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Vulnerabilty

Discussion in 'LGBT Later in Life' started by justme32, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. justme32

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    Does anyone feel like acknowledging their sexual orientation makes them feel way more vulnerable than they'd like? I don't like acknowledging that I have any feelings around this topic. I hate it. I especially hate talking about it with therapists...I never intended to but it became a thing for me while I was talking to a therapist and I tried and just embarrassed the crap out of myself because of how ineffectively I could communicate on the topic. Talking about it with my husband feels natural, talking about it with my oldest and most loving friends feels natural, hinting about it in conversations with family members and calling them out on their misconceptions when they present them (they live in a conservative area and it's disappointing) feels natural...talking about it with a therapist makes me feel pathetic, perverted, and like some dumb teen that's rebelling against their parents (I guess the dark side of how I secretly feel about myself on some level, maybe?) I liked it better when this part of me was totally compartmentalized but now it's out in the open and I wish it would go back in. Intellectually, I know better...it's just emotional. And I hate dealing with these emotions because they're not cool, calm, and collected, and honestly these emotions don't even feel like they're mine. I am very empathic and I sort of wonder if there was some awkward counter transference that occurred in my therapy session where I absorbed how my therapist felt about herself when she came out to herself. It's so gross and embarrassing. Hard to talk about.
     
    #1 justme32, Feb 9, 2020
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  2. Chip

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    Absolutely acknowledging that one is other than straight is a very vulnerable experience. It opens oneself up to criticism, ridicule, hatred, humiliation, judgment and all sorts of other things. It immediately moves one from the dominant "belonging' group (straight people) into one of the much smaller subgroups, which creates shame and a sense of 'not belonging'. So yes, in short, it's very much a major vulnerability topic.

    As far as your therapist... with a good therapist, there's really no embarrassment or judging because therapists deal with this on a daily basis, and fully understand how difficult it is.

    And for many people, those who were raised in an environment where emotion wasn't welcomed, accepted, appreciated, and encouraged, it feels wrong, embarrassing, and shameful to display emotions. And yet, that's not how we're wired. We are wired to have and experience all emotions, including grief, anger, fear. The emotions probably don't feel like they are yours because they were probably not validated when you were young.

    It's unlikely that you're absorbing what your counselor felt like. It's more like you're giving voice to feelings within yourself that have never had the opportunity to be heard. And that's a good thing. The key is to approach this experience with curiosity and openness and a willingness to listen and understand and explore. I think if you can begin to think about it that way, you'll find it's a lot easier.
     
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  3. FreeGirl

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    I felt similar to you for a while and for me it was because I wasn't totally comfortable/accepting of this part of myself. I have reached the point now where I can tell people I am not close to and who I am not sure how they will react that I am gay without feeling any pangs of fear or anxiety (this is not true for everyone in this category, but it has happened several times). However, lately I have had to discuss some things about my sexuality with my therapist (also not planned, but it came up)--the fact I might be bi (I am back to thinking I'm not, but who the hell knows?!), the fact that I have never been in a serious physical relationship at my age--and it felt extremely EXTREMELY uncomfortable. Part of it was that she didn't react the way I expected her to, but I think a big part of it is that I am still not comfortable with myself being those things, so it makes me uncomfortable to talk about it with someone where I don't already have a high level of trust/love. I need to accept myself before I can be OK with someone else hearing those things and potentially not being accepting and throwing that attitude back at me. I think it makes sense that when we look to others for validation of who we are or validation of our behavior, it is very scary to open up to them about who we are or our behavior, because what if they don't validate us? It is a super vulnerable position! I realized that I have to deal with this stuff myself and not depend on my therapist to say I am OK/not OK one way or the other, or my actions/lack of experience is OK/not OK. I have to be OK with every part of myself. It's hard when others have rejected those parts of yourself, or when you have seen others be rejecting for being similar, to get that confidence, though. I am not sure how to do it, really. In my experience, talking with people who don't make me feel vulnerable and are accepting has definitely been really helpful. My current therapist is not as good at the sexual orientation convos, but that is not her specialty and that is not what I went to her for. I had a different therapist for my orientation confusion and she was much better with that stuff. So I think it depends on the therapist too!
     
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  4. justme32

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    I love everything you just said, FreeGirl, and you made me feel like putting this in writing.

    Yea...so, specifically, when I was younger (a teenager), I remember a friend of mine talking about how she chose not to associate with any labels at all and I kind of liked the idea of that because at that point, everyone was going through this pressure where they were either bi or straight, or used to be bi but not bi anymore, and I kind of wanted to identify as bi only because I wasn't totally sure that I didn't like girls, but it felt inauthentic (teenager drama), etc... so when she brought up the whole, "no label" thing, I was like, "Woohoo! I feel this is a means to an end...no more needing to explain myself! And if I date a girl, I date a girl, and if I date a guy, I date a guy, and I just won't do labels or think too hard about it. This totally frees me up to just follow my instincts. I LOVE IT!!!" My friend who is gay turned to me in the middle of the cafeteria and screamed, "This isn't that complicated. You either like vaginas or you don't! And you check ONE box based on that." And in an instant I felt that he was right, that I was totally ashamed and guilty and completely offensive, that I had hurt his feelings, and that I should feel pathetic for even thinking about any of this at all...and then just stopped thinking about how I felt about girls for a long time...except for one girl in particular in my late teens and my thoughts around it were, "why do I feel so different about her when we hug? What makes our hugs special? Don't say you're bi...you're lying to yourself. Just check a box already..." and then when SHE came out to ME as bi, I ended up just not even knowing what to do and I think I told her I was bi back, just because I wanted her to notice me, but still feeling like a liar. I felt the same way in my early twenties when I was experiencing some mild attraction to my friend...and so when I sat in that therapist's office and started trying to tell her, all I could picture was sitting in the school cafeteria and having my friend scream in my face about picking a box, and then feeling like a liar, and feeling like she was going to say the exact same thing as him so why even waste my time. I guess I figured that if I hadn't found a girl I wanted to date by the time I was 25, then it would become irrelevant and I would just get married and not worry about it anymore...until I realized, I fantasize about girls now...like a lot. And I know that what happened in therapy is about that stupid friend of mine and about feeling like a liar for a long time. But it doesn't change the fact that it's super embarrassing!!!!
     
    #4 justme32, Feb 9, 2020
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  5. FreeGirl

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    Wow, JustMe, thanks so much for sharing your story!! I can totally relate to this, particularly about the stigma around bisexuality, and about denying my feelings and hoping they would become irrelevant after a while. There have been so many times in my life that I have heard negative comments about bi people, from both the straight AND gay communities, and it is SO awful! We (human beings, not just bi people) have such a strong urge to belong in a group and feel like we are part of a community, and being bi sometimes feels like we are being excluded from everyone, and it totally sucks. Hearing your story makes me want to be out and proud about being bi! But at the same time I am not sure that I truly am. And then I wonder: am I not sure because I just don't want to be bi? Or because I'm actually not? And I totally agree, I don't want a label either! It would be so freeing if everyone would just stop labeling themselves and date who they want, no questions asked. For some reason, though, I keep wondering what my label is. What is this need to have a label, where does it come from? Is it a desire to be part of a community again? A desire to know for sure, without any ambiguity, who I am attracted to/who I want to be with? Does it come from other people always asking what I am, wanting to know on dates and dating sites? I don't know what it is! It would be so great if I could just let it go!!
    I am so sorry about your friend making that comment. I am not sure what causes some people to reject bisexuality, even when (especially when!) they are gay themselves. Looking back on my life, there have been so many times when I felt attraction to a girl and even when I had the opportunity to act on it, and I didn't do it because I couldn't accept myself. I regret it so much! When I finally did start to accept my feelings about women (when I was 29!) I felt like I had been a liar for so long, too. But thank goodness we are on our way to accepting ourselves, right? And there is nothing to be embarrassed about, really! You are opening yourself up to exploring and discovering who you really are, and that's amazing, and especially brave to do in front of someone else. :slight_smile:

     
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  6. Peterpangirl

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    And for me, fully accepting myself took time. Time to reconfigure and integrate my new understanding of my sexuality into my self concept.
     
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  7. Devil Dave

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    I do feel vulnerable when I open up about my orientation, and to be honest, I like feeling vulnerable. I used to hate it because, like you said, it made me feel pathetic, like I was making excuses for myself being a weak and ineffective person.

    But something changed in me a couple of years ago, when I had an encounter with a homophobe. He made all these abusive comments about my sexuality, and I reported it to the police. While I was talking about it on the phone to the call handler, I burst into tears. It was horrible that somebody had inflicted a hate crime on me, but then I thought back to all the abuse I received at school and throughout my younger years when I was in the closet. People would make gay jokes around me, make me feel ashamed of myself and just want to hide myself away. And I never once cried about it. I never told teachers or my parents because I didn't want my family or anyone else at school to think I was weak. I just acted like it didn't bother me that I was the target of all these insults. It's like I was wearing an invisible suit of armour every day, I had accepted all of these gay insults as part of my routine, and that was my life. I was gay and I had to put up with it.

    So when I was talking about this homophobic incident to the call handler, and she was saying "you shouldn't have to put up with that" I thought to myself, no I shouldn't. I don't go around insulting people because of the way they look or the way they speak and behave. And a lot of people in my life accept me as a gay man and don't make any issues about my sexuality. I am respected as a loyal friend, a hard worker, a caring family member, and an all round decent person, and it took me a long time to feel that way about myself. I didn't have a lot of respect for myself when I was in the closet.

    So when that homophobe tried to take all my respect away from me, it reminded me of all the abuse I took at school, and when I started crying, it was as if that closeted teenager I used to be was saying to me "You're not an insecure 15 year old boy any more, you don't need to protect me and hide away under that suit of armour, you can step out and be yourself. You can express your own feelings and opinions and people can either love or hate you for it, but you don't need to pretend things don't bother you any more." And in that moment of vulnerability I made peace with myself.

    And it does sadden me that a lot of gay people, particularly gay men, still devalue themselves, and each other. They may have accepted the part of their lives that enjoys partying and gay sex, but there are very few gay men I feel like I can be vulnerable with, because they just see themselves as party and sex animals. They don't seem to have time to talk about feelings and share their coming out experiences, even though we've all been through it at some point. Maybe they just handle their feelings differently to me, but I believe there is strength in being vulnerable.
     
  8. BiGemini87

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    @justme32

    I'm so sorry you're struggling with this, and that past experiences are by and large the culprit. I go through fits and starts of the vulnerability aspect, particularly when I'm trying to suss out whether or not I should come out to other people irl. I think it's probably a big reason why I've only come out to the two people who matter most; because I can't be vulnerable around others (lots of childhood b.s. to unpack, there). I always feel mortified if I let even the slightest, most general pieces of myself out, and the idea of doing that with my sexuality (especially around people I know have preconceived notions) isn't something I feel comfortable with. At least, not yet.

    The fact that you dealt with intolerance from someone within the LGBTQ+ community makes it worse, I suspect. People come to expect heterosexuals to be ignorant (sometimes willfully so) regarding bisexuality--but you figure someone who has dealt with stigma surrounding their own sexuality would be a little more compassionate. Sadly, I've seen more biphobia from people in the community than outside of it.

    You may not think you're making progress, but I think you're doing really well; by opening up about it in therapy, you've taken the first step. Maybe each step will become easier with time. Difficult as it is, try to push past that discomfort, and be honest with your therapist about your feelings. I'm sure you'll receive no judgment from her, given her own experiences.
     
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  9. justme32

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    hey! Thanks for all that. I don’t know if you or anyone else on there has felt this but the other struggle with it is that in the past, I felt this unwavering need to be totally certain and not to admit any variability in my own definition of my sexuality or lack of surety you the point where I put myself in situations where I made it seem like I had zero angst and was totally self-assured when that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Do the fact that I need to admit how unsure I am about things, all the time, and the ways in which I have made mistakes, makes me wonder if everyone would hate me if I admitted all this..but then, that’s the thing, isn’t it? In a world where sexuality as a spectrum has been invalidated by so many, saying you see yourself anywhere along that spectrum other than at the polar opposite ends is going to be met with suspicion. And I’m just not a person who likes angsty bullshit...so, identifying with a bisexual label doesn’t really do much to help with that
     
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  10. Peterpangirl

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    The right man for you will be a lucky man indeed.
     
  11. Pole star

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    Reading your post reminded me of my own past. It felt like I had written my feelings and experience.
     
  12. CatWho

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    Yes, acknowledging you are not straight is hard and makes you vulnerable. It seems funny to me that, as I am starting to feel more comfortable with my sexuality, acknowledging still scares me.