And Then I Became Gay by Ritch C. Savin-Williams

And Then I Became Gay by Ritch C. Savin-Williams

Author:Ritch C. Savin-Williams
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Publisher: TVM 2016
Published: 2016-01-13T13:00:00+00:00

7.

Disclosure to Others

A developmental milestone that nearly all gay and bisexual youths vividly recall is the first time they disclosed their sexuality to another. Youths usually remember the exact circumstances, setting, date, time of day, feelings, and the reactions of the other person.1 Initial disclosures occur throughout the process of self-labeling, but most usually ensue within a year or two after a gay or bisexual self-identification is at least tentatively adopted.

First disclosure is the opening salvo of a process of telling others about ones same-sex attractions. It may take a lifetime to fully resolve. Final disclosure, such that a gay/bisexual youth is “out” to everyone who cares to know, may never be achieved because people who do not know are always entering one’s life. Most youths define themselves as “totally out” when they no longer care who knows about their sexual orientation. From first to final disclosure is often a formidable and protracted process because many elect to conceal or to selectively share their forbidden sexuality with others. Indeed, some choose to compartmentalize their lives by developing two distinct groups of people in their lives: those who know and those who do not.2

Disclosing a sexual identity to others poses a number of developmental hurdles. A sexual-minority youth often feels most vulnerable and out of control when he “comes out” or has his sexuality discovered by others.3 He may more strongly fear immediate negative reprisals than anticipate the long-term positive, healthy consequences of sharing with others his true nature. Same-sex attractions may be kept secretive because a youth fears the unknown; wishes not to hurt or disappoint loved ones; or wants to avoid being rejected, verbally harassed, or physically abused by parents and peers.

It is a risky venture, and children, adolescents, and young adults may have legitimate concerns about their physical and emotional safety if their sexual orientation were to be known by those they love, as well as by those they do not know. At the same time, disclosure may result in a greater sense of personal freedom and of being oneself, of not living a lie, and of experiencing genuine acceptance from those who know the deepest, darkest secrets of one’s life.

Conflicts between the possible benefits and drawbacks of disclosure are especially pronounced for youths who are still living at home or are attending college in their hometown community. Because many decide to disclose under these conditions, their lives contrast sharply with earlier generations of gay individuals, many of whom remained closeted until they moved out of the household and established independence. Clearly, adolescents who disclose their sexual identity to friends and parents while living at home must cope with the reactions and dispositions of those most important to them more frequently, more immediately, and for longer periods of time than those who wait until after they leave home.

Disapproving responses to the news place the newly out youth at greater risk for the negative outcomes associated with stigmatization, such as decreased selfesteem, running away from home, substance abuse, and suicide attempts.



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