Ellen DeGeneres–I Sadly Beg to Differ
In the recent issue of People magazine there was an article where Ellen De Generes was quoted as saying “Coming out is not a big deal anymore.” Unfortunately several of my clients and I would have to disagree. One would think, living in Northern Virginia in 2014 — a time when polls show the majority of people in the country support gay marriage, that she would be right. I have seen the heartbreak from people struggling with this issue to know how far we still have to go. Now I have been involved in theatre most of my life and after attending Boston University as a theatre major I was exposed to every alternative lifestyle and I can truly say I’m not bothered or shocked by who loves whom or who dresses like what. And this was the level of acceptance I have always known in the theatre community–one of the reasons I love it so. But what does shock me is the pain and suffering I have witnessed first hand as my LGBT clients describe the level of intolerance and hatefulness they endure. It pains me to say that this is often at the hands of family members and Christians. I will also be quick to say I have heard about very supportive and accepting people and I have had some clients who feel their sexuality has been a non-issue for them. But some of my other clients. Oh boy!
I’ve had several clients who came out later in life. They described trying desperately to ignore their gay feelings because of believing that living as a gay person was simply not an option for them. The fear of rejection from loved ones was so strong and I’m so sad to say that sometimes these feelings were justified as I’ve had clients whose friends and loved ones cut them out of their lives after coming out. According to these clients these people have said things to them like “Now that you’re choosing to live this way I can’t support it,” and “You are being so selfish”. One client was told the devil was working through her and many clients have been told they should pursue reparative therapy. Reparative therapy seems to aim, at best, to help people avoid acting on their gay feelings; but it has shown no scientific validity and many major groups such as the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have denounced the practice as being ineffective and harmful. With that in mind why would anyone in 2014 be recommending this to people they claim to love?
What we do know, factually speaking, is that rejection is dangerous.
When faced with this type of punishing rejection, LGBT youth are at much higher risk for depression and suicide. This should frighten the homophobia out of the most opposing loved ones. And perhaps poor Jesus should be left out of the justification for hating and cutting people out. Seems to me Jesus always sat down with those he disagreed with. He was loving and compassionate even with those who others believed were not living the right way. Isn’t that what he might have wanted from us? Isn’t that what we should want for ourselves?
I would like nothing better than to never have to counsel another person who is put in the torturous position to either try to be who they are or face being cut off from the people they love the most. It is hard for me to believe that I have so many clients like this in my practice in 2014 Northern Virginia. I shudder to think of what’s going on in more conservative areas if this is as good as it gets here.
It may not be easy for some people to learn of a friend or loved one being gay.
To them I say: It may take some adjusting, especially if you thought they were heterosexual for many years. It may be very difficult for a child to learn there is more to a parent than they thought. However please know how hard it is for them. Many have struggled for years–afraid and ashamed. You may not know how you could accept this but trust me you can. They are still the son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, friend they always were. You just didn’t know this part of them. They were not trying to betray you; they were trying to keep your love and acceptance. You can do great good by talking to them, vowing to work out your feelings and offer them your acceptance. You don’t have to like their life or agree with it but don’t shut them out. Our time with people is limited in this life, don’t waste it not speaking to them because of who they love. No one would choose the pain and misery I see in my office. If you don’t know how to deal with it, seek some help from someone who will encourage your relationship not your estrangement.
And to people like Ellen who think that being gay is a non-issue these days, please check yourselves.
Know that you are lucky and things may be getting better but there is still a boatload of misunderstanding and intolerance out there: thinking that being gay is a choice, that it can be changed, that gay people are damned, that the devil is at work and that if we make people feel bad and suffer enough that they can be coerced back into the closet.
We must continue to educate and challenge these folks and support and offer acceptance to the gay people who love them.
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