It’s a common fear among those struggling with SSA that someone, specifically close family or friends, will find out about their SSA and be anywhere from thinking differently of them to pursuing the SSA individual with touches and pitchforks. It’s a fear I’ve had, especially early in my recovery that I’ve pretty much become comfortable with at this point in my life. All it really took for me to overcome my fear and tell others about my struggles with same sex attraction was learning some simple principals about people and SSA. I have found that the more people I tell and open my support system to the easier it is for me to deal with my struggles. Here are my thoughts:
1: People love me no matter what.
Unconditional love has been something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid. It’s hard for me to imagine sometimes that someone could just love me no matter what I did. In my experiences telling people about my SSA, I’ve had many friends who, rather than running out of the room screaming, just accepted it as another part of who I was. They loved me because of who I was, not because I was straight like them.
2: People care less than I thought would
Here’s a story for you: When I decided to tell my mom about my SSA, I was scared silly. I spent weeks gathering information from resources like Evergreen International, as well as whatever information my friends had, and even had people for her to call if she needed support. One night, I balled up the courage, walked into the living room, and told her I had something to tell her. At the time she was playing a video game on the Game Cube (You see where I get it from), and was apprehensive to pause the game, expecting me to share bad news. As I shared my story, my knees shook and my hands trembled, but I got it out. I stood there waiting for some sort of axe to drop when she said “I already knew you were gay. Can I get back to my game now?” Here I was, standing there with a pile of resources and phone numbers ready to hand her and she didn’t need any of it! I almost felt insulted. The fact was she had already known and not only had loved me anyway but just simply didn’t care. I think we give people a lot less credit than they deserve. Honestly, the gal at Deseret Book probably doesn’t notice when someone buys Voices of Hope or In Quiet Desperation, but I know plenty of people, myself happily included, who were terrified the first time we bought SSA literature. They honestly just don’t care.
3: Even if hurt at first, people are capable of healing
Not all of my coming out stories are perfect. I had this friend since high school that I came out to when I was about 21. Before our conversation he and I would have long phone calls into the night, sometimes three or four times a week, just chatting about games, geeky things, and life. After our talk he suddenly seemed too busy for our calls. Things kept coming up where he couldn’t hang out with me, and there seemed to be a coldness to the few conversations we had. About three months later he called me and said that he wanted to come to a party I was hosting and sleep over. He came and I was confused at his once again change in behavior, as it seemed my old friend was back. After the rest of the partiers left, he apologized to me for the last few months, saying that he didn’t know how to respond to my same-sex attraction. He had felt confused and angry, and just wasn’t sure where to put me in his world. One day though, his mother (Who, for the record, never did like me), was saying how much of a lowlife I was to my friend. He piped up and said how she has no idea what I’m dealing with and how I was trying to deal with my SSA, and for her to shut up. It was then that he realized what he had just said, that I was a good person and that this challenge didn’t change that at all. The point I’m trying to make with all this is that some people will react negatively, or not even as positively as we would hope. Sometimes it just takes time to digest, ask questions, or find support, before those we love can understand.
For me, like most things I spend way too much time freaking out about, letting other people know about my SSA wasn’t even close to as bad as I thought it was going to be. Opening up to others brought me closer to many of my friends and family, as well as helped clear up misunderstandings about SSA as a whole and the people who struggle with it. I also learned that it gets easier the more I tell people, like anything else it takes practice. Despite how hard it may seem though, for me it was definitely worth it.