Truth: Why Coming Out is Good For You

A recent study shows coming out to supportive parents is good for your health.

I know my health drastically improved once I came out.

Before coming out, I had debilitating abdominal pain (sphincter of Oddi dysfunction), made worse by (you guessed it) stress. I was depressed. And confused.  Worst of all, I wasn't sharing with the world, or myself, who I knew I really was.

It's not as if coming out was a magic switch that made me healthy in a single instant. But coming out was what tore down the dam between the real me and the me I was trying to be. And that is the moment I was free to be healthy.

There is something powerful about the truth. I think of Martha Beck in her webcast with Oprah Winfrey in which she discusses the importance of telling the truth. This is one of my favorite discussions of all time on truth and being who you are.

View the Martha Beck webclass interview on Oprah's Lifeclass here.

Maybe you are thinking about coming out but aren't sure if you should, or will.

Maybe you already came out. Regardless of where you are in your process, we can all relate to truth-telling, because it's about so much more than sexuality.

Oprah on truth: "I know for anybody, if in any way, you are pretending something that is not true for your life, you will not be able to move forward. Because that untruth, that uncertainty about standing in your truth, blocks you from all that you are meant to be."

If you are not standing in your truth, or telling the truth of who you are (regardless of what that is), you are minimizing your ability to be who you are at your core, to understand yourself and to be understood.

Telling the truth takes away the veil. It tears down walls. It lets you stand in light instead of shadows. Martha Beck states in the above webcast: "Find the place where you are most ashamed. And state your judgement of that thing: that thing about you, about your house, about your body, about your money, about anything. The opposite of that statement is the best truth for setting you free now."

Some of your truths are easy to recognize and you know what they are. Some of them may not be as obvious to you. One way to tell what is true and not true for you is to pay attention to your body. Your body knows your truth. Martha Beck explains: "The body always responds to a lie with tightness and weakness. Anything that makes you clench, that's a physiological response to lying." So, what happened for me when I knew the truth of my sexuality but wasn't willing stand in that? Pain. Pain so bad I puked, and prayed I would pass out to relieve me from the horror of it.

Telling your truth doesn't mean you have to make a public announcement, post it on Facebook, or Tweet it.

It doesn't even mean you have to call everyone on your "friends and family list." Martha suggests deciding what needs to be told by evaluating if there is anything you could be blackmailed for. "Is there anyone that I am terrified will find out my secret? "If there is, if you could be blackmailed, go to the person who you are afraid will find out and tell them. That is the only way you can be free. You have to tell everyone who you are most afraid will find out."

"The more I use my strength in the service of my vision, the less it matters whether I am afraid"  -- Audre Lorde

When you start telling your truth, it may be hard for other people in your life for a period of time.

They are used to the you that was keeping a wall up. So, whatever your truth is, it may or may not take an adjustment period for those around you. One caveat is that in the study mentioned above, people had better health and outcomes if they had supportive family members. If you are in a situation where telling your truth could get you hurt or in danger, of course you must do what you have to do for your safety. If you don't have anybody in your family or close friends to tell your truth to, finding someone outside of your family or your usual social circle you can trust to talk to is another good way to let your truth be known.

When you start telling your truth, you may be amazed at those who rise up to support you. When I came out, people I was afraid would judge me came out of the woodwork to support me in meaningful ways. Telling your truth can inspire other people to tell theirs, creating the real possibility for intimacy and growth.

"When a woman tells the truth, she is creating the possibility for more truth around her" -- Adrienne Rich

Are you telling the truth about who you are? If so, when did you start telling the truth and why? If not, what is keeping you from telling your truth?

Emily F. Rothman ScD , Mairead Sullivan MSW , Susan Keyes DRPH & Ulrike Boehmer PhD (2012): Parents' Supportive Reactions to Sexual Orientation Disclosure Associated With Better Health: Results From a Population-Based Survey of LGB Adults in Massachusetts, Journal of Homosexuality, 59:2, 186-200

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