It has been twenty years ago when Ellen Degeneres publicly announced in her self-titled sit-com Ellen that she’s gay. This was seconded when she officially guested at The Ophrah Winfrey show. It created a media frenzy and mixed emotions from the public on whether to support or reject this self-confession. To some, Ellen’s coming out served as an inspiration and they also followed steps towards self-liberation.
Nonetheless, despite this radical move and the openness of the LGBTQ nowadays, there are still teens and even adults who are afraid to admit about their real identity. Why so? Let’s discuss in this article…
Why I’m still in the closet?
The risk of rejection. Being gay is still considered by some as a stigma to family and society. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have presented that feelings of rejection from family and friends are threats towards their opening up. A family with a strong male and dominant father is more likely a factor as to why teens are afraid to tell that they are gay. Discrimination in school and work are also being mentioned and can result to other social effects like being ridiculed or embarrassed publicly.
Crime to be gay. In some parts of the world, gay is considered a crime. Thus, if you are caught having a sexual encounter with same sex, it is punishable by law. In Indonesia, for example, caning is the method of punishment. The person is caned 100 times publicly and is expected to apologize for the act. Nicole Issa, PsyD used to say, “Much of the information they are exposed to is negative and harmful, and thus only reinforces the feeling of isolation.”
Culture and Religion. Strict practices of culture and religion are still predominant in condemning LGBTQ practices. Some would kick out or disown their family members after affirming that they are not straight. Most of these families and communities would reason out moral turpitude. In some Muslim countries, gay individuals involved in same-sex relationship are frequently executed.
The risk of harm to themselves. This is more common in the school environment. As mentioned earlier, being ridiculed or publicly embarrassed is a major concern for gay people. Among teens, they often experience harsh comments, getting bullied, and even getting involved in violent altercations the moment they are known to be gay. For adults, it’s the same. Getting stoned or boxed in some parts of the world are common. To some, suicide is their only way out. “Not all people who have thoughts of suicide end up acting on those thoughts. But for those who do, generally there is deep emotional pain combined with a belief that things will never improve.” Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC explains.
Lose their job and other concerns. Part of the discriminatory act, some are afraid to lose their jobs once they are known to be gay. Some companies or sectors of employment are practicing and observing a patriarchal form of administration wherein masculinity is a strong force in the executive mandate. Some would even incorporate this notion in their HR regulations and protocols – not to accept gay people or fire those who are known to be gay.
Presently, there are laws and regulations regarding of the protection for the rights of LGBTQ communities. Michael Friedman Ph.D. said “laws that provide equal rights for LGBT people would improve mental health.” We have come to a point of welcoming and accepting these group of people back to our societies. Instead of treating them as outcasts, diseases, pariah, and other negative titles, most of the countries have positive outlook with LGBTQs.
In the School
Aside from preventing forms of bullying in the school environment, the issue of gay teens is also considered a challenging feat by the administrators. School officials, particularly the Guidance Counselors, are being trained and empowered to guide and counsel teens who are still struggling with their own identities. Teachers are encouraged to connect or communicate with the parents and work together to help out the troubled teenager. There are also groups or clubs on the school campus that serve as support groups for these teenagers where they can actively channel positive energies.
Check your HR policies and regulations regarding LGBTQ. There are now laws on discriminating employees in relation to their performance and their sex or role preferences. Take legal actions or seek legal help if you believe you are being mistreated or deprived of the opportunity to excel in your work environment.
In your family and circle of friends
To be honest, it is really difficult to open up. This creates a nagging thought if you’re ready or not to expose yourself. But also, try to consider your inner struggle and future life if you don’t take the big leap in telling your family and friends that you are gay. The decision and even acceptance may take some time, but it’s the only right way to do it.