identity. It involves both exploring your identity and sharing your identity with others. Coming out can be an gradual process or very sudden. The first step usually involves coming out to yourself, when you finally realize that feelings you have had for some time make sense if you can define yourself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
Coming out can be a very difficult and stressful process. Our society strongly imposes codes of behavior regarding gender identity and sexual orientation. Most people receive the message that they must be heterosexual and act according to society’s description of their gender. For gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals , there may be a sense of being different or of not fitting in to the roles expected of you by your family, friends, workplace or society. You may feel ashamed, afraid ad isolated.
Even though coming out can be very stressful, it can also be a very liberating process. You may feel like you can finally be authentic and true to yourself. You may find an entire community of people like you and feel inspired and supported.
The process of coming out is very personal. Individuals do not move through the this process at the same pace. For different people it happens in different ways and occurs at different ages. Some people are aware of their sexual identity at an very early age, and others arrive at this awareness after many years.
Stress in our biased society
Chronic minority stress i que type of stress now recognized by mental health professionals. The chronic minority stress exacerbated by the current uncertainty with regard to equality in the United States and the ongoing negative and sometimes violent attention directed toward LGBT population. The idea of minority stress comes from the idea that it's just simply very hard being LGBT-identified in a heterocentric culture. Since many LGBT individuals are reminded so often about how different they are from heterosexual expectations, a person may become particularly vulnerable to the effects of stress – especially if the person is forced to discover his or her identity alone. People who experience this particular type of stress face many of the same symptoms that victims of hate crimes experience such as:
Counseling as a Source of Support
Counseling is a process in which a caring, nonjudgmental, and trained professional helps a person find an effective solutions to problems or life struggles. LGBT sensitive counseling involves facilitating an individual's self-exploration, self-understanding, self-acceptance, and increasing self-esteem. Helping a gay, lesbian or transgender individual come to respect and value his or her sexual orientation definitely fits into this philosophy.
Counseling can help Identify and clarify issues. Sometimes, people who seek counseling know that they are not happy but not sure about what is wrong. Counseling can help people understand themselves and their feelings better. The process of recognizing and understanding a gay or lesbian sexual orientation often involves a confusing set of thoughts and feelings. A trained professional can help an individual clarify and sort through some of the uncertainty.
Counseling can identify, clarify, and facilitate expression of difficult feelings. Often individuals have difficulty understanding and/or expressing feelings. This is particularly true when people are under significant distress. Difficult feelings often can be confusing and may seem to be out of control. Trained professionals are particularly good at helping individuals handle and understand their feelings.
Counseling can help you make decision on what to do next. It is very common feeling stuck and uncertain when people are having difficulty determining alternatives. More often than not, there is more than one choice. Counselors or therapists are skillful at helping individuals discover options and alternatives.
Counseling can help in developing or improving your relationship skills. It is very important building a support system and developing close interpersonal relationships. Some individuals have difficulty understanding what they want from a relationship, whether it is from family, friend, or a partner. Dealing with relationships may be a primary focus of counseling and therapy. It is also an essential part of developing a healthy sense of self.
Selecting a Sensitive Counselor From time to time, some gay and lesbian individuals may avoid seeking help because of the myth that counselors will try to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian people. First of all , there is no evidence that counseling or therapy can change the sexual orientation of adults. Furthermore, most trained professionals would view such an attempt as psychologically damaging to the gay, lesbian or transgender individual. Selecting a counselor who is sensitive and supportive of LGBT population is an important first step in seeking help. Directly asking a therapist or a counselor about his or her feelings and knowledge about LGBT population lifestyle, issues, and culture during the first meeting is probably the most helpful way to determine the "good fit."
For additional information on how counseling may be of help to you, contact Global Counseling Center at 770 876-8665. Our staff includes trained professionals who hold advanced degrees in counseling and are committed to delivering supportive and affirming services.
Some useful info for parents of LGBT youth
If the coming out process is difficult for LGBT individuals , it is often equally difficult for their parents. Confusion, anger, and fear frequently cause fathers and mothers of gay men and lesbians to reject, strike out against, and even resent their children.
Parents whose children are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or who are going through a "questioning phase" are often in the dark about what their children face in everyday life. As a result, offering support that will comfort and reinforce them feels like solving a puzzle with missing pieces.
Here at Global Counseling Center our trained professionals can help parents find the missing pieces by guiding parents through the world their child lives in.
Our specialist can explain parents what these teens often encounter such as teasing and harassment. We can offer solutions for parents who want to better understand their LGBT teens and learn how to protect their self-esteem. Our specialists can advice parents how to:
"Always My Child: A Parent's Guide to Understanding Your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered or Questioning Son or Daughter" by Kevin Jennings, 2003
"Coming Out to Parents: A Two-Way Survival Guide for Lesbians and Gay Men and Their Parents" by Mary V. Borhek
"A Family and Friend's Guide to Sexual Orientation: Bridging the Divide Between Gay and Straight" by Bob Powers & Alan Ellis
"Jocks: True Stories of America's Gay Male Athletes" by Dan Woog, 1997.
"Mom, Dad, I'm Gay: How Families Negotiate Coming Out" by Ritch C. Savin-Williams
"My Child is Gay: How Parents React When They Hear the News". by Bryce McDougall, 2007
"Now That You Know: A Parents' Guide to Understanding Their Gay and Lesbian Children" by Betty Fairchild & Nancy Hayward