Sunday, October 31, 2010

What About Talking To A Shrink?

Is Professional Help An Option?
My initial reaction was that only sick people go to see a ‘shrink’, why did I need to see a psychologist? My friend explained that if you need to build muscles, don’t we all, you go to the gym. If you have something physically wrong with you, you go to the doctor. If you feel you have something emotionally wrong with you, a psychologist is a great place to start. I thought about his analogy and I suppose it made sense. I did’t feel as though I had something “emotionally wrong” with me, I was just unable to reconcile certain feelings and emotions I had. So, I decided to make my first ever appointment with a psychologist.

I arrived at my first appointment with no idea what was going to happen except for impressions collected from Hollywood movies and many sitcoms. I went into his office and after some initial greetings, I sat in a big wing back chair and the psychologist sat directly in front of me in another wing back chair. I thought I was supposed to be laying on a couch! It was literally silent for a few minutes and I asked “How do we do this?” and he responded “Start at the beginning…”. The hour was over before I knew it, I think I spoke for about 90% of the time. I discovered that psychologists are good listeners. I went once a month for about 12 months and found the whole process really rewarding and helpful.

I shared with my mum and a close friend of mum’s that I was seeing the psychologist. I didn’t tell mum why, she didn’t need to know and at that point I didn’t want her to know. She went through all the points where she thought she had failed as a mum and raised issues she felt would certainly be discussed in my sessions. Little did she know most of the time was spent on issues that really didn’t even relate to her, mostly about my interaction with men, the absence of my father and an over inflated reverence I have for authority. I won’t expand on that last one in this book, it’s very strange.

After finally coming out, I learnt that my non-member mother had thought that I may have been gay for a number of years, but she hadn’t raised this issue because she thought my faith may have been a hurdle. She was right and my membership in the LDS Church was a key reason why I hadn’t wanted to come out. There was the embarrassment and maybe shame that I had lead one lifestyle for almost 20 years and was now choosing a very different one. I didn’t want people to think ill of the Church, I took my covenants seriously, although I appreciate my private behaviour would suggest otherwise.

Making the decision to come out is a very personal one. For me, the journey from being in the closet to stepping out and then sharing more of myself, was rewarding and invigorating. It was also scary and a little nerve racking at times, but worth the journey nonetheless. For me, it started with a friend, it then my Bishop and then eventually more friends. Today, a small network of 10 or so friends have heard from me that I’m gay and I’m sure others have heard through the grapevine. That’s ok, it’s who I am and I’m cool with that. It took me time to get the point where it was cool though, that took me a couple of years. Today there are still people that I believe don’t know and I want to tell them, but the tyranny of distance makes it difficult. Friends who live interstate and overseas.

I’ve thought about writing a letter and sharing my news with them like that, I really don’t want them to  find out from someone else. Perhaps writing this book will help me get those words down on paper and in the mail. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tyler Clementi

The news covers again the tragic loss of life of another gay teenager who chose to take his own life. At 18, he was a promising music student, his friends spoke highly of him, a great person. But where are we as a society that a young man chooses to take his life because people have found out that he's gay?

Then there's the kids that we never hear about, who quietly take their lives without the fanfare of global news coverage. How many gay teenagers have watched the news this week and seen Tyler's plight and the choice he made? I imagine there are many thousands. I worry that they see this as perhaps their only way out of the humiliation they feel, the bullying they suffer at school and the fear they have about sharing with their family and loved ones that they're gay.

One of my favourite online gay columnists, Dan Savage was horrified at this story as with any story of a gay person taking their life. So, he and his husband put together a YouTube Channel called It Gets Better. He's invited others to contribute and share their stories about high school, the bullying and coming out to parents. The general consensus being that life really does get better when you leave high school.

Of the news coverage I read, from the US, Australia and Canada some of the most enlightened comments from readers came from Salt Lake City, Utah. Comments like:

"tribtalksense says: One of the people in my office has a great saying posted it states, "Never take a person's dignity. It means everything to them and has no worth to you." - Frank Barrow.  This despicable act, (by those taping it), demonstrates this."

"nungwa says: Self-loathing is a bitter and cruel thing. The shame and embarrassment Tyler must have felt had to be excruciating."

If you know any young people who are struggling with their sexuality, take a moment to send them an email with a link to It Gets Better and maybe share you're own story with them.

Click here for Australia News Coverage

Click here for Canadian News Coverage