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Coming Out: The Anxiety of Freedom

Written by Kyle Matthew Attard


During the stages of early childhood, our sexual orientation and gender identity begin developing. With that, our personality and interests start forming us into individual beings with our own set of identity. You may remember times when you felt like an outcast, and back then, you wouldn't have been able to understand exactly why you felt so different.


As the years go by, societal pressures make it more difficult to be the authentic version of yourself. One may ask "Why is that?" - the reality is that the world is pretty much binary; there is little space for anything other than black or white, male or female, and nowadays, even gay or straight. So what happens if you don't fit into these boxes? Anxiety - one of the most important evolutionary functions that human beings have. If we were to look back to our most primitive states, this anxiety served a very important function: if a tiger came towards you, you would immediately react in a way that would protect you. Often times this would include running away. However, sexuality, unlike the viscous tiger, isn't something that we can run away from. In actual fact, it is the complete opposite.

Many people attempt at suppressing their sexuality in order to protect them from the potential complications of coming out. There's no denying the psychological impact this has on the person, be it a teenager struggling with gender dysphoria, or a middle-aged adult navigating their way into accepting their sexual orientation. With all this being said, it is important to realise that coming out isn't something that you "just do" - it is often something that requires thought, planning and discussion. In fact, research has shown that when compared to heterosexual youth, LGBTIQ+ youths face an increased risk of rejection, hostile home environments, discrimination and mental health complications. Because of these reasons, safety is something that should always be considered.



So what happens once we do come out? Is there some kind of magic alteration to the way we view ourselves and the world around us? Realistically, no. Many people still experience the same struggles, but on different tangents. By allowing yourself the freedom of authentic experience, you are empowering yourself to go against these binaries and restrictions. In fact, openly queer individuals were reported to have lower stress hormone levels, and in turn, decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression than those still in the closet.

With the right support and spaces, living your truth can be possible. If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these feelings, reach out to Rainbow Support Services on support@maltagayrights.org or call +356 79430006 for professional and confidential support.


References:

Hudson-Sharp, N., & Metcalf, H. (2016). Inequality among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: a review of evidence.

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