I am a 33 year old Gay man who has grown up in a strict religious household and environment. I have been attracted to men since I was about 13. Because of my religion I had always suppressed, ignored and hid these feelings. I ended up getting married to my now current wife always thinking that it’s something I can change or need to fight against because it was wrong to feel this way. Three years ago I tried to commit suicide due to not being able to handle the mental torment that I was going through. Recently I had another less serious “meltdown” and ended up talking to a mental health nurse. I decided at that time that I need to leave my wife and come out so that I can start living my life the way I want to and not worry about what my friends and family will think. I am truly terrified though. Growing up in this religious environment and being a part of it all my life I know that all of my family and friends that I currently have will no longer be able to talk to me or have anything to do with me. I don’t fault them for this, I just don’t know how I can cope with such a gigantic change with what I know will be zero to little support. I have one good friend at work who knows my situation and is 100% behind me. I just don’t want to over-burden him when the s@#$ hits the fan. I guess what I am trying to say with this wordy story is I how can I get additional support when I get all my ducks in a row and start this new chapter in my life. I am going to have to deal with my current family and friends pressuring me to not do this when they find out and also just dealing with the sadness and heartache that I know I am going to cause the people that I love despite their thoughts and views of my choice… Thanks
It sounds like there’s a lot going on for you, and you feel overwhelmed. I’m also hearing that you have a lot of strength and courage – you’re making huge changes in order to live your life honestly and freely, and that’s so inspiring! I also see that you’re reaching out – that takes guts, and it’s a positive way to cope with all the things you’re facing right now.
It sounds like you’re concerned that your family will feel hurt and heartbroken, and that this is really difficult for you. I think that your concern for your family’s feelings shows that you are a caring and compassionate person, but I also believe that being honest is an act of caring and compassion in itself.
It’s true that this time of transition probably won’t be easy, but there are a few things you might consider that could help to smooth the way.
Create a plan for yourself
It’s clear that you’ve made the decision to come out to your friends and family, but it might be worthwhile to plan how you will come out. Would you like to sit down with them, or would you prefer to write a letter? Would you like someone to be there with you to support you, or is it something you’d like to do alone? Would you like to come out to everyone at the same time, or would you prefer to do it one-on-one with a few key folks before disclosing to the rest of the family?
Coming out isn’t easy – just as often, it’s really difficult. It helps to be prepared for (but not expect) the worst case scenario. For this reason, it’s really important to consider your safety. Do you have a safe place to stay after you come out?
I get the sense this is something you have thought about deeply, and also that you anticipate that your family will question your decision. It may be helpful to let them know that this is not a decision you made lightly, but it’s what’s right for you – end of story.
There are lots of different kinds of support available to you in the Guelph area, but what kinds you’ll want is up to you. Below are a few different avenues you may wish to explore:
Counseling: I would strongly encourage you to consider seeing a therapist – these kinds of life transitions can be much easier when you have a safe space to make meaning of it. The Couple and Family Therapy Centre here at U of G is a great place to check out – they are LGBTQ-friendly and offer services to individuals, couples, and families on a sliding scale. This could be a valuable resource for your family members too.
Faith-Based Support: It sounds like your faith has been very important in your upbringing and to your family. If you think that faith-based support might be helpful, it might be worth checking out one of the following links:
- Muslims for Progressive Values
- The Gay Christian Network
- Gay Buddhist Sangha
- Sarbat: LGBT Sikhs
- The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association: Information and support for GLBTI Vaishnavas and Hindus
If you are a Christian, there are some affirming congregations in town, including Harcourt United Church and the Unitarian Congregation of Guelph, that could offer you a sense of community and support.
Legal Support: It sounds like you’re thinking of divorce – if this is the case, you might want to consult a lawyer. A great place to start would be the Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County. They’re queer-friendly and offer free legal advice to low-income folks – to find out if you qualify for their free services, give them a shout at (519) 821-2100. If you are able to afford a private lawyer, look for a lawyer that specializes in Family Law. If you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure they’re LGBT-friendly. If you experience discrimination of any kind, look for a different one. Remember that it is illegal in Ontario to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Support From Your Local Queer Community: You’ve started here, and that’s awesome! If you need to talk to someone real-time, OUTline is available to you. Our trained volunteers are available to chat with you confidentially and anonymously over the phone and online on Mondays from 3:30-6pm, Wednesdays from 1-3pm and 6-9pm, and Fridays from 1-3pm. Give us a call at (519) 836-4550 or chat with us at www.qlinks.ca/outline. If you need support outside our normal hours, the Community Torchlight Crisis Line will always be available to you. Give them a call any time, 24/7, at (519) 821-0140.
If you’d rather meet people in real life, check out the Events Calendar on Qlinks. They’re up-to-date on everything queer that’s happening in Guelph and the tri-city area.
Boundaries and Self-Care
Boundaries with Family: You sound worried that you’ll experience a lot of backlash or pressure to stay in the closet. In view of this, it may be helpful to set some boundaries with your friends and family. Let them know whether or not you feel comfortable having discussions about this matter, or if they cross the line into triggering or offensive comments. Give yourself permission to disengage if you feel unsafe.
Boundaries with Friends: I also noticed that you sounded concerned about relying on your friend during this difficult time – I think it’s really awesome that you’re considering their feelings. If you feel comfortable, it may help to have a conversation about boundaries before starting this process, so that both of you can feel safe maintaining them. What kind of support does your friend feel capable of offering? What are some early warning signs that they may be feeling burnt out? What can you do to support them in supporting you? What are some alternative resources that you can access if your friend isn’t available to be there for you? How can you care for yourself?
Speaking of which…
Self-Care: It’s the most important thing we can do for ourselves anytime, but especially when we’re under a lot of stress. It sounds like you’ve struggled with suicidal feelings in the past, and it’s important to be mindful of that and have a strategy to cope positively if you find those feelings returning. One thing you could do is create a self-care plan. A self-care plan is a strategy for times when you’re feeling down, unhappy, unsafe, or over-stressed. It includes the things that clue you into knowing you need to care for yourself (ex. if you’re not sleeping enough, worrying a lot, eating more or less than usual, if you feel you can’t keep yourself safe), things you can do to cope positively in the moment (anything from going to a walk to calling 911), and things you can do to cope positively long-term (connecting with your community, volunteering, seeing a therapist, building healthy relationships). When you are feeling down or overwhelmed, keep in mind the things that nurture you, and pull out your self-care plan. You could also create a self-care box, like an emotional first aid kit. Store mementos, activities, or other comforting items in a box or container that’s portable or easily accessible. If it helps to ground you and give you comfort, it can go in the self-care kit! Keep a copy of your self-care plan inside.
We hope this gives you a helpful starting point, and we’re wishing you all the best in your journey out of the closet!
❤ Liz and Malena