As a neuroscientist, I am fascinated by mental health, consciousness and perception, as well as the psychology behind human relationships.
"I Just Don't Want To Be Gay"
Coming out can be an extremely scary process for many people. Many are unlucky enough to have been born into highly religious or abusive families, and run a real risk of being kicked out of their home or physically harmed.
However, there is another possible narrative that's rarely explored in gay movies or in the news: it is possible to live in a completely gay-friendly, liberal city and still feel psychologically unable to come out.
Even if you live in a society in which LGBTQ+ people are tolerated, you may grow up feeling incredibly ashamed and scared of your feelings, and therefore hide your sexual orientation from a young age. You may be terrified that your friends will view you differently and your world will be flipped upside-down; there is also often the colossal fear that, upon declaring you're gay, your same-sex friends will think you're attracted to them.
In this article, I will address this very real, rarely-confronted problem: the fear of coming out due to psychological barriers that you've created, and not from any 'real' threat. Just because you're not at risk of being murdered doesn't mean you are immune from the crippling fear of being a gay person in society.
1. Realize That Staying in the Closet Is Ruining You
Before giving you psychologically-proven tricks to help rewire your brain's thinking patterns and put an end to your self-hatred, I want to touch on being 'closeted'.
Hiding your sexuality for a number of years not only does a number on your mental health, but it also effectively digs a hole for you since the consequences of such a lie are cumulative and run deep.
- The more friends that you lie to, the harder it is to share the truth with any of them because your entire social circle will be comprised of people who see you as 'straight'.
- The longer that you lie for, the harder it is for your brain to actually allow you to see yourself as a gay or bisexual person, making the process of coming out seem unnecessary and certainly of no urgency (prolonging this phase of denial).
- Most importantly, however, the longer that you accept lying about something so core to your personality, the more you will grow to accept a substandard way of living. You'll have been dishonest for so long that hiding away and diverting questions will become second nature, and you'll subconsciously come to believe that you just don't deserve to be open like your straight friends.
Being closeted is inherently terrible because it will make you feel isolated, as if there is a windowpane between you and the rest of the world. You may feel that you have to start dating people of the opposite gender, which will bring feelings of shame (when you don't like them even though you try to) and disgust (when you are physical with them, but not attracted).
2. You're Not Truly Trapped: Anyone Can Change Their Life!
Counselors frequently come across suicidal gays who remain closeted because they feel intractably trapped. They may be around 21 years old and past the 'normal' teenage coming-out age, or (equally commonly) may be much, much older. These individuals have often reached a breaking point, feeling as if they've constructed a completely inauthentic life yet feel unable to find the strength to change anything.
I want to tell you something, and I urge you to read this repeatedly until you understand it. You can change your life at any point. We exist as beings in an environmental paradigm; provided you are willing to focus on a goal and act to achieve it, there is nothing in this physical world that you cannot obtain for yourself (within reason).
This concept is the infamous Law of Attraction, which is the idea that you can manifest anything into your reality. How? Your thoughts govern your actions, and your daily actions/habits dictate your entire life. I am writing this as a neuroscientist, by the way; this is not magic nor pseudoscience. With the Law of Attraction, you set goals and act as if you already have that goal.
How to Use the Law of Attraction to Come Out as Gay/Bisexual
- All you need to do is imagine being out as a gay man/woman. Imagine being able to freely date without carrying agonizing shame, introducing your same-sex partner to your friends (and family, if they're accepting). Focus on the warm feelings of sitting in a park with a special someone, living authentically.
- You will probably feel familiar rising feelings of anguish and pain as you're so used to being closeted and denying yourself this happiness, but deflect those negative thoughts. Observe them as they appear and let them pass; remain as impartial to them as you do to thoughts about random classmates/coworkers that distract you during the day.
- Bask in the delightful imaginary feelings of being openly gay. Then, tell yourself that you already have this level of freedom, that the universe already knows that you're gay and that you are not 'trapped' in a straight life.
- Finally, tell yourself this: "I am already out as gay in some realm (does not matter to your brain that it's imaginary!), so I will act accordingly going forward. I will live my life as someone gay and proud would".
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You then must use the inner energy that you get from the manifestation techniques I've described to start coming out as gay. It may be uncomfortable, but keep visualizing your ultimate goal and acting as if you've already achieved that goal.
How does this work, in practice? It makes coming out to new people feel natural and deserved—because you're 'already out'! It shuts down your previous anguished narrative of "I'm so closeted, this is so embarrassing; I'm trapped and don't know how to make the first jump". Fake it until you make it, including to yourself (if you're coming out to an old friend, keep thinking "it's great being out and proud! Everyone knows I'm gay apart from this one friend, so telling them will be easy").
The Law of Attraction should fill you with a unique certainty and positivity, so if you don't feel that, you're doing it wrong. The human brain is easily tricked and believes what you feed it, so don't for one second think that this technique won't work in your situation. It is the single most powerful tool for transforming anything in your life, whether it be your coming out process, fitness level, grades or social skills. It has worked for me in mind-bendingly powerful, mysterious ways.
3. You Are Allowed to Be Gay
Now, a lot of people who are secretly gay feel that they just 'don't have the right' to be queer, on a conscious or subconscious level. You may imagine yourself coming out as gay; the idea not only makes you squirm with fear but fills you with guilt, as if you're robbing someone else, someone more deserving, of some type of 'gay limelight'.
This may stem from the desire to please family members who want to see you married with children, but may also be a spurious belief of your own. Years of self-deprecating thoughts can and will lead your brain to irrational conclusions, such as the idea that you're undeserving of the 'gay life' that other non-straight individuals lead.
Maybe you are straight-passing and safe from homophobic comments, but you have a gay male friend who is often verbally harassed. You might find yourself thinking "he gets to be gay and live an open life because he's suffered so much—I haven't". Maybe you're bisexual and feel like you don't deserve to identify with the LGBT umbrella term, as if you're some sort of hindrance to the progression of the gay community through not being 'gay enough'.
Whenever these thoughts pop up, you must put an end to them and not let yourself spiral into exploring them. They don't deserve a second of your attention and are, to be frank, signs of a temporary state of depression. You are as deserving of the right to live your life, shameless and free, as anyone else.
4. Let Go of Anger and Regret
It's extremely easy to let your angst at being closeted turn into bitter jealousy. You might see straight couples in love all around you and feel aggrieved and full of envy, thinking "why do they get to love openly while I'm stuck in the closet?".
As I described above, you need to learn to regain control of your thoughts. These negative thoughts are to be expected, since you've inexorably strengthened those particular brain pathways through years of hating yourself for being gay. They say 'neurons that fire together wire together', meaning that anything you do/think repeatedly becomes a learned behavior.
The River Analogy
I like to use the river analogy. Think of your negative brain pathways as a molded river, and your thoughts like water. A river will always be a river even if completely empty, in that there is always the potential for it to become full of water again. Similarly, your brain will always revert back to your old, pessimistic thinking patterns if let yourself indulge them.
A stream of water can run into another bit of mud at any point, forming a separate river; you are always able to create new, positive brain pathways that don't involve self-hatred or fear. It will just take time and will require you to let your familiar, negative thoughts just float away; they can no longer be indulged if you want to break free from them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Lucy