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Embracing my sexuality - can I take a mulligan?

Discussion in 'LGBT Later in Life' started by OnTheHighway, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. OnTheHighway

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    As a I look back on my journey towards embracing my sexuality, I have just concluded I did it all backwards. And I want a do over! :bang:

    Don't get me wrong, as some of you have followed my journey over the years it is clear that I have embraced my sexuality, built confidence and self esteem, while I diminished the shame and internalized homophobia (in that order).

    But it took me almost 20 years of marriage to find the courage to finally embrace my sexuality and then another handful of years to focus on diminishing the shame and internalized homophobia.

    And the order in which I found myself and embraced my sexuality, as I look back, was completely backwards! Instead of taking half a lifetime to embrace my sexuality, and then deal with the shame and internalized homophobia, shouldn't I have first dealt with the shame and internalized homophobia which might have allowed me to embrace my sexuality much earlier in life?

    As I have been pondering that question, as I have been engaging with all of my friends on EC, as I have read stories, books, and periodicals, as I engaged with counseling, I can only concluded the answer to the above question as being yes! I did it backwards and I should have first focused on the shame and internalized homophobia.

    There is no guide book on how to embrace ones sexuality in a homophobic world. Even in therapy, we still work through our emotions based on our own individual path, where the therapist is just a tool - a means to an end. Where is are the guidelines on how to do this efficiently? There are none.

    Now, do not get me wrong, at this point I do not have any regrets for my given path, it was what it was and I have gotten to a great point in life! However, as a I continue to read about and engage with others on their respective journeys, it is clear to me that a more efficient path exists, if we choose to recognize it. And the path that helps us to embrace whom we our requires that we deal with the shame and internalized homophobia.

    So going forward, my advice is and will be, first deal with the shame and deal with the internalized homophobia, with that build confidence and build self esteem, thereby embracing our true selves and our sexuality - in that order!
     
    #1 OnTheHighway, Apr 19, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  2. baristajedi

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    My girlfriend keeps reminding me, the word 'should' is not helpful when we think about our emotions, or approaches to getting through things. I know you're not saying you have regrets and more aiming at helping others see the most effective path. But I just want to remind you that your path, however winding it might have been has totally inspired me to take control of my life and move forward to a hugely better place. There's so much I should have done as well... but here I am, and I'm pretty damn happy right here. :slight_smile:
     
    #2 baristajedi, Apr 19, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
  3. OnTheHighway

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    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
     
  4. Chip

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    I believe that (especially LGBT people could benefit deeply from addressing their shame early. Not only would it make their chomping out process a lot easier, but if it starts to become more commonplace, it will begin to significantly heal many of the systemic issues that impact the gay community in general ... Hookup culture, ahallowness, judgment, the difficulty with relationships, and all of the other issues that are pervasive in much of the gay community.

    It's a tall order, and the lack of a roadmap for doing this is a huge obstacle. I do believe that talking about the broader issue and the importance of reaching bout to therapists and school counselors and community centers is crucial in this regard. and I think we are making slow but steady progress.
     
  5. OnTheHighway

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    ....or as I now call it - Gay Purgatory!
     
  6. AbsoluteNerd

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    Take it back!! You'll bring the radical Christians down on us more!!
     
  7. OnTheHighway

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    Well now, isn't the whole idea of dealing with shame and internalized homophobia to enable each of us not to be concerned with what others, including the radical Christians, say or think, and therefore we learn to love ourselves regardless? (*hug*)
     
  8. Chip

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    I think AbsoluteNerd is concerned about being beaten senseless with Bibles by the radical Christians. :slight_smile:
     
  9. Pole star

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    Shame is the biggest obstacle. I fail to understand how it takes such a deep root inside you. All around you see only the heterosexual way of life that you automatically think something is wrong with you and especially as it happens in the most crucial years of life - teenage and adolescence- the damage is long lasting.

    Parents have an important role to play in teaching kids that people with homosexual orientation are also human beings and need to be accepted. We are so politically correct and diplomatic when we discuss religious minorities as we fear that we could land in trouble but this etiquette is lacking when it comes to other minorities who are often made the butt of indescribable verbal torture.
     
  10. Zen fix

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    One thought on this. May be a bit stereotypical but I do think that LGBT people are a bit more naturally sensitive. Add to that the desire of a child to please their parents, to fit in with their peers and you've got a perfect recipe for shame stew. I don't even think the messages have to be all that aggressive. I grew up conservative Christian but I don't remember homosexuality being condemned very often or even very aggressively. But it was often enough that it made a huge impression without me even realizing it.
     
  11. tb777

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    You are so right on shame. Shame has done me much harm in my life (I'm 46). I've known I was bi since my teens, but never really acknowledged it until recently. Why? Inner shame, that started with shame about being bi, and eventually spread to low-level shame about all sexual behaviors EXCEPT porn use and masturbation. The latter affected my marriage and led to my separation and pending divorce. What I have begun to learn in the last year is how to deal with that shame and accept myself not only as a sexual being, but as a bi male. Most everything in my life is stressful right now BUT I'm actually at more peace inside than I've ever been because I'm starting to live more authentically than I ever have.
     
  12. OnTheHighway

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    Parents do have a role to play, however as you suggest, the messaging is all around. As a result, while parents can help create an open minded foundation for a child, it simply may not be enough.

    My parents were liberal and rather progressive. They had a sense I was gay as a teenager and did not do anything outwardly to discourage it, nor did they support it or nurture it either. They simply let me take whatever path I was to follow and let me figure things out on my own. As I look back, it was not enough. But where is the guide book for them to suggest what is enough? With all the nthe active messaging around, what chance did they really have as I am sure they fought back their own shame.

    It's up to us individually to confront the shame head on and put it in its place.
     
  13. OnTheHighway

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    You can use that newly found internal peace as a foundation for working through the shame!
     
  14. Pole star

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    We should have more positive role models in society. Media should focus on ordinary gay couples who lead normal lives like anybody else. I feel that gay celebrities with their extravagant lifestyle actually do more harm than good as that becomes the focus.
     
  15. OnTheHighway

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    There certainly is not a sufficient amount of LGBT role models for people to look up to, although I do believe there are significantly more today than there was when I was younger.

    Role models help provide identity and allow people to feel as if they have a place in society. While there are some celebrities, gay and straight, that lead extravagant lifestyles, I do believe most LGBT celebrities today seem to understand the importance of what they represent. At the same time, more sports players, politicians, businessmen need to come out and show how LGBT are a core fabric of our society.

    Even now, I always seem to take personal pride every time I hear about a rugby player, a footballer or an executive come out. Although, to be honest, I equally cringe whenever I hear about a politician being forced to come out as a result of some crazy scandal.

    Two steps forward, one step back - but progress nonetheless.
     
  16. I'm gay

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    I have given a great deal of thought to this very topic, OTH.

    Do I wish that I had tackled the shame and internalized homophobia early in life, such as my teen years, or early 20s at least? Yes and no. For me, of course there's a part of me that laments the lost years of my sexuality and finding myself newly out at 48 years old. But then I conclude that I wouldn't have my kids if that had happened, so really, for me, it all needed to happen in this way for me to have these kids that I wouldn't give up for anything - even another chance at my prime sexual years.

    I also conclude that there was no real way for me to tackle those issues then. My teen years were in the 1980s, and my 20s in the 1990s. My ability to rid myself of the shame and IH just wasn't there at that time. I live in a fairly conservative area, and grew up in a conservative household. The culture at the time wasn't conducive to coming out, and so I repressed. So, if I had come out, can I conclude that life would have been better for me? I can't say yes because I would still have been living in a culture/city/family that was not accepting of my orientation.

    Your post on role models is spot on. There were no role models for me at that time. I didn't know a single gay person, and the few I was aware of were the subject of bullying, harassment, violence and being kicked out of their homes. Pop culture was even worse. No celebrity was openly gay. There were some "bisexual" people who maintained that label to straddle the line between gay and straight. (Elton John). What role models were there?

    Jack Tripper - not even gay but pretending to be gay so Mr. Roper wouldn't kick him out. He acted out every "stereotypically" gay mannerism, none of which fit me.

    Jodie Dallas - The openly gay character on Soap, played by Billy Crystal, who was openly mocked and the butt of jokes. Of course, like so many others, in order to play the gay he adopted overly femme mannerisms, again not fitting me in any way.

    Various characters on TV shows where the episode focused on some LGBT-themed issue were generally portrayed as child molesters, weirdos, stalkers, or someone who is hitting on a regular character causing embarrassment, or any number of themes rarely shown as "normal."

    By the time LGBT characters began to be seen in a positive light, by the late 90s, I was already married and having kids. Will and Grace, Ellen, etc. were the start of improvements in how gay people were portrayed on TV.

    Ultimately, I had a very difficult time growing up because I lacked the knowledge and understanding that I was not alone. I always felt alone, that I was a freak, that no one would understand me, and the lack of role models for me meant that I just didn't identify with anything I saw as "gay." I internalized the homophobia of our culture and my social circles, and I bought into the shame simply because I didn't know any better. There was not one person in my life who ever expressed the idea to me that it was ok to be gay, that I was normal for being gay, and that there were so many people who were just like me.

    Mulligan? I think not. I'll just play this from where it now lies.

    :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:ride:
     
  17. seeking

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    This was a good post you made. Appreciate it.

    Even though I didn't figure it out through marriage. I did figure it out.. and I am still accepting it.

    Therapy doesn't work that well for me because I get anxiety talking about it too much even though I accept it. There is still a level of myself that hasn't embraced it or accepted the expression of it. One day it will.
     
  18. OnTheHighway

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    YouTube has become a powerful outlet for LGBT youth. The feeling of being alone we had when we were younger is mitigated for today's youth when they can go online, and see actual people coming out by simply typing "coming out". Tools like EC provide a way to connect with others. Magazines can now be read online and in the privacy of a bedroom without worry that someone will find it. When I was growing up, I asked my parents "what did you do before television?". My kids have grown up and they used to ask me "what did you do before the internet?". Well, one thing I did not do was embrace my sexuality.

    All that said, my journey has benefit from all of these resources today. Seeing one of the CEO's of the worlds global technology company walk in a gay pride, absorbing all the stories of others, watching the progress of marriage equality as it was happening - all of these helped build the foundation for me to embrace myself.

    Well I'm Gay, not only do I not need a mulligan, just as you say, I actually HATED playing golf! Instead of spending my time playing golf, I am much happier spending my time watching RuPaul! :roflmao:
     
  19. Pole star

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    I also conclude that there was no real way for me to tackle those issues then. My teen years were in the 1980s, and my 20s in the 1990s. My ability to rid myself of the shame and IH just wasn't there at that time. I live in a fairly conservative area, and grew up in a conservative household. The culture at the time wasn't conducive to coming out, and so I repressed. So, if I had come out, can I conclude that life would have been better for me? I can't say yes because I would still have been living in a culture/city/family that was not accepting of my orientation.
    So true...

    Ultimately, I had a very difficult time growing up because I lacked the knowledge and understanding that I was not alone. I always felt alone, that I was a freak, that no one would understand me, and the lack of role models for me meant that I just didn't identify with anything I saw as "gay." I internalized the homophobia of our culture and my social circles, and I bought into the shame simply because I didn't know any better. There was not one person in my life who ever expressed the idea to me that it was ok to be gay, that I was normal for being gay, and that there were so many people who were just like me.
    applies perfectly to me. Thanks for the post.
     
    #19 Pole star, Apr 21, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  20. SiennaFire

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    I fundamentally agree with this approach, which is how I approached things once I came out.

    The caveat that I would add is that healing the shame and internalized homophobia is a non-linear process and the implicit serialization doesn't reflect my experience. All 3 aspects are terribly interrelated. Yes start with the shame and internalized homophobia. At some point as we start to embrace our sexuality we discover additional areas of shame and IH (for example discomfort going to an LGBT event, holding hands in public or being vulnerable), which requires more healing of the IH. Eventually there is an inflection point and upward spiral as things begin to click.

    It seems that this post is a form of closure for you?