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Out and Proud (of who we are)

city lights booksWatching the two young men kiss lovingly on the sidewalk as they took their reluctant leave from one another gave me a small shock as I zoomed past in the taxi launching itself through the hilly streets of San Francisco.

Not because I was homophobic…surely?

Actually, I wasn’t really surprised to see men kiss, since I was in the Castro district, with the huge rainbow flag flying gently over this bastion of sexual acceptance.  And after all I had just finished explaining to my five-year old that people of the same sex loved each other and in SF they were allowed to show this without anyone being upset by it.

No, what was shocking to me was seeing same sex couples behave in this gently intimate fashion.  There was no defiance nor hiding, no fear or shame, just a sweet being together in the moment.  What a good feeling.

Early in my career working as a psychologist in an HIV service, I met many people who wanted to kill themselves because they could not accept their sexuality and had been vilified by church, family, friends, and State for something that they had been unable to change no matter how much they wanted to.

So it really struck me how years of therapy would be well exchanged with spending even three minutes whizzing through the Castro in a car looking out of the windows at the men embracing and greeting each other heartily, the refreshing matter of factness and acceptance pervading the air.

Sexual orientation aside, we can all learn from this mode of self-acceptance.  We are who we are.  And usually after we have wasted years trying to be otherwise, with a bit of luck, good management, happy travelling, supportive relationships and/or therapy we can start to be okay about that.

In therapy I see people struggle with a lot of things that cannot be changed about themselves: being too small/big/shy/having a history of sexually abuse.  Often we try to ‘fix’ these things by external means.  Getting more beautiful with plastic surgery, getting thinner with diets, getting richer, more powerful and so on.

I have rarely seen this approach work effectively to decrease that stubborn inner turmoil in any lasting way.  What tends to work is ‘outing’ the secret that is causing the misery.  Shifting it out from the darkness into the sunlight.  Telling safe people about it (this may just be a therapist for starters), getting used to the idea within ourselves.

As soon as one can treat the information with a ‘yawn, yep so what’ then what others think tends to have a relatively minor impact and we are free to really live.

What is true about yourself that you hide because you think it is unacceptable?  What would be a first small step to guide that into the light?  Namaste.