Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Coming Out in a Religious Community

Coming out is a deeply personal journey, often marked by courage and resilience. For those in religious communities, this journey can be particularly challenging. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the experiences of Heidi Redmauer, a young woman who grew up in a small town in Idaho, deeply ingrained in the LDS (Latter-day Saint) community. Heidi’s story is both enthralling and a testament to the strength of the human spirit as she navigated the complexities of coming out in a religious setting.

The Burden of Secrecy:

From a young age, Heidi knew she was different from her peers. She struggled to conform to societal norms, even refusing to wear girls’ clothes in elementary school. As she got older, her feelings deepened, and she began to experience a longing for a level of intimacy with her female friends that went beyond mere friendship.

These feelings, while natural to her, clashed with the teachings of her religious community. The church’s doctrine labeled same-sex attraction as an apostasy, instilling a sense of shame and self-condemnation within her.

The Pain & Challenges

As Heidi’s feelings grew stronger, she felt compelled to hide her true self, adopting a façade that felt like a shell of her real identity. Her appearance and mannerisms changed, and she struggled to reconcile her true feelings with the expectations of her community.

After completing her undergraduate studies, Heidi decided to embark on a new chapter by pursuing her graduate degree in Denver, Colorado. This move was partly motivated by her desire to break free from the confines of her small town and find an environment where she and her wife could thrive.

Leaving her hometown meant leaving behind family and friends entrenched in the LDS community. Heidi and her wife faced social isolation as they sought to build new connections in an unfamiliar city.

Heidi’s journey took a dramatic turn when she ended up in the hospital with serious complications following a surgery. During her hospitalization, her girlfriend at the time, despite the stress of the situation, outed them to Heidi’s younger sister. This unexpected revelation set off a chain of events that led to Heidi coming out to her parents.

The Explosive Revelation:

The coming-out conversation with her parents was explosive and emotional. Heidi faced anger, confusion, and rejection from her family, especially her father, who initially wanted to kick her out of the house.

The Ongoing Struggle:

Heidi’s coming-out story is a testament to the enduring pain of not receiving understanding and acceptance from those closest to her. She still carries the weight of her family’s disapproval, and the wounds remain unhealed.

Conclusion:

Heidi Redmauer’s story shines a light on the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in religious communities. Her journey is a poignant reminder of the courage it takes to be true to oneself in the face of societal and familial expectations. While the road may be fraught with difficulties, Heidi’s story also serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love to conquer adversity.

Episode Description

In this episode, we have a brilliant young therapist who’s about to graduate with her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, planning to set up shop in Idaho. She shares with us an incredible journey of what it felt like to be a child in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and being outed by someone she loved, being forced to grapple with the ramifications.

Content Mentioned In Episode

Heidi’s blog post  

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Navigating the Whack-a-Moles of Belonging: A Journey of Queer Self-Discovery

In the world of self-discovery and personal growth, it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re playing a never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole. For queer individuals, especially, the journey to self-acceptance and belonging can be a complex and challenging one. In this podcast episode, we dive deep into the experiences of Carmi, a queer woman from Johnson City, Tennessee. She shares her insights and struggles with a sense of belonging, the impact of childhood experiences, and the constant emergence of emotional triggers, or “Whack-a-Moles,” that affect her relationships and self-confidence. Join us on this enlightening journey as we explore the ways in which we can reclaim our authenticity and power in the face of adversity.

The Importance of Belonging:

Belonging is a fundamental human need, but for queer individuals, it can take on an even greater significance. Carmi emphasizes the importance of belonging to communities or groups that accept and support her identity. She has found solace in her chosen family, a loving married couple who treat her as one of their own. However, the path to belonging is not always straightforward.

Childhood Experiences and Internalized Homophobia:

Carmi’s journey of self-discovery and belonging traces back to her early years. She recalls moments from childhood when she began to question societal gender norms. As a young child, she resisted wearing dresses and gravitated towards activities traditionally associated with boys. Unfortunately, these innocent expressions of her true self were met with resistance and discipline.

Carmi’s parents, especially her mother, struggled to understand and accept her non-conforming gender expression. They tried to encourage her to conform to societal expectations, leaving her feeling like her true self was wrong. The implicit message she received was that her identity was problematic, and she needed to hide it to belong.

The Impact of Gaslighting:

Carmi’s experiences extended into her adult life, particularly during her time as a missionary in Uruguay. When she tried to open up to supposed allies within her organization about the challenges she faced due to homophobia, her concerns were dismissed or redirected. She was gaslit, made to feel that her experiences were invalid or exaggerated. This gaslighting only deepened her sense of insecurity and self-doubt.

The Ego Split and Second-Guessing:

As Carmi’s narrative of not belonging took root, she developed a pattern of second-guessing herself. She began to doubt her own opinions and emotions, believing that they might betray her or lead to further rejection. The ego split, as she refers to it, became her way of surviving in a world that often felt unwelcoming to her true self.

Understanding the Subcortical Nuclei:

To navigate this journey, it’s crucial to understand the role of the subcortical nuclei in our brains. These regions house implicit knowing, which influences our actions and reactions on a subconscious level. Carmi’s experiences had ingrained in her an implicit knowing that her true self was problematic and that she didn’t belong.

The Whack-a-Mole Analogy:

Carmi poignantly likens her journey to playing Whack-a-Mole, where triggers from her past continually pop up, demanding her attention. These triggers activate her amygdala and limbic system, flooding her with emotions and sensations associated with her past experiences. Instead of reacting impulsively, she strives to observe these triggers objectively.

Reclaiming Power and Healing:

Rather than viewing these triggers as enemies, Carmi encourages us to take a step back and watch them from a distance. This shift in perspective allows us to recognize that these triggers are just temporary, much like plastic moles in a game. By addressing these triggers and seeking out belonging and affirmation from supportive communities, we can rewrite our implicit knowing and heal.

Conclusion:

Carmi’s journey of self-discovery and navigating the Whack-a-Moles of belonging is a testament to the resilience of the queer community. By acknowledging the impact of childhood experiences, understanding the subconscious mind, and seeking healing through vulnerability and connection, we can reclaim our authenticity and power. Belonging is not just a fundamental need; it’s a birthright that should be cherished and protected. Through self-awareness and self-acceptance, we can create the love lives and relationships we crave, free from the shadows of the past.

Episode Description

In this episode, the guest talks with Isaac about belonging, gender, and insecurity triggers that come up within the body. They not only talk about confidence but how to step through the fear and identify triggers within the body so that you can learn to reclaim your own power and authenticity.

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Embracing Gender Identity and Cultural Identity: A Deep Conversation

In a world of ever-evolving gender identities and cultural norms, it’s crucial to explore how these facets of our lives intersect and shape our experiences. In a recent episode of the “Queer Relation Tips” podcast, host Isaac and guest Jamie delved into the intricate relationship between gender identity, cultural identity, and the complexities of navigating society’s expectations. This engaging conversation shed light on the joys and challenges of being non-binary, gender non-conforming, and embracing one’s true self.

Jamie’s Journey:

Jamie, a visionary figure at the I Am Clinic, began by sharing their personal journey of self-discovery. While their early experiences hinted at a non-binary identity, they didn’t fully grasp the concept until later in life. It was a friend who identified as non-binary that helped Jamie better understand their own gender experience, eventually leading them to embark on a profound gender discovery journey.

Her recollection of childhood play offered fascinating insights into the fluidity of gender expression. They reminisced about their affinity for Peter Pan, a character who exemplifies a non-binary gender expression. Jamie’s ability to seamlessly shift between different gender expressions as a child hinted at their future understanding of gender fluidity.

Sexual Orientation and Cultural Identity:

As Jamie grew older, they began to realize that their gender identity didn’t neatly fit into binary categories. They shared that they felt most like themselves when their gender expression was balanced between masculinity and femininity. Jamie’s emotional connection to this fluidity highlighted the importance of embracing one’s authentic self, even when it doesn’t align with societal norms.

The conversation also delved into the intersection of sexual orientation and cultural identity. Jamie identified as bisexual but culturally gay, explaining how this distinction allowed them to navigate their unique experiences. They emphasized the importance of creating spaces where individuals could authentically express their gender and sexual orientation without judgment.

Navigating Misunderstandings and Microaggressions:

One significant challenge discussed was the frequent misunderstandings and microaggressions faced by non-binary individuals. Jamie highlighted the struggle of constantly needing to explain or correct pronoun usage and the societal reluctance to accept gender diversity. They underscored the need for broader understanding and acceptance.

Cultivating Inner Circles:

To cope with these challenges, Jamie emphasized the importance of cultivating inner circles of supportive friends and loved ones. Having a safe space at home and close relationships where pronouns and gender expression are respected helps mitigate the discomfort experienced in wider society.

Conclusion:

Jamie’s heartfelt conversation with Isaac shed light on the complexities of embracing a non-binary gender identity within the context of cultural expectations. Their journey of self-discovery and the wisdom they’ve gained along the way serve as a testament to the resilience and authenticity of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a reminder that true acceptance and understanding can only be achieved when we make the effort to embrace and celebrate our differences, allowing everyone to live authentically and find love and connection.

Episode Description

In this episode, Isaac talks with Jamie about their experience with being being gender non-binary. They explore gender identity, gender expression, culture, sexuality and how it all intersects to create an experience that is individual for each of us.

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Episode Summary

Host Isaac Archuleta sits with a guest who brought a great conundrum to the show, one that many queer people face: how do we live as one integrated being? 

Being a queer person in a professional space, a spiritual person in a gay setting, or even a woman in a man-centered world, integrating all parts of who we are can be quiet the riddle, and the remedy might just surprise you.

Some of the episodes in our line up are what we call, RelationTips Q&A’s, a safe space for everyday folks to come on the show and talk with a therapist about a problem or topic they are struggling with.

These episodes are intended to highlight queer stories with the hope that others can relate and gain insight into their own journeys.

Guests on these episodes bring vulnerability into the space that allows for a deep, emotional exploration of areas that hit deeply for many queer folks.

For information about how to become a guest, visit us at iAmClinic.org.

Falling In Love With Authenticity: A Journey Towards Belonging and Home

In this modern world, where self-expression is encouraged and celebrated, it can be challenging to navigate the complexities of identity and belonging. For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the journey towards authenticity can be particularly profound. In this blog, we delve into a heartwarming conversation from the “Queer Relation Tips” podcast, where a courageous individual shares their story of self-discovery, deconstruction, and integration.

The Quest for Integration

The podcast guest opens up about their journey towards integration—a process that began only two years ago. Prior to that, they lived a segmented life, suppressing different facets of themselves to fit societal expectations. Growing up in an evangelical church, the pressure to conform to a singular identity in Christ hindered their self-discovery, leaving them feeling disconnected and questioning their true self.

The early years of their life were colored by a constant inner struggle. They yearned to fit in, to be accepted by the community around them. However, in doing so, they had to hide essential parts of their identity, burying them deep within. The weight of this concealment only grew heavier with time, leading to anxiety, depression, and an overwhelming sense of loneliness.

Coming Out and Facing Judgment

One significant challenge for many LGBTQIA+ individuals is the process of coming out and facing judgment from others. The podcast guest shares their experiences of being questioned and criticized by people who knew them in their past roles, be it as a leader in church ministry or a participant in environmental activism. The feeling of being demeaned and belittled by those who reject their journey of self-discovery is a recurring source of frustration.

One of the most poignant moments in their story was their coming out to their family. After years of trying to suppress their true self, they finally mustered the courage to embrace their identity and share it with their loved ones. Unfortunately, the response they received was far from what they had hoped for. The revelation was met with shock, denial, and even hostility from some family members. The pain of rejection from those they cared about deeply left a lasting mark on their heart.

The Chameleon Effect

Over the years, the guest developed the skill of being a chameleon, expertly adapting to different environments. They realized that by wearing different masks, they could better fit into the mold expected of them by society. While this ability helped them survive, it also created a paradoxical struggle with identity and belonging. They long to show their true colors without the fear of rejection or judgment, but the imposter syndrome often holds them back.

The podcast guest describes the imposter syndrome as a haunting voice in the back of their mind, questioning the authenticity of their actions and emotions. The internal conflict is a result of years of conforming to societal norms, where their true self was suppressed to avoid conflict and discrimination. Breaking free from this self-doubt and fear of judgment is an ongoing battle, but they are determined to reclaim their authentic identity.

The Search for Home

One recurring theme throughout the conversation is the search for home—a sense of belonging, stability, and acceptance. While their partner embodies a strong sense of home and family, the guest feels adrift, relying on adaptation and chosen family to create a semblance of home. The concept of being rooted like a tree, standing tall and grounded, appeals to them, but the path towards such confidence seems elusive.

They share how they often find themselves wondering where they truly belong. The feeling of not belonging anywhere or to any particular community is overwhelming. It’s as if they are floating in an ocean of uncertainties, grasping for an anchor to hold them steady. This search for home isn’t just about a physical space; it is about embracing all the aspects of oneself and feeling accepted for who they truly are.

Vulnerability versus Boldness

As they explore the notions of vulnerability and boldness, the guest grapples with the idea of being naked and unashamed, exposing their true self without fear. They yearn to embrace vulnerability, but the pain of past rejection and the pressure to conform hold them back.

In the pursuit of authenticity, they’ve learned that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but rather an expression of strength. Vulnerability requires immense courage—the willingness to be open and honest about their journey, no matter how painful or uncertain it may be. It is about breaking down the walls they’ve built around themselves and allowing others to see the real person behind the masks.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

The conversation delves into the challenges of overcoming imposter syndrome—an internal struggle fueled by societal constructs and self-doubt. The guest reflects on the need to throw away the constraints imposed upon them and boldly step into their authentic self without fear of judgment or rejection.

They share some strategies they’ve learned to help combat imposter syndrome, including therapy, mindfulness practices, and surrounding themselves with supportive and accepting individuals. Additionally, engaging with the LGBTQIA+ community has been a source of strength and encouragement, as they find solace in knowing that others have faced similar challenges and emerged stronger.

Creating a Sense of Home

Finding home isn’t just about physical spaces; it is about embracing all the aspects of oneself and feeling accepted for who they truly are. The guest contemplates ways to create a sense of home within, allowing their roots to grow deeper, no longer fearing the winds of change.

One crucial aspect of creating a sense of home is self-compassion. The journey towards authenticity is not linear; it is filled with ups and downs, moments of doubt, and moments of triumph. Being kind to oneself during this process is essential, as it allows for growth and self-acceptance. Embracing their unique identity and acknowledging the strength it takes to navigate through life authentically fosters a sense of belonging within themselves.

Conclusion

The journey towards authenticity and belonging is a profound one, especially for LGBTQIA+ individuals who have faced judgment, rejection, and the pressure to conform. Embracing vulnerability and boldly asserting one’s true self can be challenging but is essential for finding a sense of home and belonging. Overcoming imposter syndrome and shedding societal constraints will allow the guest and others to confidently step into their true selves, celebrating their unique identity and finding a place where they can belong without fear.

Through this honest conversation, we are reminded of the importance of compassion, acceptance, and support in helping individuals embrace their authentic selves and find the place where they truly belong. The quest for integration and a sense of home is ongoing, but it is a journey well worth taking, as it leads to the discovery of a more authentic, resilient, and empowered self. Let us strive to create a world where everyone feels accepted and celebrated for who they truly are—a world where authenticity is not just embraced but celebrated.

Episode Debrief

Home is often a place where we create our identity. At first we color pictures outside the lines to show them off and have our caregivers and parents hang them on the fridge. As we grow, we parade around our skill sets and our personalities, all in the earnest hope of getting feedback from those around us. “Am I worth keeping,” we subtly ask ourselves in the subconscious corners of our awareness. 

Home is a place where we test  out our lovability. It becomes the place we leave to test and establish our place and lovability in the world, knowing home is a place we can return to. Well, for some of us.  

For some of us, we grow worried that who we are isn’t enough. We begin to worry and shape-shift as a way of ensuring our place in our own home, whether that be our physical home, our relational homes, or our professional one. We prioritize the safety that others provide more than the safety we can find in our own beings, our own essence. Instead of expressing our true personalities and identities, we promote the image we think others might want to see, the one we think will keep us attached to others.

We briefly touched on the concept of enmeshment (and we’ll get into that in the next episode), but enmeshment, especially as queer children in straight homes, is our bread and butter. Feasting on the nutrients of enmeshment, we feel compelled to hide ourselves in our closets, shut down our personalities, and show the world another version of who we are. We buy into our costumes too well, one day having no idea how to be our authentic selves in any circumstances. We walk around thinking that the shade of our relational chameleon is the truth of who we are. We’ll feel lost, lonely, reject-able, and angry at the world for the cost we had to pay to belong within it. 

In the next episode, the guest and I continue to dive into the subconscious to really tear down the layers that robbed her from knowing and experiencing home in her own body and context. Until then, I’d encourage you to examine any places you play a relational chameleon in your own life. Having some data points up to consciousness will play a major role in how you hear the next episode. 

A major shout out to the guest. Her bravery to look inside is amazing!

Episode Timestamps/Quotes

Quotes in bold

00:02:48 – “Closested life splits us up into so many fragments and we are code switching and hiding…what parts of self were at one point disintegrated? What kind of parts of you are there?”

00:03:54 – Guest describes them selves as other’s describe them: feminist, activist.

00:04:49 – Guest’s identity was on hold because of religion

5:00 – Guest gives timeline of their religious experience

00:08:13 – Stages of coming out: 1. Coming out to ourselves, 2. Coming out to friends, 3. Coming out to parents, 4. Reconciling theological component, 5. Then we have to let people see us express our sexuality.

00:09:21- “What is it about the vulnerability that might be scary or challenging? Why so much privacy?”

00:09:56 – Guest learned in the past: question everything but don’t have your own opinions

00:11:34 – Guest’s friend reaching out to save her soul

00:13:19 – “Questioning is a form of rejection, of betrayal. To have a loved one or family member or close friend start questioning creates an unsafe dynamic.”

00:16:50 – “It sounds demeaning, belittling your intelligence. Not trusting you to make the best decision for your own life. They somehow have a superior moral compass that you are lacking.”

00:17:35 – Guest reflects on the judgement they face in whatever career they have

00:18:05 – 16:25 – Guests feels like they are always going into a cocoon and coming out of one

00:18:53 – “Who are you on the other side of this? What is your ultimate goal? What do you want life to feel like?”

00:19:20 -17:40 – Guest wants to take time out of the spotlight

00:22:24 – “I find myself wondering, where do you belong?”

00:22:40 – Guest’s partner has a good sense of home and family while guest has had to learn to create these things

00:23:44 – Guest doesn’t know if their life should be as it is or should be something else or could be something else

00:24:22 – “Many of us who have lived in the closet for so many years…the one thing that creates a lot of wounding for us is our own competence…our competence to shapeshift and be the chameleon so that we can fabricate a sense of belonging…is the one thing that confuses us and makes us feel so uprooted.”

00:27:41- Boldness is a very different form of vulnerability. Another kind of vulnerability is standing naked and unashamed. It helps create home.

00:28:47 – Tree metaphor

00:30:33 – How do you move past imposter syndrome?

00:30:45 – “When we come out, oftentimes, I think we leave our compass in the closet…what we want and what we need.”

00:32:22 – “One of the ways that we overcome imposter syndrome is to gently and continuously ask, what do I need and want?”

00:35:44 – Why do we compartmentalize ourselves? Enmeshment.

00:37:01- Illusion of control – controlling the comfort of others by hiding ourselves

00:40:29 – To get past enmeshment ask, how am I already enough?

00:41:53 – TaDa’s – “Performing to make people happy. It gets disorienting to stop performing to get people to stay because it causes us to ask ourselves where our value comes from and why people stay.”

00:42:41 – Guest wondered, without their job, are they desirable?

00:44:30 – Practice vulnerability by unstacking yourself slowly, handing over small parts of yourself little by little. If a person cherishes each bit, they earn your trust.

00:45:22 – Cliff of Vulnerability

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Episode Summary

In our previous episode, we covered the topic of enmeshment and home, helping the guest find their way to an inward home that will root them no matter where they go. In this episode, we take a deep dive into her subconscious to examine why “home” feels so far away and what steps need to be taken to reclaim it. As we converse, you’ll hear referenced the Performer Chart. If you’d like to follow along, the chart is at the bottom of this page.

Some of the episodes in our line up are what we call, RelationTips Q&A’s, a safe space for everyday folks to come on the show and talk with a therapist about a problem or topic they are struggling with.

These episodes are intended to highlight queer stories with the hope that others can relate and gain insight into their own journeys.

Guests on these episodes bring vulnerability into the space that allows for a deep, emotional exploration of areas that hit deeply for many queer folks.

For information about how to become a guest, visit us at iAmClinic.org.

Breaking Free from the Performer Mode: Embracing Vulnerability in Relationships

“Queer Relation Tips” is a podcast devoted to helping members of the LGBTQ+ community create fulfilling love lives and relationships. In this powerful episode, the host and guest explore the concept of the “performer mode” and its impact on relationships within the LGBTQ+ community. By delving into the root causes of enmeshment and its influence on prioritizing the needs of others over one’s own, the episode sheds light on how authentic connections and vulnerability can transform relationships.

Enmeshment and the Performer Mode

At the heart of this episode lies the concept of enmeshment, a relational pattern that emerges from early experiences, especially during childhood. Enmeshed individuals become highly attuned to the emotions of others, often driven by the fear of abandonment. They prioritize meeting others’ needs and expectations to gain acceptance and validation, creating what the host terms the “performer mode.”

The performer mode is characterized by four key beliefs:

1. “I am valuable when I meet others’ expectations and rescue them from pain.”

2. “I need to be spectacular to earn my value.”

3. “I need to care for others, and if I don’t, I feel incredibly guilty.”

4. “Being close scares me because I will lose my sense of identity or individuality.”

Through shared experiences and deep introspection, the guest reveals how their upbringing in a religious context further reinforced the performer mode. Growing up with the belief that living a holy life brought blessings and avoiding an unholy life led to curses, the guest internalized the idea of constantly needing to prove themselves to others.

The Impact of Enmeshment on Vulnerability

As the episode unfolds, the guest candidly shares their struggles with vulnerability. Fearful of rejection and judgment due to their queer identity, they admit to compartmentalizing aspects of themselves within different friend groups. Although they find safe spaces within these circles, they still feel the pressure to wear various “shades” or personas to be accepted. This constant need to perform takes a toll, leading to exhaustion and resentment in their relationships.

Finding Authentic Connections and Embracing Vulnerability

Throughout the discussion, the host emphasizes the importance of creating safe spaces for vulnerability with trustworthy people. Breaking free from the performer mode requires recognizing the need for authentic connections and embracing vulnerability to experience genuine intimacy. The conversation unveils the complexity of enmeshment and its role in shaping relationships within the LGBTQ+ community.

The journey towards authenticity involves overcoming the fear of being seen for who we truly are. For the guest, the fear of abandonment was rooted in childhood experiences with their mother, who would leave when they misbehaved. This early conditioning laid the foundation for their performer mode, making them believe that they needed to perform perfectly to keep people close.

The guest’s self-awareness and willingness to explore the roots of their fears serve as an inspiration for others. By acknowledging the impact of enmeshment and religious upbringing on their relationships, the guest takes steps towards reclaiming their identity. They begin to recognize the value of vulnerability, understanding that it is not about impressing others but about connecting authentically.

Beyond the LGBTQ+ Community

The themes discussed in this episode resonate beyond the LGBTQ+ community. Enmeshment and the performer mode can be prevalent in various relationships, regardless of sexual orientation. Many individuals struggle to be vulnerable due to past experiences or societal expectations. Breaking free from these patterns is a journey of self-discovery, self-compassion, and self-acceptance.

Conclusion

In this thought-provoking and insightful podcast episode, the host and guest illuminate the performer mode and enmeshment, providing valuable insights into building healthier and more authentic relationships. By acknowledging the impact of childhood experiences and religious upbringing, the guest begins their journey toward reclaiming their identity and fostering deeper connections with others.

This episode serves as a powerful reminder that vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather a strength that enables genuine intimacy and connection. Embracing vulnerability allows us to shed the layers of the performer mode and reveal our true selves to those we care about. It is an invitation to break free from the fear of abandonment and find comfort in the authenticity of our relationships.

As the guest’s story unfolds, listeners are encouraged to explore their own relationships and patterns, seeking opportunities for growth, healing, and deeper connections. The journey towards vulnerability is a courageous one, but the rewards of authentic relationships are immeasurable. Through this episode, “Queer Relation Tips” offers a profound message to all listeners: embracing vulnerability is the key to unlocking the full potential of love and relationships.

Episode Debrief

Enmeshment creates major changes in our personalities and major shifts in our behavioral patterns. One of the biggest effects from enmeshment that we sustain occurs in our identities. Enmeshment slowly convinces us that we are only as good as our performances. 

Just to recap, enmeshment occurs anytime a parent convinces a child that the child was in control of someone else’s mood, emotions, or behavior.

With the illusion that we control others’ behavior—either emotional or physical behavior—we will start to create a list of the things that should be done and the parts of our personalities that we should parade as well as the things that should not be done, the parts of ourselves that should be hidden and kept a secret. 

As we find ourselves using our costumes and performances to “ta-da” others we block ourselves from being known. Those we wish to see and truly know us can’t. All they have access to is the version of us they see on stage. We resent others for the show we put on when in fact they have no idea they’re seeing our show. We blame others for our loneliness and Angry Hope when in fact all who we can actually blame is ourselves. Ouch, right?

In our anger, shame, and self-blame we experience as a result of our own grand performances, we move away from relationships. Taking the definition that Relational Intimacy to mean performing, self-hiding, and self-denial, we will avoid deep relationships like a plague. We can stand the alone-ness for a certain amount of time until we feel guilty for leaving others in their quote/unquote pain or until we feel like they will leave us. In these two scenarios, we will find the energy to perform once again, keeping us in our confusion wondering when we’ll find a place, relationships, and profession that feel like home.

To reverse this cycle we must identify what parts of our being are left in hiding and how we parade around a particular façade for others to enjoy. Once we can identify what our relational chameleon looks like, we then must identify the boundary that protects us from feeling responsible for another’s emotions, an internal voice that tells you no.

You are not allowed to pick up the illusions that you control another person’s emotions and behavior and shape-shift to perceivably KEEP them happy. As you go without ta-da-ing others, it may feel like you’re empty handed and selfish. After all, enmeshment trains us to believe we are responsible for other’s emotions. Believe me, in this context relying on your own desires as a compass will feel disorienting but eventually like returning home. 

All these changes will lead to one powerful revelation we were robbed of as children. It is a knowing and a sensation. A faucet of your personhood you can no longer deny. It is not a cognitive thought you’ll think but a sensation you’ll feel. It is the experience of yourself as inherently valuable.

When we are motivated to do something, not as an award winning performance, but as a way of loving how we love others, we find that all we need to follow is the sensation of loving ourselves. With the behavioral mantra, or the  contemplative practice of loving how we love, we stumble upon our inherent value. When we stumble upon our inherent value we stumble upon our home decorated with our own authenticity and the joy it produces.

Remember, when you have been told that what you want and need is less than the needs and wants of others, you will feel incredibly selfish when you start using your needs and wants to guide yourself. But to embrace and use your desires as your compass isn’t selfish; it’s your guide back home! 

If you find yourself in the performer side of the chart, remember you are meant for more than rescuing the world.

Episode Timestamps/Quotes

Quotes in bold

00:00:00 – “Sometimes I think we are so trained to think about what other ppl need and want and we prioritize that.”

00:02:56 – Performer Chart introduced – performers rescue people to avoid guilt and feel valuable

00:06:36 – Guest descbies being the best person in every other area of her life so religion can’t criticize the queer part of her life.

00:08:06 – “We are enmeshed with God and that emshement is a major pillar of codependence.”

00:09:00 – Obligation vs. Love

00:09:41 – Biblical proof to go to the mall

00:11:29 – “We’re saying, I can’t even trust my own preferences because you’re telling me what I feel or what I want is wrong or I have to prove that it’s innocent.”

00:12:44 – “When we put up that indigo/chameleon and Ta-da with whatever shade we become with other people, they’re actually only able to bond with that shade of who we are. That layer and that bonding is actually blocking relational intimacy.”

00:13:30 – Guest not able to blame their family for feeling blindsided by their coming out

00:14:41 – Guest used closet to become bulletproof in competence so no one could question

00:16:29 – “When we’re doing Ta-da’s we don’t have to be vulnerable; we just get to provide.”

00:16:50 – “Do you feel like you’re safe to practice [vulnerability]? Do you have trustworthy people to let yourself go to that scary place and open up?”

00:19:02 – “Do you feel it is a ta-da that they don’t know other parts? Are you protecting them from who you are, in a sense?”

00:19:24 – Guest feels they are protecting themselves

00:20:17 – Example of a child with their alcoholic mom

00:21:32 – “What feels so bad about you?”

00:22:14 – Guest’s childhood story about their mom walking out and fear of abandonment

00:24:30 – You’re staying, now I’m going to leave. Why does this happen?

00:26:13 – “They don’t know we are Ta-da-ing them but we are resentful for our Ta-da’s.”

00:28:30 – Guest’s previous partner and polyamory

00:29:11 – Guest’s family and ministry Ta-dA’s

00:30:46 – Ta-da-ing in environmental career

00:31:21 – “We’re bringing that fear wherever we go: will you stay or will you abandon me?”

00:31:44 – Prioritizing Harmony vs Intimacy

00:32:27 – Guest is trying to break current patterns with current partner

00:35:50 – A performer runs from a relationship because they need a vacation form it or just for it to end

00:40:52 – Helpful to practice vulnerability but also to find enmeshment patterns

00:42:04 – Practice experiencing our own inherit value

00:42:50 – You don’t have to change the action of a Ta-da but the intention

00:45:13 – Being present, energized vs Doing something out of obligation

00:46:25 – Dealing with a family member who has questionable intentions

00:48:50 – How to talk about resentment with someone

00:50:04 – Angry Hope and Fractured Attachments

Episode Materials

Performer Chart referenced  in the episode:

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In the 1920s, Freudian psychology was in fashion. With provocative claims and bold statements, Freud had made himself an authority on human psychology and sexuality. With no scientific research, however, Freud guessed that homosexuality was a socialized phenomenon that stemmed from an overbearing mother and aloof father. That was a mistake with long term consequences.

Freud’s 1920s assertion made two assumptions about sexual orientation that have since been debunked: 1) sexual orientation is established through socialization (meaning through interactions with other humans) and 2) that parents influence sexual orientation more than any other human. 

Thankfully, clinical  psychologists applied the scientific method, allowing researchers to better understand where homosexuality comes from. But unfortunately, we still have to live with Freud’s guesses in our culture, particularly in Christian Churches. 

Many religious institutions and parents use Sigmund Freud’s false notions to explain how homosexuality develops.. It’s an easy blame game. If LGBTQ+ children are disordered, then their parents must be neglectful, harsh or codependent, just to name a few. Do you see how Freud’s claims not only mischaracterize LGBTQ+ children, but also place unfounded blame on parents?

Peer reviewed research hasn’t trace the etiology (the cause) of homosexuality to socialization, parental input, or choice. Instead, researchers have linked (for access to this research, contact our office) sexuality to an in utero hormone bathing that occurs between  weeks 6–12. 

Why bring up this science? Telling the truth about sexuality’s origins helps us to dismantle the shame and fear that many parents carry simply because they have LGBTQ+ children. 

Here are the three most common fears that I encounter in parents when their children come out of the closet: 

1. I will be judged by my peers

Many parents, especially those closely tied to church families, worry what their friends, priests, and family will think. When you atribute homosexuality to  poor parenting, acknowledging that a child is queer is like admitting to being an over-bearing or neglectful parent. For some parents, such a social admission inspires anger at the child. These parents often subconsciously feel that if they can shame or scare their child into being straight, they’ll save face. It is common to see these parents cling even tighter to their religious ideologies, which many times reinforces the separation between them and their children. 

Parents who love and accept their children, however, are often ostracized from their churches and families. Because they align with their children more than their religious community, these parents confront a major fear: rejection. As a parent’s place with a social group comes into question, they often need guidance in being an ally to their children, but also grieving the loss of historic support systems for the sake of their children. 

Working through the fear of rejection allows parents to recognize their own emotions about having a queer child. It gives them awareness and newfound stamina to make decisions that are best for their family, rather than succumb to fear-based, reactionary decisions. 

2. What if I say or do something wrong?

Many parents ask, “Am I doing this right?” They’re fearful of saying something offensive or doing anything to counteract their loving intentions.

These parents understand that the coming out process and the LGBTQ+ community are highly evolved and utterly complex. Not only should you learn the specific language that your child uses to label themselves, but you should also survey the subtle ways that homophobia, transphobia, or biphobia may shape your preconceived notions of your LGBTQ+ child.

As a counselor, I help parents learn about their child’s story—how they discovered their sexual orientation. This process helps the child feel safe, and it helps parents gain confidence to approach their child’s reality. Parents can facilitate reparative conversations with questions like:

When did you know you were _______ ?

What did if feel like for you to carry this all by yourself?

What are the important things about your identity that you would like me to know?

I also find it incredibly helpful when parents and children to make a plan about how they will initiate challenging conversations. Doing so gives each party time to prepare and initiate boundaries that allow listening to happen without getting defensive. 

3. Who is my child and who will they become?

The coming out process may feel like major whiplash for some parents. After years of dreaming and planning for their child’s future, many parents must grieve their hopes and dreams for their children.

Traditional grief will include acceptance, anger, bargaining, denial, and depression, all of which spring up like popcorn with no rhyme or reason. Grief is an important process, however. As with grief, no matter the context, we must let our hopes and dreams die so that we can open up to the life that is. Accepting reality, however, is no easy feat. 

Of course, religious parents may have  major concerns about their child’s life after death. They may want to express their fears to help their children make a well-informed decision. In my observations, these conversations can be highly inflammatory yet, at the same time, important for both the parents and their children as they make sense of their beliefs. I recommend approaching these conversations with a healthy dose of respect for your child’s spiritual and personal autonomy. Instead of trying to preach at your children, learn about what their belief systems look like. They may not be similar, but in all of religion it is very rare that two people will completely align. Honor this fact in your child’s self-determination. It may be hard, but it can be done. 

The coming out process is challenging and nuanced for children, parents, and the family bond. Each child presents a unique set of circumstances, and every family will have their own communication challenges and sore spots. But the more you know about your child as a loving and caring parent, the better off you and your family can navigate the road toward health. 

Do you need guidance in your child’s coming out? We’re here to help.

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Couples holding hands - BIPOC

Breaking Barriers: The Importance of Culturally Competent Counseling

Mexican food was a big part of my growing up. My dad’s family used to own a Mexican restaurant and his recipes made their way onto all of our holiday tables. When I first went to college and told my white friends what we ate over the holidays—you know things like enchiladas, tamales, and posole—I got the tilted, confused look that normally comes from puzzled golden retrievers. 

When I first stepped into my therapist’s office on the campus of Colorado University in Boulder, I noticed quickly I was coming from a very different world than her white and educated background. I had come from a small town where Waste Management leaked into our soil, where my father worked as a pastor of a small, Spanish-speaking congregations, and where my mother cleaned homes for the rich on her hands and knees. For the first time, I sat on her therapy couch as a gay, closeted, partially Latinx, partially Indigenous, and fully lost college student from an alternate reality. 

Intersectionality of LGBTQ+ & Ethnic Minority Experiences

In our first session I remember telling her that I was afraid to come out. She asked questions like, “What makes it so hard to tell your parents?”, “What is it about being Latino that makes being feminine so wrong?”, and “Why do you have to stay so close to your family?” 

Sadly, as I responded to her answers, I received the very familiar confused, golden-retriever-tilted-head look. I felt so objectified and like most of my time was spent teaching my therapist about my reality and not my challenges. 

As a graduate student, I took classes like Cultural Counseling and Cultural Considerations. I felt like those classes were written for white student to better understand minority clients like me. And there I was, the token Latinx, gay boy in a sea of white faces studying how to make a good counselor for my own people from a white perspective. I was so annoyed at how my people were being represented. I had to assert my voice to speak up when lectures were misguided, when textbooks missed the mark, and when I knew better from personal experiences. I had to be a voice for better-informed standards. 

Embracing Diversity: Our Commitment to BIPOC Mental Health

Today, at iAmClinic, we continue to hold high standards when it comes to being a safe, equitable, and knowledgeable therapy center for Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC), as well as minorities of all types. 

Because of what I—and all of our therapists—experience as sexual, gender, and ethnic minorities (just to name a few minority positions among our team), we don’t just approach therapy as trained clinicians, but also as minorities working with other minorities. 

And yes, having a diverse staff with a variety of skin tones is important to us. We know that trans and queer people come in all colors, in all languages, and in all shapes. We take it very seriously to ensure that we have therapists on staff who know your background because it is also their background. We want you to be able to speak Spanish with your therapist if that is your preferred language, because being yourself and being comfortable is your right, especially in therapy. I am determined to ensure that all queer or trans BIPOC have that experience at iAmClinic.  

We know that having to teach people about the subtle ways our skin, our hair, our accents, and our backgrounds are challenged in society is not only exhausting, it is isolating. That is why we are sure to have therapists who understand your world, leaving no need for you to do the teaching. 

iAmClinic is ready, not because we know what the textbooks say, but because we know what discrimination (in big and small ways, in overt and covert forms, and conscious and subconscious microcosms) looks and feels like. 

If you’re a BIPOC and find yourself needing therapy, feel free to reach out for a free consultation. I know what it is like to call numerous providers to feel hopeless and misunderstood. At iAmClinic there are BIPOC therapists ready to meet you and help you on your healing journey. 

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Man is taking off the wedding ring

Jump To:

1. What language is mine?

2. My Internal Truth

3. Necessary Closets

4. Acknowledge Outdated Assumptions

She was so sincere in wanting to help her coming out husband. Wanting nothing more than for her husband to be happy and for their children to go through any transition smoothly, she was eager to learn and love. It took her husband quite some time to make it in to our sessions because he was terrified that was would cause his family pain.   

For a variety of legitimate reasons, coming out to your spouse can be a very scary and challenging process, to say the least. You’ve built a life with someone, and the idea of unraveling and abandoning that history can leave your central nervous system paralyzed. Perhaps you are considering if the benefits of coming out really outweigh the costs.

To help create peace of mind and find resolution, let me explain a couple of moving parts to help you determine if you want to come out.

Self-discovery

1. What language is mine?

Sexual orientation describes what happens in your central and autonomic nervous systems—the various involuntary ways your body respond to visual stimuli (like another person’s body or personality), emotional intimacy and sexual pleasure. Sexual identity, however, is the name with which you label your sexual orientation. Although your sexual orientation could be, let’s say gay, you could publically claim that you are bisexual. In this scenario, your private sexual identity would be gay (because it matches your sexual orientation), but your public sexual identity would be bisexual. Your sexual orientation does not have to match your sexual identity, at least until we come out fully.  

Some sexual orientations are lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, demisexual, gay, asexual, etc. 

Gender identity is the felt sense or internal knowing of one’s gender, regardless of the physical body with which they/she/he is born.

Some gender identities are transgender, gender nonconforming, gender non-binary, trans non-binary, and trans binary, to name a few. 

Sex symbol

2. My Internal Truth

I encourage my clients to ask a very simple, yet illuminating question: What is true about my gender identity, as well as my sexual orientation, both physically and emotionally?

Asking this question as you walk down the street, see an attractive person, interact with coworkers, fall asleep at night and pleasure yourself sexually will help you make peace with the physiological and involuntary mechanisms of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I also strongly encourage you to discover which personality types you are drawn to and what yearnings they provoke. We are emotionally aroused when we feel seen, special, sexy and wanted.

Taking a thorough inventory of what brings you comfort and pleasure––from the inside out––will contribute to a comprehensive picture of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity and all their components. Self-understanding is the best catalyst for deeply rooted confidence. 

3. Necessary Closets

As you make peace with your sexuality, coming out may be too emotionally or relationally threatening. And for this reason, you may reach clarity and identify exactly why your closet has been necessary. Acknowledging any imminent or assumed rejection, isolation, or derogation will help you prepare for the initial jolt of coming out. Laying a stable foundation––like a trustworthy support system, for example––will give you the emotional and physical stamina to withstand challenging relational storms. 

4. Acknowledge Outdated Assumptions

“My sexual orientation was socialized, and I can change it” 

Thankfully, we now have scientific data that proves we were born with both a pre-established sexual orientation and gender identity set in place by in utero bathings during weeks 6 and twelve. 

Although there are no genes fully responsible for homosexuality or gender identity, it is easy to understand our sexual orientations and gender identities were installed by hormone bathings that wire our brains for sexual preferences and a felt sense of gender. The software, if you will, that encodes our sexuality will remain somewhat unactivated until puberty, whereas that which encodes our gender will be activated as early as 2 years old. 

“I’ll be alone forever”

Many of my clients who contemplate coming out assume their lives will completely fall apart or that they’ll be seen as the world’s biggest jerk for causing so much pain in their loved ones’ lives. 

There is a major range of reactions in those who hear the news for the first time. A significant percentage of my coming out clients face a short-term season of relational discord where time and space help everyone involved establish a new normal. 

Another noteworthy percentage of clients face the transition as a team, creating a new normal side-by-side. Families and couples who do this have well-developed abilities to communicate, to be vulnerable and to practice unconditional love. 

It is rare, but worth mentioning, that for bisexual, pan, or demi clients––who are in some capacity attracted to their opposite gendered spouse and the same gender––remaining in their marriage is possible. Again, these mixed-orientation marriages are stabilized by mature communication and thorough understanding of both their sexual orientation, sexual desires and deep emotional intimacy.  

Coming out can change your life dramatically, possibly leading to utter rejection. But with more than ten year’s worth of clinical experience working with couples and families, complete rejection is very, very rare. If being ostracized from your loved ones is possible, take every step necessary to create a safety net of trustworthy friendships before coming out.

Wife supporting husband in therapy

Coming Out

As you plan your coming out, identify the triggers your spouse might experience and how you may be prone to feel responsible for their reactions. Remember, you cannot cause another’s reaction; they do! Amidst their triggers, for which you are not responsible, implement a sophisticated boundary so that you can stay in your truth, while your spouse or loved one experiences theirs. 

One major element to a successful coming out is your story—the tale of your lived experience as you felt your sexual orientation or gender identity blossom. I have my clients complete a timeline where they list experiences of their sexual orientation/gender identity (e.g., a crush in elementary school, a self-discovery in adolescents, an epiphany in young adulthood, etc.), as well as what they thought and how they felt during those experiences. Pack out your timeline will all the details that will help them understand you, your body, your desires, and your lived experience.

Share with your loved ones when you first discovered what your sexual orientation or gender identity are and how you knew. Tell them what it felt like as you held this secret and all the assumptions (and painful realities) that made your closet so necessary. All in all, this timeline, once completed, will be a robust repository of helpful language for you to articulate your story with confidence and peace of mind. It will also help you know the answers to deep, probing questions that might come your way.  

Your coming out will be the very beginning of a long process, but with the internal inventory you’ve completed and the confidence you’ve built, hold to your inner knowing, which is where freedom lives—for both you and your loved ones. 

Ready for a change for you or a loved one? Schedule your Free 15 Minute Consultation today.

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Contents

1. Coming Out To Yourself 

2. Coming Out To Friends

3. Coming Out To Family

4. Coming Out Across Identities

5. Reconciling Sexuality and Spirituality

5. Letting People See You As Queer

6. Reclaiming Your Desires

7. Continuing to Live Openly

8. Assessing Safety and Support

9. Finding Support and Community

Coming out might just be the hardest, yet most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. It surely was for me, on both accounts.

As I reflect back on that 22 year-old who made the bold decision to tell his parents, I realize that I was doing something more profound than just uttering important words to my folks. I was shifting the trajectory of my life, playing the lead role in my own life’s tale. I was allowing my authenticity to blossom. And much like a flower, my blossoming happened in phases. I hear these coming out phases echoing in queer people’s lives every day. Learn about sexuality counseling here!

1. Coming Out To Yourself 

Coming out to ourselves is a big step in honesty. It’s one small thing to say, but a massive thing to let be true. When we admit to ourselves: 1) what is true of our sexuality and/or gender, 2) what has been true about our internal knowing, and 3) what will be of our lives, we gain the ability to unleash all our potential. In other words, coming out is not only a verbal declaration, but an emotional liberation. After we come out to ourselves, we are able to fully live out of our inherent value, and we begin to live from it as a source of fulfillment, not from the motives to do good, be right, and become enough. As we leave the closet, we leave behind the illusion that we need to earn our value. 

2. Coming Out To Friends 

Most research shows that the first person to whom we verbalize our truth is a close friend. No surprise there! Friends are often our allies, providing camaraderie, support, and a relationship wherein our true self is not only welcomed but cherished. When people feel like they’re coming out in a context with no friends, I recommend first creating a safety network of trustworthy allies who can offer coming out support. We all need a safe shoulder to cry on, if need be. Friends who stick around for the coming out process might just become your new chosen family. 

3. Coming Out To Family 

Before making any public statements to loved ones who might not be accepting, I recommend knowing your own story. Gather the language that will empower you to answer your anti-queer loved ones’ questions with a steadfast confidence. Your truth and your story is real and happened involuntarily. It’s not a choice. The more we can speak of and describe our closeted history with confidence and appropriate language, the more we are able to stand firm in the face of religious hate or cultural homophobia. Answer questions like: 

  1. When did you first know?
  2. How did it feel to experience same-gender attractions and, possibly, not want them?
  3. What did you do to potentially hide or rid yourself of your attractions?

Answers to these questions will dispel the erroneous notion that you “chose” to be gay or that you made the decision out of peer pressure. 

I also recommend coming out to parents in a safe relational context. If you feel as though you might experience rejection or persecution, I might recommend waiting to come out to any anti-queer parents until you are stable and able to care for yourself properly. Too often, queer children are left abandoned with few resources. Above all else, take care of yourself before you prioritize honesty.

4. Coming Out Across Identities

Your cultural background, religion, race and other identities can strongly influence your coming out process. Some additional considerations:

  • Coming out in ethnic communities can be complicated if LGBTQIA+ identities are taboo or misunderstood. Connect with people who share your cultural identity and sexuality.
  • Religious expectations may make families less accepting. Seek out LGBTQIA+-affirming faith leaders who can help you reconcile sexuality and spirituality.
  • People of color often face bias compounded by both racism and homophobia/transphobia. Find support tailored to the intersections of your identities.

5. Reconciling Sexuality and Spirituality 

This is an extreme feat! I had a majorly challenging—even debilitating—time processing what my religion said about my “sinful” sexuality and how I experienced its innocence. It wasn’t until I started reading scholars with doctorates in New Testament theology that I would even let myself consider the idea that my sexuality was neither wrong, dirty, nor disgusting. Be gentle with yourself and take your place in the driver’s seat of your own spiritual development. Discover what you believe by learning what your Higher Power thinks about you, rather than what some minister tells you your Higher Power thinks about you.

There are hundreds of resources devoted to helping people reconcile their sexuality and spirituality. If you need help accessing these resources, please feel free to reach out to us!

6. Letting People See You As Queer 

Although making a public statement is a big step, one of the other profound statements is what we let people see. Showing our affections with our partner over the holidays in front of our loved ones, holding hands in public, or posting romantic and affectionate pictures is a major non-verbal and political statement. Letting people see you as out serves to create a boundary that will give you a ton of freedom and liberty. It breaks the silent barriers that keep us trapped in shame. Being your authentic self in a public fashion carves out an authentic place in the world. It is a brave step that not only breaks the ice but also allows you to find confidence in that what you bring to the table is just as beautiful as any other version of love. 

Reclaiming Your Desires 

In one of our Queer RelationTip episodes, we interviewed a lesbian wife who grew up in a small Mormon town. After being taught that her desires for love, admiration, and belonging with a lesbian lover were wrong, she left her desires in the closet, along with her genuine personality. After coming out, she felt as though she had to be what people wanted her to be, just like she had while closeted. After taking time to realize that she deserved not only to be happy, but to feel powerful, exuberant, and alive in her own life, she realized that she needed to heal from the ego split by reclaiming her desires. 

Continuing to Live Openly

Coming out is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process throughout your life. After coming out:

  • Be prepared to repeatedly come out as you form new relationships and join new communities. It can get easier with practice.
  • If you’re safe enough, correct those who assume you’re straight in your daily life. Coming out is stating your truth.
  • Stand up against anti-LGBTQIA+ remarks and biases. Your visibility makes a difference.
  • Keep surrounding yourself with people who support your LGBTQ+ identity, while being patient with those still learning.

Assessing Safety and Support

Coming out can impact your physical, emotional, and financial safety. Gauge how supportive your environment is before deciding to come out. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there a risk you could face violence or be kicked out of your home if you come out? If so, make an emergency plan and reach out to LGBTQIA+ organizations for help before coming out. Your safety always comes first.
  • How do your family, friends, school or workplace respond when LGBTQIA+ issues come up? Do they seem hostile or open-minded? Their reactions can clue you into potential support or rejection.
  • Does your community have non-discrimination protections? Are there local LGBTQIA+ resources? A lack of legal protections or visibility may indicate increased risk.

Just like that young newlywed, we too have to embrace all the small mechanisms and linchpins that make us queer: our desire for love, our passion, the ways in which we seek, experience and express love, as well as the many other ways our queerness originates within our bodies. We have to let the desires that inform our identities stand with validity and honesty. Don’t hold your desires back, because the moment you do is the same moment you stifle your personality and dim your life. 

Finding Support and Community

You don’t have to come out alone. LGBTQIA+ organizations, hotlines and online groups can provide invaluable support.

You have an abundance of support out there. Reach out so you don’t have to come out alone. Learn more about neurofeedback in this FAQ guide.

If you’re looking for professional help, reach out now!

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lesbian marriage counseling

In Denver, a city celebrated for its inclusive culture, lesbian couples–seeking to fortify their relationship–have access to expert, compassionate counseling. Here, we explore the unique challenges lesbian couples may encounter, outline the qualifications of specialized LGBTQIA+ focused counselors, and share personal testimonials that highlight the profound impact of such counseling.

Unique Challenges Faced by Lesbian Couples

Lesbian relationships can face a variety of specific challenges which may include:

  • People Pleasing & Anxiety: It is very common to have one partner in the relationship working hard to keep the other comfortable and stable, while the other feels fearfully detached and comes across as either critical or powerless. Such a dynamic is common. Small adjustments can take a lesbian couple a long way. 
  • Boundaries & Communication: Many lesbian couples have repeating arguments that stem from challenges (emotional, relational, and past traumas) and pepper their relationships with hopelessness and confusion. 
  • Internalized Homophobia: Struggles with internalized societal biases can negatively influence self-esteem and interpersonal dynamics.
  • Coming Out: The journey of coming out to family, friends, and colleagues can often bring anxiety and may impact the relationship dynamics.
  • Family Acceptance: Challenges in gaining acceptance from family members can create significant emotional turmoil and conflict within the relationship.

Addressing these issues within a supportive counseling environment can lead to transformative outcomes for couples grappling with these challenges. Learn more about Attachment in Polyamorous Relationships!

Addressing These Challenges Through Counseling

Expert counselors in Denver are uniquely positioned to support lesbian couples as they navigate the intricate challenges that may affect their relationships. These professionals create a nurturing environment where couples can openly address internal conflicts, societal pressures, and family dynamics. Here’s how counseling can help address three major areas: internalized homophobia, the coming out process, and family acceptance.

Understanding People Pleasing Patterns and Anxiety

Life in the closet is bad for us in more ways than one. As we live hiding our true selves it can either feel like our hiding is what keeps others around us comfortable, or as though our hiding is what keeps us detached from others and anxious. Either way, as we live closeted–from our most intimate relationships–we develop a relational software that stems from childhood closeted experiences and affects our romantic, professional, and platonic relationships. 

How Counseling Helps:

  • Learning about Enmeshment & Detachment: identifying how enmeshment (people pleasing) and/or detachment (feeling isolated and anxious) are inherent effects of living in the closet can help couples talk openly about what has hurt and what needs to change
  • Learn About Your Relational Dynamic: Assessing how these patterns affect romantic relationships and have defined relational and/or emotional intimacy
  • Setting the Tone You Crave: Redefining ways of connecting as a means of learning to trust a new pattern and playing a new, healthy role in relationships
  • Loving Yourself To Love Another: Connecting back to authenticity and independence so that your relationships doesn’t feel like work, but liberation

Practicing Boundaries and Healthy Communication

Lesbians often joke about ‘U-hauling it.’ And sometimes there is a lot of momentum in relationships, but not enough boundaries to support the movement. In the excitement and surge of getting to know one another, it is easy to overlook setting a solid platform upon which the relationship can thrive. Boundaries and efficient communication are two tactics that can propel an excited, lesbian couple from stage one into a long and fulfilling future. 

How Counseling Helps:

  • Creating Sophisticated Boundaries: Boundaries are often thought to be a wall that protects us. As such, they also become barriers to healthy emotional intimacy. Utilizing a sophisticated boundary system, we see that they actually help us bond
  • Objectifying Behaviors: A mature boundary system will allow us to assess our own behaviors so that we can feel proud of how we show up in relationships. It will also help you empathize with your partner’s emotional experience. Again, a strong boundary system will strengthen your ability to understand one another and keep the relationship organized
  • Empathy Feeds Healthy Communication: Once we have a healthy boundary system, communicating efficiently and healthily is inevitable. With the distance that a health boundary creates, our partner’s emotions no longer feel like personal attacks. Communication then is another tool that allows you to learn about your partner as opposed to needing to protect yourself from her. 

Lesbian Marriage & Relationship Counseling in Denver

Exploring Feelings of Internalized Homophobia

Internalized homophobia is a common challenge many lesbian individuals face, stemming from societal messages that may have been unconsciously accepted over time. This can manifest in feelings of shame, low self-esteem, or conflict about one’s own sexual orientation.

How Counseling Helps:

  • Deconstruction of Negative Beliefs: Counselors assist individuals in unpacking and challenging these internalized beliefs, helping to dismantle the negative self-concepts they have developed.
  • Promotion of Self-Acceptance: Therapy sessions focus on building self-acceptance and pride in one’s identity, which are crucial for personal happiness and healthy relationships.
  • Improvement of Relationship Dynamics: As individuals feel more comfortable with their identities, their relationship dynamics can improve, fostering closer and more authentic connections with their partners.

Strategizing the Coming Out Process

Coming out to family, friends, and colleagues can be a significant source of anxiety and stress for lesbian individuals and couples. Each coming out experience is unique, and the process can significantly impact both personal well-being and relationship health.

How Counseling Helps:

  • Personalized Coming Out Strategies: Counselors work with individuals and couples to develop tailored strategies for coming out that consider personal circumstances and the potential reactions of others.
  • Support Systems: Therapy provides a supportive backdrop where individuals can discuss fears and concerns about coming out, ensuring they do not face this challenging process alone.
  • Managing Reactions: Counselors equip clients with tools to handle various reactions, whether supportive or adverse, helping to maintain their emotional equilibrium throughout the process.

Facilitating Family Acceptance Dialogues

Family acceptance is crucial for the emotional well-being of lesbian couples. However, not all families are immediately accepting, and navigating this reality can be emotionally draining.

How Counseling Helps:

  • Communication Techniques: Counselors teach effective communication skills that help couples articulate their needs and boundaries clearly to their families, which can lead to better understanding and acceptance.
  • Mediation and Facilitation: In some cases, counselors may act as mediators in family dialogues, helping to facilitate discussions that might otherwise be too emotionally charged to handle alone.

Coping Mechanisms: For ongoing non-acceptance, counselors help couples develop coping mechanisms to protect their relationship and well-being, allowing them to maintain connections with family where possible, without compromising their mental health.

Creating a Safe and Affirmative Counseling Environment

It is crucial for therapy to occur in a space where lesbian couples can freely explore issues related to sexuality, gender identity, and non-traditional relationship dynamics without judgment:

  • Exploration of Sexuality and Gender Identity: Counselors provide a secure environment to discuss these topics openly, which is vital for personal and relationship growth.
  • Non-Traditional Relationship Dynamics: Counselors support couples in navigating and embracing various relationship structures, enhancing mutual satisfaction and understanding.

The Impact of Supportive Counseling

The benefits of a supportive counseling environment extend beyond the therapy sessions:

Improved Communication

One of the most immediate impacts of a supportive counseling environment is the enhancement of communication skills within a relationship. Effective communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, and it becomes even more crucial when navigating the complexities associated with lesbian relationships, such as societal pressures and internal conflicts.

Benefits of Improved Communication:

  • Clarity and Understanding: Couples learn how to express their thoughts and feelings clearly and listen to each other without judgment. This understanding helps prevent misunderstandings and builds a foundation of trust.
  • Conflict Resolution: With better communication, couples can more effectively resolve conflicts. They learn to approach disagreements with a problem-solving attitude rather than a confrontational one.
  • Expressing Needs and Desires: A supportive environment encourages individuals to voice their needs and desires openly, ensuring that both partners understand what is important for maintaining a healthy relationship.

Increased Cohesion and Partnership

A supportive counseling environment also cultivates a deeper sense of partnership and cohesion. When couples feel understood and supported by their therapist, they are more likely to extend that understanding and support to each other.

Strengthening Relationship Bonds:

  • Shared Goals and Values: Counseling helps partners align their goals and values, fostering a shared vision for their relationship’s future.
  • Mutual Support: As couples work through their issues in a safe space, they learn how to offer and receive support, strengthening their bond.
  • Facing Challenges Together: A strengthened partnership equips couples to handle external pressures more effectively, whether from family, society, or professional environments.

Personal Empowerment

Finally, the benefits of a supportive counseling environment contribute significantly to personal empowerment. Individuals are encouraged to explore and affirm their identities, which is particularly impactful in a society where LGBTQIA+ identities may still face stigma and discrimination.

Elements of Personal Empowerment:

  • Self-Acceptance: Therapy provides the tools for individuals to accept themselves fully, which is crucial for mental and emotional health.
  • Confidence in Identity: As individuals become more confident in their identities, they are better able to live authentically and maintain open, honest relationships.
  • Empowered Decision-Making: With a stronger sense of self, individuals can make decisions that truly reflect their needs and values, positively affecting all areas of their lives.

Expertise of Denver’s LGBTQIA+ Counselors

The effectiveness of relationship counseling is significantly enhanced by a counselor’s expertise, particularly their understanding of lesbian relationships. Counselors in Denver bring a robust skill set:

  • Part of the Querr & Trans Communities
  • Specialized Training: Many hold advanced degrees with additional certifications in LGBTQIA+ mental health, ensuring they are equipped with the latest therapeutic methodologies and insights.
  • Extensive Experience: Effective counselors often bring years of experience working directly with LGBTQIA+ individuals, deepening their understanding of the unique pressures and challenges faced by these communities.
  • Credentials: It’s essential to verify that counselors are licensed and accredited by recognized mental health organizations.

Testimonials from the Community

  • Megan Thoprakane: “The team at iAmClinic has been huge in getting my relationship back on track. I can’t thank them enough for helping me understand all the unconscious ways I had been sabotaging my relationships.”
  • Emily Dykes: “I’ve been coming to the iAmClinic for years for individual and couples therapy. I’ve always had an incredible experience but today was particularly special. I attended a breathwork session and it was powerful!! It’s beautifully led, and I felt well supported the whole time but I was also given the space I needed to follow my own body and feelings in my breath. This felt safe, meaningful, and I highly recommend to all!!”

Discover the Support You Need at iAmClinic

If you’re looking for relationship counseling in Denver, consider the iAmClinic. With specialized expertise in LGBTQIA+ issues, our counselors are committed to providing a safe, understanding, and affirming environment to help you and your partner navigate the complexities of your relationship. Whether you’re dealing with internal challenges, societal pressures, or family dynamics, iAmClinic is here to support your journey towards a stronger bond and a healthier relationship. Contact us today to see how we can support you and your relationship goals.

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Contents

Jump To:

The Pain

Coming Out

Looking Back

Confidence

My Message

My coming out story and how it has shaped my experience as an openly gay woman.

The Pain

The pain was unbearable. I remember rocking myself back and forth at four in the morning while my “secret girlfriend” at the time jumped out of bed and ran to tell my parents something was terribly wrong. When we arrived at the hospital, the doctor on call told me the pain I was experiencing was a side effect of the gallbladder removal surgery I had the week prior. My immediate thought was, “Bullshit, there is no way this pain is normal.” After a few hours of waiting, writhing in pain in the emergency room, hospital staff booked me a room where I stayed for 10 days recovering from a serious gallbladder removal complication that required additional surgeries. During this time, I was visited by many friends and family but the only one that seemed to matter was my girlfriend that no one knew I had. Our relationship was strained because she was attending college in a town hundreds of miles away, but having her at the hospital was comforting even though it was extremely difficult to “sneak around” given the state I was in. 

Coming Out

On my last day in the hospital, for some reason I still do not know (I can only assume that the amount of attention I was getting and the level of stress she was experiencing moved her to this action), my girlfriend told my youngest sibling that we had a secret; that we were together. She outed us. Without giving me any forewarning or telling me why. Of course, after hearing this, my sister came to me and asked what was going on. I immediately jumped on the defensive and told her I had no idea what she was talking about and that “my friend” was crazy. I thought that would be enough to convince her I wasn’t a lesbian and that she shouldn’t tell anyone. I was wrong. She told my faithfully religious parents that I was gay and that my best friend and I were a lesbian couple. At that point I knew I was in trouble. When my parents sat me down to question me, I continued to play dumb and told them that she was crazy, and I had no idea where it was coming from. This act lasted for about 24 hours. I finally told them the truth, that I was gay and that I planned to attend the same college she did. This went over horribly, and I still remember what my father said to me: “I want nothing more than to kick you out, but your mother won’t let me do that.” They were both hurt and shocked that one of their Mormon children would do something so “wrong”. I wish I could write that we were able to make amends quickly and everything returned to normal, but that would be a lie. Our family was changed forever that day and it wasn’t even my choice. 

Looking Back

Looking back on this experience I recognize how heartbreaking it was to have the power to disclose my sexual orientation to my family stripped from my journey. I like to believe if I had been able to tell my people about my sexuality when I was ready, the way my family reacted would have been different, but I will never know that. What I do know is this: my parents and siblings love me for who I am (most days). Did this sense of love and belonging happen overnight? Absolutely not. Are we still working through the ramifications of my coming out story and other things that have transpired since? Of course! 

Confidence

We may argue and disagree at times but the beautiful thing about my coming out journey is that even if the choice of when to tell my parents had been taken from me, I could still choose how this experience shaped me moving forward. It would have been easy to maintain those early denials and recoil into what my parents wanted me to be, but I knew I couldn’t do that to myself. My relationship with my sexual orientation has blossomed so much since that day, I’ve grown more confident and comfortable with the knowledge that I am a lesbian and I am loved. Power and control was taken from me in that moment, but I have recreated them for myself every day since. I have chosen who to disclose my sexuality to, how I express myself, who I married, who I wanted at my wedding, and who I interact with now. 

My Message

To those struggling with their identity because your power was taken from you, do not let it define you! It may seem impossible to feel empowered to be your true self but maybe we still have what we thought we “lost”. Perhaps the power we so desperately need in this world isn’t created outside of ourselves, and doesn’t just exist in one moment. Instead, maybe the source is already within us, and we can reach for it every day. 

We invite you to connect with a therapist today.

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