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What Does 'Authentic' Mean to You?

Discussion in 'LGBT Later in Life' started by SevnButton, Sep 28, 2018.

  1. Nickw

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    I should probably clarify a bit where I am coming from here...

    On this forum there is a lot of push to be authentic in regards to one's sexuality. In this "later than life" portion of the forum there are often married folks who start to realize, at older ages that those pesky same sex attractions really are important and defining. In some cases we may discover that we are gay and that we really desire, and need, to be with someone of the same sex. Yet, we have spouses and families that we have rely on us. Strictly speaking, sexual orientation authenticity would require us to rip the bandaid off and live as a gay person to fulfill ourselves and be true to our sexuality.

    Yet, for many of us, authenticity might be being the best parent we can be and that it is most important to create an environment where our children flourish. It might mean taking care of a spouse that we made a commitment to. In doing that, we might need to set aside some of our same sex needs and desires.

    To be clear. For many of us, we cannot be that parent if we cannot nourish our sexuality. For some of us, staying with our spouses damage them because we cannot be what they really deserve and need. So, leaving that life and living as a gay person is necessary. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    I just think we have to be careful in being sure that authenticity is not defined by living a particular standard as a gay or bisexual. It is a sum of a lot of different parts of one's life.

    To illustrate....for me.

    I am comfortable with my sexuality. My wife and I communicate, pretty much daily about my sexuality. I don't filter much around her. I might wear a Pride shirt running errands and I might attend gay events and parties. I might have a night out with my gay friends and I might have a boyfriend I kiss in public once in awhile. I do all those things.

    But, my family doesn't know, my wife's family doesn't know and none of our friends know. I keep quiet about this because my wife is fiercely independent and will not be pitied. She cannot tolerate having someone speculate on our relationship and feel sorry for her. Since we are on this journey of life together, I respect that even though I really would rather just be totally out. So, I live an inauthentic life...strictly speaking. But, for me, my wife is the most important thing. I would die for her. Not being out about my sexuality seems trivial compared to that.
     
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  2. smurf

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    Oh, I see what you are saying. Yes, for sure.

    I had no idea that some people saw authenticity as being completely you 100% of the time with everyone ever.

    I myself I'm not open to most people about being in an open relationship, not open about my mental health issues, and not open about use of weed for medical purposes. The only people that know are the selected few who I can trust with my whole story. Some group of people know maybe one or two of those facts, but not all together.

    So yeah, totally agree with you. I don't think authenticity requires people knowing everything about you. It just requires you and your select few to know your story.

    I think there is definitely a grey line somewhere. Not sure where to draw it, but I feel there has to be one in order to know if you are hiding stuff for survival or simply fear. Interesting
     
  3. SevnButton

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    I'm starting to think of 'authentic' as an ideal, or a standard or a yardstick that can be useful in making choices. For example, early in the morning I was catching up on Empty Closets when my wife walked into the room. Without thinking I quickly shut down Empty Closets before my wife could see what I was doing. Eheheheh!! -- inauthentic. Then I told my wife about how I was uncomfortable the previous morning when I told her about my dreams, because they were vividly symbolic of my coming out. Ding! -- authentic.

    Authenticity is not limited to issues around sexuality, it's just extremely relevant because of all the pressure to conform.
     
  4. SevnButton

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    Yeah. Sometimes it's just not worth the risk or the effort. I keep loosely in-touch with an old friend who is gay. Twice now, when I've mentioned my sexuality he's dropped the thread and he doesn't write again. It's a disappointment, but it seems wiser to put the effort where the return will be better.
     
  5. Nickw

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    I thought I needed to feel a little bit of the prejudice that gay people are subjected to this weekend. So, I wore a Pride shirt to the steel supplier, the tire store and the farm supply store this Saturday in my redneck little town. It was an interesting experiment in feeling vulnerable about my sexuality and brushing against the "totally out" authenticity. Pretty interesting. I had one guy turn around at a counter and not talk to me. What a horrible thing to deal with this all the time. It must be so hard for some to live authentically when everything about their lives must be kept a secret.
     
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  6. SevnButton

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    Ok, there's a component of authenticity -- courage. All I can say Nickw, is that you have more courage than I do!
     
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  7. Nickw

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    At one point, I turned the shirt inside out but then thought WTF...why not. I wasn't risking physical injury. I'm a old man...lol. No one would take me outside and pound on me. My brother lived ten years in a small town and never could hold his boyfriend's hand in public. Yet, he, eventually married. That's courage.
     
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  8. OGS

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    I think there's a component that looks like courage in isolation but when you live it everyday it's not any more. It's just being who you are--authenticity I guess. My husband and I have been together for over twenty years. Both of us seem pretty straight in isolation but get us together and it's obvious we're a couple, always has been, hopefully always will be. We've never made any attempt to hide that, not now in Chicago, not twenty years ago in Oklahoma and Utah. I always think it's funny when people express shock that we would hold hands in public twenty years ago, it really never occurred to us not to, plus I just don't think it would have fooled anyone--we are who we are.

    It reminds me of my Father's funeral of all things. I gave the eulogy. It was a lovely service and many people spoke very highly of my remarks, which was nice--he was an amazing man and it was gratifying to feel that I had managed to capture that. I kept getting comments about how brave it was, which I didn't quite understand but they were all very positive comments so I didn't really think much about it. Finally my sister made the same comment so I asked her "you're like the tenth person to say that, WTH are you talking about?" Well, one of the stories I told about my Father was about a rather remarkable incident that happened shortly after I came out, a story that only made sense in that context. So apparently I had come out, over the pulpit in a Mormon church to several hundred people and hadnt actually noticed. After all the story wasn't about me it was about him.

    I guess my point is that while it takes bravery at the start after a while it's not brave anymore. It's just you...
     
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  9. Tightrope

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    Authentic has typically meant real and genuine. Only in the last few decades has it been brought over to mean disclosing sexuality more and more. Authentic will probably always mean the original definition to me.

    When you say someone is genuine or keeps things real, it means the person you're referring to doesn't have ulterior motives, speaks their mind, and treats people right.

    If someone is coupled and they want to share their significant other with people, that's great. If they're not coupled or don't date, then it becomes their choice. If their arrangement is unconventional, then it's also their choice. I have some single friends I've known for a long time and I know just about everything about them except what's going on in their heads sexually. Many of them are not attached. Some of them are trauma survivors. Some of them are on the awkward side. If they want to share more private things with me, they can. But if they don't, it doesn't change how I view them or how much I like spending time with them. I don't need to know their intimate tastes and graphic fantasies in an area of their lives that may not come to fruition for them. I'm sure it's hard for them to talk about that. I know that they are upstanding people but mostly they are authentic friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.
     
    #29 Tightrope, Oct 1, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
  10. Nickw

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    That's really wonderful that you reached a point so many years ago that you didn't worry about what anyone thought of you in those places (Utah and Oklahoma). That, really is brave no matter what you think of it now.

    So, I met my friend in Hanksville, Utah, last fall. (Population about 100). We spent several days hiking and camping in the desert. He's 35 years younger than me. He looks older and I look younger...but still. We got a room in the only motel in town and, well, had some fun. The next day we went out to do a climb and then came back to town and went to the local burger joint. People were staring at us. I kept thinking it was odd. We weren't really doing anything. Went back to the room and noticed the maid had been there and we had left some..um supplies...on the nightstand. After that we just decided...whatever...and were friendly in public for the rest of the stay. It was sort of liberating.

    Full disclaimer. My wife knows the whole story.
     
  11. Contented

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    I think part of being authentic in this context is disclosing honestly your sexual orientation whether it be in a small or large setting. Some people may well be uncomfortable with it but as long as it is appropriate why care. We are who we are and I want live life openly not in the closet or the shadows. Nothing about me is weird, sick, perverted and the like. I am simply a man who prefers other men as emotional and sexual partners as normal as the next guy. We need to stop thinking that because we are gay,lesbian or bi we need to explain or apologize.
     
  12. DecentOne

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    For me to get there (living without worry of filtering, fully authentic in all contexts) in terms of sexual orientation, I have to balance the realization (as @Nickw was explaining) that I am not alone in this life, I've chosen a companion for life's journey. The word "duty" you mention later isn't quite right... that word can also apply to serving on a jury, which just isn't the same (I speak from experience). Being "faithful" to my wife isn't a chore or duty. That's part of my character, and a part of connection, love, and what makes me whole. I am as authentic as possible, within the family I've chosen to build, because we are more whole together not just because we vowed to be (though living up to my promises is something I strive to do, as part of the real me, and thus I don't make promises lightly).

    The generation above me in my family of origin has no trouble (or would not have trouble) with me not filtering. The generation my wife and I raised into this world handled my disclosure without issue except one: a stated desire to know that their Mom and I are still together and happy. I don't think it is unrealistic of me to honor that, be faithful to my wife, and yet be hopeful for her to be catching up so that I can be out more without her being distressed at the thought of it. It is, itself, authentic (as it is loving, patient and kind, in other words "me in relationship").

    @Nickw talks about wearing a pride shirt in public, but also heeding his wife's need not to pitied by family (so he's not out in some of that circle). I see the same care-full balance taking place there, in relationship.
     
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  13. I'mStillStanding

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    Been thinking on this one again... I feel that in the lgbtq+ community there are so many pressures.... being out, sexual preferences, body shaming, racial discrimination, masculine and feminine traits, etc. Like I’ve said before, for me being out was the only option. But respecting others is so important and that seems to be overlooked. People often feel to be authentic you have to be shouting from the roof top, and that’s not true. Don’t hold yourself to anyone’s standards but your own. This includes both the straight and gay worlds.

    It’s ok not to be basic lol but it’s never ok not to respect someone even if you may not agree with their choices....
     
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  14. OnTheHighway

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    As the title of the thread asks, “What does being “authentic” mean to you?” I have yet to find the complete answer myself but feel I am well on my way doing so. Embracing my sexuality, as I have come to realize, was only a part of my journey towards being authentic. Sexuality is only one part of the puzzle as I continue to explore my own abilities, limitations and boundaries while removing all the layers of expectations placed upon me in my youth so I can finally answer the question for myself of “who am I?”. As I put the puzzle pieces together, I believe I become more and more authentic to whom I am.

    As part of my journey, I realized the career I embraced for 25 years, albeit accomplished and successful, was in fact not the path I held true passion for. Instead, it was a career that had been predetermined for me by my family. Escaping such predetermined path has been liberating, but I probably would have never realized I needed to liberate myself from it had the initial courage to finally embrace my sexuality not come about. Having lived behind the emotional wall I built for myself while in the closet, I cut off my own ability to identify with whom I truly am. It was when I finally got the courage to embrace my sexuality that the emotional wall began to fall and I was able to start to look in the mirror and understand what authenticity means to me.

    Everyone will define authenticity for themselves, and the answer is embedded in each of us however we define it. As I move from answering my personal questions about my sexuality to a broader understanding of whom I am, I learn more about myself and better understand what it means for me to be authentic. The journey continues.
     
    #34 OnTheHighway, Oct 2, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2018
  15. SevnButton

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    I'm coming to realize that talking about authenticity isn't just about the definition (that's the easy part) it's really about what that means in my life and my choices. I would love to be 100% clear and certain about my sexuality, but I am not, especially as I go through different phases, ups and downs. But I can still be authentic.

    It happens in the moment, in choices that happen instantly with no thought, like if someone says something inappropriate and I speak up. It happens with choices that take a little thought, like when I'm deciding whether to say something in a conversation. It happens when I'm playing scenarios through my head and thinking about how I'd like to respond.

    I have a brother-in-law who is really a great guy. He and I have joked about being gay pretty much the whole time I've known him, although it's always with the premise that we're both totally straight. Last time I saw him, he joked about missing the Gay Pride parade. Without thinking, I said, "maybe next year", and that was totally authentic except that my brother-in-law probably didn't know it was authentic. So is it really authentic?

    I've played that conversation through my head many times. I think about what I would like to say. I hope that next time I will say, "I want to tell you, and I trust and respect you enough to say that I would really like to go to the Gay Pride parade because I'm not so straight as I have pretended to be". Having those imaginary but authentic conversations lay the groundwork for actually having them.
     
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  16. Broccoli

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    This thread is similar in a lot of ways to the one about having 'walls' up around yourself, in that I've read through the whole thread and heard the words used in lots of contexts but still don't really understand what everybody means by them. The people talking about responsibilities and relationships seem to be dealing with the same kind of thoughts as I have. These are some of the quotes I'm uncertain about:

    We all filter all the time, and we all generally try to live 'good' lives in which we help others, try to live up to our ideals (be they religious or otherwise) and try to conquer what we perceive to be the weaker parts of our character. For example, from my perspective the person who prides themselves on 'saying it as they see it' and being 'honest' is often just creating an excuse for being hurtful and not caring about others. This isn't a version of 'authenticity' that I think we should aspire to. In the last week, I can think of several times when I have 'applied a filter' or not 'spoken my mind'... but I don't think this was the wrong thing to do. Specifically -
    - I was feeling frustruated because I couldn't figure out why my code for an important project was crashing at work. One of the more junior members of my team came and asked me for help with something relatively straightforward. In my frustrated state, my 'natural, honest, unfiltered' response would have been to tell them crossly to leave me alone, that they should be able to figure it out themselves and that it wasn't important in the scheme of things anyway. I swallowed that down and assisted them politely and professionally. Was I inauthentic?
    - I had agreed to help an acquaintance with something one evening. If I was 'honest' and 'didn't care what other people thought', I would have said that I could no longer be bothered. I didn't - I showed up, smiled and stuck to my commitment. Was I inauthentic?
    - My friend who had recently had a baby told me enthusiastically about some of the new things it had learnt to do recently. If I had 'spoken my mind' I would have inturrupted her and said I didn't care. I didn't - I listened and understood that it was important to her and I cared about her. Was I inauthentic?

    None of that was in the context of sexuality, but I hope it shows why I feel uncomfortable with the idea unexamined and don't really understand what it means and how to apply it.
     
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  17. SevnButton

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    I keep imagining the scene where the housekeeper goes into your room and discovers your 'supplies'. I wish I could be a fly on the wall for that one!
     
  18. dirtyshirt84

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    @Broccoli I think in a sexuality context what I mean is I won’t apologise for being bisexual, for being sexuality attracted to women. If it makes someone feel uncomfortable or offended or they can’t understand it then that’s their problem, not mine. For many years if someone found it offensive or wasn’t ok with it I would consider it my problem.

    Also if I decide to dress in a masculine way, to not wear make up or heels or a way people don’t like I refuse to conform to what some people expect of a woman. If I decide not to shave my body hair and people are repulsed by it - too bad. I refuse to conform to these beauty standards anymore.

    I hope that helps your understanding. Certainly we can’t all be brutally honest about everything all the time but I don’t think that’s what suggested. Just that you should never be made to change or deny who you are in order to conform in some way.
     
  19. Mihael

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    I think authenticity applies in other cases than being nice to others. It is very possible to be inauthenic in all sorts of ways. I think that an inauthentic person would think what is expected of them before allowing themself to feel their own feelings, would think in terms of what others said about a situation and what they should feel rather than what they really feel. Maybe a better phrase for this would be being able to be spontaneous? Letting yourself be spontaneous?
     
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  20. SevnButton

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    HI @Broccoli -
    Good question. I think your examples, like most things in life, are not simple, one-dimensional issues. You might not really care about the new things your friends baby has learned, but you do care about your friend. You might have felt the urge to tell your junior colleague to bugger off, but I suspect you also value being helpful. There's nothing wrong, in my opinion, with a little social grace. Where speaking up is critically important with or without grace, is in the face of oppression and disrespect.