I was at a New Years Eve party and in hearing the story of one of the guest’s process of coming out he made a brief mention that we needed to grieve for the loss of our concept of a heterosexual life for ourselves. I have touched on this once before but when he put it in such terms I realized that there was truth there and that the 5 stages of grief apply to homosexuals as well as those who have experienced loss.
For a review, the stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & Acceptance.
How long did most of us stay in the closet of denial saying that we couldn’t be gay? I know that I did. I even told myself that and believed it when others told that to me during the same timeframe that I was messing around with anonymous men. “I’m not Gay! I love women so much to abuse them like that” This was my rationale and the line that I fed myself for years. I’m Not Gay. Those three words echoed in my mind and until recently have had a pull on my life.
After Denial is Anger. How many times did I cry out to God yelling “Why Me!?” This was what happened to me just after I came out and pretty much left the closet of denial. I spent a significant amount of time angry at the world, angry at God, angry at the Church, angry at myself. Just plain angry. As I was initially in this stage I drifted in and out of the closet of denial but eventually I stepped out into the full wrath that awaited me outside the closet door. The anger cause me to want to rebel against what I had grown up learning, it was a personal counter-cultural revolution that had me fighting against the Man and raging against the machine. My go to song at this time was “Scream” from High School Musical 3. I think we all have this phase and it leads us down some odd paths.
Then came Bargaining. For a while I tried to bargain my way out of my sexuality. I worked to fight it and give up things in order to change and tweak who I was. I was “white knuckling”, trying to hold onto something until exhaustion caused me to let go for a time before I grabbed back on. Many of my friends have pointed out that I went in and out of cycles ranging from 8-9 days to 6 weeks to several months. I didn’t recognize that I was in this stage until only a few months ago. This phase is also when the Gay adolescence kicked in and in the moments of relaxation from white knuckling I would try to regain my lost teenage self. How many gay men (regardless of their age) go through a phase of gay adolescence?
Next for me came Depression. I was distraught and frustrated with my life. I was saddened and unmotivated. I began to wonder what my life was for if I couldn’t be straight. How could I really cope with being Gay if I couldn’t have my heterosexual fantasy life? This phase has lasted over a year and a half and probably closer to 2 years. For most of the time I was disconnected from the world and disconnected from people. I could have been hit by a metro train and I felt I wouldn’t matter that much because I had already begun to separate and isolate myself. At times I cared about others and at one point created a suicide plan designed to at least give meaning to my death. This was the very bottom and until I was here most had no clue what was going on in my life. I put on a fake smile and played my part amongst others while a tempest of sadness churned within me. How many of us are still in this phase and try to cope with alcohol, drugs, smoking etc? Every Gay man I have met who smokes tells me that they started smoking after they came out to help deal with the pain. Same for drugs as well. We try to cope with the depression by self-medicating and it is a sad sight to see.
Finally, out of Depression came Acceptance. For many around me they thought I had reached an internal acceptance a while ago but it was only a facade. Not until about 2 weeks ago did I really come to accept myself and my path as a Gay Mormon dedicated to finding a husband and spending my life with him. The acceptance of that dream has filled the hole that was left inside me by the death of my heterosexual fantasy life. I feel that I am whole again and that I can and do love myself again for who I am. I have a purpose in my life and while I am not complete, I am ready to find someone to share my life with so that we can both become complete. Sadly not everyone makes it out of Depression and several still are stuck in Anger or Denial. But for those of us who have accepted ourselves we are faced with a society in Denial or Anger over our Acceptance and the loss of the belief that all of society is straight and normal. I think we have a responsibility to help foster them through to Acceptance that we are here, that we are gay, and that we are going to continue to live our lives as happy gay humans.