When Coming Out is a “Bridge Too Far”

There are times, as a therapist, where I realize during a session with a client that “coming out” is not in their best interest or health.  “Coming out” should always be the client’s issue and the client’s decision.  The therapist should have NO agenda about whether a client “comes out” and “transitions.”  In my opinion, the therapist should have no agenda except the health of the client!

Being who you are is never a race.  You don’t have to prove anything.  However, in this day and age, there are many organizations where “coming out” seems to be their sole purpose.  But they aren’t usually organizations in a medical field or a healthcare field.  Those organizations or individuals often represent advocacy and civil rights issues.  In the fields in which they work, it is understandable and laudable that they have these “global” goals.

The individual trans-person is a different issue.  Each person is unique.  In their life there are factors to be faced including, but not limited to: religion, family, finances, workplace, and bonds of existing relationships.  I cannot say that “coming out” is right for everyone.  What I had to do is not what you may need to do.  The client’s health is paramount.  While it may not be “optimum” to decide to stay in the closet, it may be the best of certain choices in his or her present circumstances.  The trick is in knowing yourself and what it takes for you to live with yourself.

The NY Times has an excellent article on this very issue entitled “Therapists Who Help People Stay in the Closet” and I highly recommend all who face issues of “coming out” measured against the importance of their religious convictions to read it.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that when potential clients come to Flanigan’s office to discuss their sexual orientation — in particular whether they should reveal their homosexuality to friends, family or employers — his first response is to ask, in a neutral tone, “Why do you want to do that?” Flanigan has a 20-year history of gay activism behind him, so you might expect that his primary goal would be to help gay clients discover and cultivate their most authentic selves. As Jonathan Ned Katz wrote in “Gay American History” in 1976, “Therapists who do not help their homosexual patients to fully explore the possibility of homosexuality as a legitimate option have not helped to expand those individuals’ freedom.”

Flanigan doesn’t disagree with Katz. “I’m a very strong believer in people’s rights,” he said one gray morning at a Starbucks in Houston. But during his early training, he encountered a few clients who either would not come out of the closet or suffered mightily when they did. Christians of the kind who earnestly believed that the Bible deplored homosexuality were particularly troubled as they tried to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation. The more Flanigan studied this conundrum, the more he came to see it as intractable. Some gay evangelicals truly believe that to follow their sexual orientation means abandonment by a church that provides them with emotional and social sustenance — not to mention eternal damnation. Keeping their sexual orientation a secret, however, means giving up any opportunity to have fulfilling relationships as gay men and women.

“When these clash, what do you do?” Flanigan recalled thinking, and when he began to research the topic about a decade ago, he found few answers beyond the obvious. Antigay religious groups would not condone homosexuality; they thought gays should just give up their orientation, and the most extreme among them offered frightening “conversion” practices. Nonreligious gays thought the conflicted should just walk away from churches that won’t accept homosexuals as they are. “Which trumps which?” Flanigan asked himself. “Religion or sexual orientation?”

It wasn’t until around 2004 that Flanigan found an answer, one that was given legitimacy by the American Psychological Association five years later and one that complicated the conventional wisdom about sexual identity and sexual orientation. Is it possible, he wondered, that the most psychologically sound alternative for truly devout gay men and women would be to defy both groups? It is an approach that Flanigan is sure has relieved suffering among his deeply conflicted clients, and yet he sometimes is struck by the method he has chosen. As he explained it to me, “The idea that I am helping the client stay in the closet is bizarre to me.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/magazine/therapists-who-help-people-stay-in-the-closet.html?_r=1&hp

1985: Christian, Gay, & HIV+ : Steve Pieters and Tammy Faye Bakker

Steve Pieters is one of the few surviving individuals with AIDS since 1982.  He is also a minister, a therapist, and a member of the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus.

In November of 1985 Steve was interviewed by Tammy Faye Bakker of PTL Ministries; at the time a worldwide network for Christian broadcasting.  It was a groundbreaking interview reaching millions who otherwise might never have heard his story, and that of many gay religious people like him – dealing with a life threatening illness in the face of societal indifference and, often, outright rejection, while reconciling what it means to be gay man of faith.

Tammy Faye Bakker received a great deal of criticism for doing this interview.  Her reply was succinctly summed up in this way, “I believe Jesus loves all of us, and so should I.”

Below is Part 1 of this amazing interview.

To view Part 2 and Part 3 please go to the YouTube playlist link:

http://www.youtube.com/user/helenofirvine#g/c/F72AEC859D5EE680

 

Faith of the Heart – Lyrics – Rod Stewart

It’s been a long road
Getting from there to here
It’s been a long time
But my time is finally near

And I can feel the change in the winds right now
Nothing’s in my way
And they’re not gonna hold me down no more
No there not gonna hold me down
————————–
It’s been a long night
Trying to find my way
Been through the darkness
Now I finally have my day

And I will see my dreams come alive at last
I will touch the sky
And they’re not gonna hold me down no more
No there not gonna change my mind
————————–
I’ve known a wind so cold and seen the darkest days
But now the winds I feel, are only winds of change
I’ve been through the fire and I’ve been through the rain
But I’ll be fine
——————————–
Cause I’ve got faith of the heart
I’m going where my heart will take me
I’ve got faith to believe
I can do anything
I’ve got strength of the soul
And no one’s gonna bend or break me
I can reach any star
I’ve got faith

It’s been a long road

Oh, it’s been long road