Coming Out –
Last week I returned from London ticking off a massive bucket list wish seeing Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie perform on the same stage at Hyde Park. To my surprise and delight, it was also London’s LGBT Pride weekend, which was something new to me and I had yet to experience. The city’s energy was electrifying with a wonderfully warm welcome in everyone we met and spoke to. There was a magnificent spray of colour as the Pride flag flew tall and proud all over the city with each shop window awash with colour stating boldly that Love is Love and celebrating love no matter what the gender, colour or race. That weekend marked the anniversary of the Stonewall riots of 1969, a day that is celebrated with Pride all over the world today. Back then it was a time when the LGBT community stood up against the New York Police and began possibly the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights. Fast forward to the London Pride I’m seeing today, and it is a very different picture where both the men and the women are openly expressing their love for one another and their love is being celebrated during Pride rather than shamed and condemned.
Admittedly things have improved dramatically during recent years for the LGBT community, however, peer and societal condemnation still remains especially harsh and can often be cruel. Sometimes depending on the person’s social, religious, and family upbringing, members of the LGBT community can still find themselves under immense scrutiny and often non-acceptance within their families, work-life, and communities because of a lack of understanding. Many LGBT people who cannot hide their differences, or just choose not to, can be subjected to harassment, bullying, rejection, and violence. This results in the LGBT community being more likely to experience mental health problems than straight people with somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of LGBT people dealing with anxiety and depression at some point in their lives. That rate is 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than that of their straight or gender-conforming counterparts. Poor levels of mental health among LGBT people have been linked to the fear of ‘coming out’ to their friends and family coupled with these experiences of homophobic and transphobic discrimination and bullying. But many LGBT people have realized that living their lives in the ‘Closet’ robs them of the full, rewarding life experience that everyone deserves however many are still forced to live in fear and shame. By continuing to hide their sexual preferences LGBT people can become stressed, anxious, depressed, and even suicidal. So how can we move forward?
When people have discussed how they came out, many use the imagery of a great weight being lifted from them, that they feel like the free souls they were meant to be. But this may not happen initially, as coming out can be a stressful and difficult process, especially when family and friends react negatively. Fortunately, when many LGBT people who do come out now, they are met with more support and acceptance from some family members, some friends, and some school and work colleagues. However even if them coming out is met with positive reactions, negative responses from other important family members, friends or work colleagues who cannot accept their sexual preference choices can have a detrimental effect on the LGBT persons mental health leading to social anxiety, shame, and depression.
During this time the LGBT person can instill within themselves unhealthy core beliefs. This means that they don’t think they fit it anywhere or wouldn’t be as loved if people knew the real them. Over time these and other common core beliefs are what can lead to the LGBT’s mental health deteriorating and shape how the LGBT person thinks about themselves and about how others perceive them.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) can help LGBT individuals to become aware of the self-defeating negative limiting beliefs they have learned to impose on themselves which has led to anxiety and depression in the first place. Working with a fully trained therapist can help you identify, change, and implement new core beliefs and strategies to move you from where you are now to somewhere you can be comfortable in your own skin. You can replace these unhealthy ways of thinking with new self-affirming beliefs that enable you to be more comfortable and open when interacting with others, switching the anxiety off so that you can bring the best version of you to whatever situation you may find yourself in.
I decided I wanted to talk about this topic because research has proven that individuals under constant stress, especially related to holding in secrets or putting on a front of being someone they aren’t, can develop anxiety and depression. Discrimination, therefore, can be a powerful trigger for anyone is being discriminated against, and create severe problems. It’s time to say it out loud to those that matter the most. Starting with you.