There has been an increase in awareness and inclusivity. Even so, this does not make it easy to come out. A 2019 Yale School of Public Health study estimated that 83 percent of lesbian, gay, or bisexual people are in what they called a “global closet.” This means more than 8 in 10 keep their orientation hidden.
This is an extremely challenging situation. Hiding your sexuality could potentially protect you from discrimination or attacks. But it denies you the support you’d get from a community of those who share the same orientation. Plus, of course, keeping a secret this big can be a major source of stress.
Potential Mental Health Issues Caused By Hiding Your Sexuality
A common and often debilitating problem is the loss of self-esteem. The increased public presence of LGBTQIA+ people is positive. However, it can be negative for someone who is not out. Is there something wrong with me because I’m not out? Or is there something wrong with me because I’m not heterosexual?
You may feel like a fraud. Feelings like shame and guilt become the norm. You might yo-yo between feeling immoral and feeling cowardly. You want to be “brave” like those you see on social media but nothing is ever that simple. Yet, you also want to be “normal” but once again, nothing is ever that simple. As time passes, your self-image can devolve into an unhealthy state of self-hatred.
The trend I just described can then increase the likelihood of you struggling with any of the following psychological issues:
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Chronic Depression
- Alcohol or Drug Abuse
- Thoughts of Suicide
Obviously, some healthy coping mechanisms are required. Let’s explore your options.
3 Ways To Help Deal With Hiding Your Sexuality
1. Connect With Kindred Spirits Online
Community is just a few clicks away. Of course, protect yourself as much as you feel you must. Use a private computer, safeguard your browsing history, and take whatever steps you need to take to make this a safe experience.
From there, connect with others who understand your situation. Share stories, fears, dreams, and ideas. Learn from each other. But always make certain you feel safe, validated, supported, and respected in any group you join.
2. Make Travel Plans
Needless to say, this depends on your situation. But, if at all possible, why not take a solo trip to a location that you know is gay-friendly? Doing this during Pride Month might be ideal but there are other options. Give yourself a chance to see what it feels like being out:
- Where you will be among others who are comfortably out
- You are not in proximity of prying eyes
- Where you can let your guard down and feel what you need to feel
This doesn’t automatically mean you’re there to do anything that feels rushed or risky. Only you can decide what that means for you. But, again, why not get a sense of what being out is like?
3. Practice Self-Care
Re-read the mental health issues listed above. It clearly shows that this is a stressful scenario. To counterbalance the stress and fortify yourself against low self-esteem, self-care is crucial, e.g.
- Get enough sleep — ideally on a steady schedule
- Make healthy eating choices
- Exercise daily
- Practice stress management and relaxation techniques
- Connect socially — do not isolate yourself
There’s a good chance you just don’t have anyone to talk with about this. Who can you trust? Well, a skilled therapist can be the ideal starting point. Your weekly sessions are a safe space to identify emotions, recognize patterns, and practice new approaches. I invite you to reach out and get this process started with lgbtq counseling.