Last Friday I began meeting in a therapy group with eight other people. My therapist and I thought it would be a good place for me to work on owning my orientation in more public places. By doing so, I hope to defuse much of the shame that I have attached to my sexuality.
I walked in nervously, said a brief "hi" to the one girl that was already there, then sat down and busied myself with my phone. My nerves were mounting until I saw a familiar guy from the gay support club walk in. I could do this. I wasn't the only gay.
The room filled up and the two leaders came in. We began by going around the room introducing ourselves and talking a bit about why we were there. As the turn to speak came around the circle my heart began to beat into my ears. I wasn't sure if I was ready to come out. But I wanted to be able to. And what about the other guy? What if he didn't come out? If he did, I could. But what if he didn't?
As my turn crept closer I finally decided that if I didn't do it right then I would spend every session wondering if that would be the session I came out. I couldn't do that. I needed this group to help me, and it would only help if I had the courage to put myself out there.
The other guy got to speak first. He talked generally, not going into much detail, not coming out. But I needed to anyway.
"Hi. I'm Ty. A couple of years ago I began dealing with parts of my life that I had really ignored up until then, and that caused a lot of stress in my life. Basically, I'm not attracted to women. I'm more drawn to men. So I'm trying to figure out what that means for my life and where I'm going."
At that, the guy from the gay club said "Yeah, I think we met at the group on campus. I didn't want to say anything because I wasn't sure if you wanted to say that much to the group. I'm gay too," he said to the group. I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief.
Then to my surprise the guy on my left spoke up. "I'm gay too, actually." So there were three of us, and we'd sat all in a row.
A little later in the discussion another guy finally said "It may not be a surprise based on how I dress, but I'm gay too."
He brought the total up to four in the group. Half of the group was gay. We kind of chuckled at that.
Later in the session one of the group leaders mentioned that often this type of thing doesn't come out so early in group therapy. He asked me what prompted me to come out right at first.
"I've been realizing this week how much shame I still carry with this part of my life. I need to talk about it, to own it in front of others, so that I can defuse the shame and be healthier." He complimented me, and I felt a mini triumph inside. Even now, I week later, I am still only beginning to realize what a big step that was for me.
Today in our second group session we talked a bit about the large ratio in the group. We wanted to make sure that we don't take over the group time, dividing us and making it "gay time" every Friday. The rest of the group was very supportive and said they didn't feel we had, and that they would let us know if we did. One of the other gay guys who had been in previous therapy groups mentioned that at most he had ever had one other gay guy in a group, and suddenly we had four. I feel like it will give us all a chance to come to greater peace with this issue.
I am grateful this week for good friends. I have needed to talk with and rely on friends many times in the last week, and I am grateful for their love and support. There is a freedom and a strength that comes in baring your soul in front of others and feeling their love and approval. It strengthens me, builds me up, and has led me to more fulfillment.
In spite of all the unknowns in my future, it is going to be such a good life.