As we all live in the cultural environment that intends the common heterosexuality, the realising of one’s homosexuality occurs gradually. Every man or woman has his/her own story of becoming homosexual. You can be of any age and of any social position, when you suddenly realise it, but in general this long and hard process begins in early youth.
By 12 teenagers start to realise sexual signals coming from the surrounding world. Some of them find out the disparities between their feelings and the facts that are proclaimed by their parents, friends about the relationship between people. Sexual attraction to the people of the same sex may confuse a person, because in our society it is considered to be wrong. A teenager may be confused with opinion that, for example, all gays are ill and incomplete people, which infect other people with AIDS. A teenager faces that the earlier created image of ‘a normal person’ may be now, when he feels homoerotic sufferings, considered ‘filthy’, ‘sinful’, ‘sophisticated’. The state of confuse is followed by fear, worrying, and desire to find the immediate solution to the main problem, to analyse his/her emotions, facts, information. But the majority of homosexual people start the subconscious, exhausting fight, without letting himself/herself to realise the homosexual attraction and let the society to classify himself/herself as a gay/lesbian.
Especially in this period of ‘mixed identity’ young girls and boys try to forget about it through involving themselves in different kinds of activity. This period is also may be followed by the expressed attention to the people of other sex. For example, girl may even become pregnant just to prove her heterosexuality. In this difficult psychological situation young people may also begin taking drugs or alcohol. Stall, R. and Wiley, J. (1988) A comparison of alcohol and drug patterns of homosexual and heterosexual men: the San Francisco men’s health study. Drugs and Alcohol Dependence, 22: 63 – 73 and McKirnan, D.J. and Peterson, P.L.(1989) Alcohol and drug use among homosexual men and women: epidemiology and population characteristics. Addictive Behaviors, 14: 545 – 53. This helps to reach two goals at once: to digress from the forbidden feelings, and to justify that these feelings appeared. (‘These nasty thoughts come to me only when I’m drunk!’ Mondimor Francis Marc. (2000). Homosexuality: Natural history. )
The denial and fight with the own homosexuality tightens for years. The person can develop in many different ways, but the process of the sexual self-identification stops. As usual the person wastes a colossal amount of psychological energy to the denial, disguise of the homosexual thoughts, feelings, and even sometimes homosexual behaviour. A person-runaway forces himself to prevent the homosexual identity to take its place in his sexual identity. Not considering his sexual identity as a basis for healthy relationship with the people of his sex, a person persistently remains on the stage of conflicts and contradictions, that demand every time the constant self-deception, juggling and lies. A lot of gay men and women overcome a hard way of ‘self-confession’, but some people unfortunately aren’t able to do it ever. However, when a person admits himself/herself being gay, there comes the next issue: will this person let others to think he/she is gay?
The difficulty of coming out
Coming out is a very important decision for every gay person. There are many stages in this process, each of which needs a lot of time and patience. It is not only telling everybody who you are without shame, it also has to do with your own perception of your individuality. And very often people are shy to open themselves, to share their way of perception reality. By the way it is also hard to deal with hostile and repressive society when you’re gay.
For some gay men and lesbians the process of coming out is relatively easy, for others, and, unfortunately, for the majority it’s unbearably hard, and difficult, and painful. It takes a lot of time and patience to struggle with yourself and moreover sharing your problems with those you love. We were consistently told as young people that it is not good to be gay. Our society makes us believe in it, makes us despise homosexual people. Of course, it is necessary for the society to develop, that’s why there’s no place for homosexuals here. That’s why a lot of homosexuals are too ashamed to confess. Not their pain, not their guilt may be warrant. The occasional suicide of many gay men and women is a result of such an attitude to them. Besides, the developing homophobia affects our behavior so, that we really can’t understand what these people may feel and we’re always closed to them.
The process of recognizing and accepting one’s gayness may be very lonely experience, but it’s always necessary, as it forms joyful and complete parts of our lives. And of course, we can see the injustices we face and the immorality of failing to tell young people the truth about homosexuality.
There are some steps in coming out process. The first step is acceptance, which supposes the recognition of being homosexual.
Step one: Having positive feeling about one’s homosexuality is one of the most important tasks for every person, which often one of the most difficult ones, too. Until one feels good about being gay, nothing can be changed to positive side, speaking about sharing one’s sexual orientation with others. (I’m gay and I’m proud of it. Cass, V.C. (1979) Homosexual identity formation: a theoretical model. Journal of Homosexuality.)
Step two: Majority if individuals consider their private lives to be a very personal matter and they never share it with anybody else. This privacy is necessary for homosexuals as much as for heterosexuals. And it would be nice, if everybody accepted these rules.
Final step: The final step in coming out, after other gay people, family and friends are told, is the general feeling of self-confidence in your sexual orientation. Truly speaking, a lot of people sometimes over exaggerate while showing it, for example, showing gay behavior in public, wearing gay slogans on their T-shirts. The most right decision in this case is just leading a normal life, without lying to your close people about who you are. (Coming Out Every Day : A Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Man’s Guide Ph.D. Bret K. Johnson (Paperback)).
The right decision
Coming out is undoubtedly the most effective educational tool available to gay people as we try to change people’s attitudes about homosexuality. But unfortunately homophobic myths and fears spread nowadays very intensively, too. The powerful threat of homophobia has not yet gone away. People tend to tell dirty jokes about gays, think that no ordinary person can be gay, claim, that he/she doesn’t know any gay or lesbian. But in reality even gay people don’t know how much homosexuals are there. When a person has a friend or beloved person-gay, only in that case he/she starts to realize that to hate such a person is useless, that person needs help. Only in this case a person tries to do something to make other people believe, that gays are not enemies.
This is not, however, an invitation to every gay person to come out to everyone under any circumstances. Till nowadays, to our great shame, we still pay too much attention on the sexual orientation of a person. Gay man or lesbian may be fired form job just because of his/her sexual identity. But nevertheless, almost all homosexuals, who experienced the process of coming out, claim, that it had been a positive and right decision.
Steven Sideman’s contribution to this problem
In The Social Construction of Sexuality, Steven Seidman considers the development of human sexuality within the understanding of contemporary American society. Marxism and feminism are two of the main social theories related to sexuality considered in this text. While realizing the influence of these social theories, Seidman directs the reader’s attention to sociology and the politics of sexual identities while discussing gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual politics. Issues linked to sexual morality such as pornography, sadomasochism, sex work, and gay marriage are also addressed. Steven Seidman. (2003). The Social Construction of Sexuality. p. 283-310.
Seidman highlights the social forces that influence non-mainstream sexualities. He builds a case for sexuality as a socially constructed phenomenon that is shaped by American cultural expectations framed within historical context.
His another work, Beyond the Closet argues that the time of the closet is left far way. In this new era, the closet no longer determines the lives of gays and lesbians. Many lead happy, productive and “out” lives. But being accepted, Seidman argues, comes at a price. Today, gays are under intense cultural pressure to fit the mold of the “good gay citizen”. While this image is comfortable, even safe, Seidman warns that ‘it continues to justify discrimination against those who do not live up to its ideal’ Steven Seidman. (Nov. 2003, Beyond the Closet). Powered by the raw, honest stories of today’s gay men and women and analysis of gays in recent films and in popular culture, Seidman shows how ‘the closet is a Twentieth-Century historical oddity, one that could only exist in a period that combined a strong sense of gay identity with oppressive antigay discrimination’. Engagingly written by a leading scholar of sexuality, Beyond the Closet shows the transformation of out-status and uncovers the subtle heterosexist attitudes that still separate tolerance from equality.
The process of recognizing and accepting one’s gayness can be a very lonely experience, but it is becoming easier for us to accept our feelings and our gay or lesbian identities. We can see our sexuality as a positive and joyful part of our lives. We can see the injustices we face and the immorality of failing to tell young people the truth about homosexuality. Young people, who identify themselves being homosexual, inevitably face the fear of AIDS. The delusion that AIDS is ‘the illness of gays only’ often confuses them, adds worries to their psychological state. ‘I’ve never wanted to become gay. Now, with such a terrible illness like AIDS in this world, there are even less reasons for me to accept this part of me’ (Herdt G. Gay and lesbian youth, Emergent Identities, and Cultural Scenes at Home and Abroad. Journal of Homosexuality. Vol. 3-4. P. 32).
The research of Ministry of Public Health confirms that information about ways of communication of AIDS, equally with arrangements, created to increase the social support, the development of the personal self-appraisal, and formation of the positive self-identification, decreases the number of homosexuals, who have sexual intercourses with high risk of infection. (Healthy People 2010. Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Health).
1. Mondimor Francis Marc. (2000). Homosexuality: Natural history.
2. Herdt G. Gay and Lesbian Youth, Emergent Identities, and Cultural Scenes at Home and Abroad. (1991). Journal of Homosexuality.
3. Cass, V.C. (1979) Homosexual identity formation: a theoretical model. Journal of Homosexuality, op. cit. p. 227.
4. Stall, R. and Wiley, J. (1988) A comparison of alcohol and drug patterns of homosexual and heterosexual men: the San Francisco men’s health study. Drugs and Alcohol Dependence, 22: 63 – 73.
5. McKirnan, D.J. and Peterson, P.L.(1989) Alcohol and drug use among homosexual men and women: epidemiology and population characteristics. Addictive Behaviors, 14: 545 – 53.
6. Steven Seidman. (2003). The Social Construction of Sexuality.
7. Steven Seidman. (Nov. 2003). Beyond the Closet.
8. Coming Out Every Day : A Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Man’s Guide Ph.D. Bret K. Johnson (Paperback).