Coming Out

I grew up during a time when we just didn’t talk about certain things.  A time when there were a great many topics that were taboo.  When shameful things were kept to ourselves.  Hidden away.  Ignored.  Because of this, the coming out process has been very, very difficult for me.  Shame builds massive walls.  Tearing down those walls and shedding the shame that built them is one of the hardest things I have attempted during my lifetime.
 
To be sure, it’s not much easier now that it would have been way back when.  There’s still a stigma attached to coming out.  People don’t want to know, so they change the subject.  They walk away.  Pretend they didn’t hear you or didn’t understand.  You lose friends.  People avoid you.  People talk about you behind your back.  Instant rejection…that’s the norm when you come out.  It’s still not something that is acceptable to talk about.
 
I know this because there have been times when I’ve tried to be real and open up, though timidly.  I’ve taken baby steps, throwing out small hints to see how the news would be received.  And it has not been received well.  Put in fishing terms, I’ve thrown the bait out into the water and all the fish have turned and swam the other direction, totally ignoring my tidbit.  Which reinforces the shame.  And that has caused me to close my mouth, withdraw and go back into hiding. 
 
Don’t want to upset anyone, right?
 
But what about being a genuine, authentic, transparent individual?  What about being real?  What about being who you are?
 
That’s all fine and well if you’re talking about “coming out” in the politically correct, totally acceptable sense of the term.  It’s even become fashionable.  Cutting edge.  But, sorry to deceive you…I’m not talking about that kind of a coming out.  The coming out I’m referring to has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
 
When a person has been abused, they are wounded.  Deeply wounded.  The results of that wounding are often varied, far-reaching and ugly.  You will hear about a certain standard menu of damage when talking to those who were sexually abused as a child.  Things like depression, inability to function, to trust or connect.  There is a gripping fear of what’s coming next…knowing it will be bad.  And most experience a permeating and destructive  lack of self-worth.  Some struggle with anger and promiscuity.  Some shun sex and swallow their anger, aiming it at themselves.  The wounding is deep and invasive and destructive, whatever turn it takes.  And it’s totally not acceptable to talk about any of it.  Not about the abuse nor about the resulting devastation.  One is expected to remain completely ensconced in the closet when dealing with this unacceptable topic.  Simply put, people don’t want to hear it.  It’s too ugly.
 
It has become quite fashionable to “come out”  about your sexual orientation or non-standard sexual desires.  What was once shocking has become commonplace.  Personally, I think sexual preferences, regardless of what those preferences might be, are best discussed only among those we are closest with and not announced to everyone we encounter.  I don’t see the need to wear sexual orientation or sexual preferences like a badge, proclaiming our desires to the watching world.  But some people feel they must make their sexual orientation an issue.  And they loudly denounce anyone who doesn’t agree with them while they demand acceptance of whatever their choices and preferences might be.  Yet those same people will defiantly require that you maintain complete silence about having been the victim of incest as a child.  It’s somehow absolutely acceptable to have an open conversation about ones proclivity toward S&M, but if you dare to reveal your father raped you as a child, you have crossed the invisible line.  People’s eyes gloss over, they suddenly remember they have things to do elsewhere, and they are gone in under 15 seconds.  They may even tell you they find your disclosure to be inappropriate and offensive before they flee.  But more than likely, they will just vanish into thin air, leaving behind a faint whiff of perfume or aftershave and nothing more.
 
Coming out about having been abused as a child is not on the “acceptable” list.  It’s not PC.  It freaks people out.  It’s too ugly to talk about.  It still shocks and offends.  Perhaps it is good that something does still shock and offend.  But the rejection the survivor experiences cements shame into deep and sensitive caverns of the soul.  You need not be ashamed of having a deviant sexual desire (such as desiring to molest your own child?), but you should never, ever, ever talk about the experience of being molested.
 
I have taken thousands of those little baby steps throughout my life.  I have thrown the lure in the water and watched the fish swim away faster than lightening.  Those experiences have caused me to hide big pieces of who I am…because what happened to me shaped me in ways that are pervasive and that have had an impact on almost ever particle of my personality.  But I’m trying to change.  I’m trying to be more real.  I don’t know for sure who or what I am because I’ve hidden so long, the mask has become my reality.  It is a very painful reality.  So painful, I can’t bear it.  So I’m taking the baby steps, watching people flee, yet still moving forward.  I’m coming out.  Not in graphic detail.  But in generalities, letting people know that I suffered horrible abuse as a child and that abuse shaped and damaged me.  It had an impact.  People swoon and run and stop taking my calls.  That’s just the way it is.  I’m hoping eventually I’ll have a handful of people around me who know the real me and still want to hang out with me.  I’m hoping I’ll know who I am, at least to a certain degree, instead of being a total mystery to myself because I’ve hidden who I am so long, I’ve forgotten what I look like.  I’m hoping I’ll have a few genuine connections.  Meaningful connections.  The kind that make life worth living.  So I’m trying to be me, whatever that is, whatever that looks like.  I’m not lying about my past or what it has done to me.  And I’m hoping against hope that somehow when I’ve learned how to be a real person, I will finally be able to become someone I don’t want to run away from any longer. Maybe I can even become someone I can love.  And someone who is finally, at long last, worth loving.

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