Today (11th October) is ‘International Coming Out Day’ which is internationally observed by people who publicly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, for the purpose of inspiring others to feel comfortable with their sexual orientation and gender identity and in doing so help foster courage to come out.
The Coming out process itself for anyone is a rite of passage where you disclose your sexual orientation or your personal gender identity in a heteronormative world. It is a long process for many and it can be difficult at times but it is a rewarding experience where you feel fulfilled, comfort to be who you are and most importantly happy.
But what is the essence of happiness and joy for an LGBT person, the well-being, the quality of life, the liberty and the pursuit of this happiness? To know happiness we must be aware or have experienced the darkness to see the brightest of stars which I mean that we must know what counter-poses this happiness and the importance of resilience to this. To effectively translate this I’m going to begin with my own personal story on LGBT happiness which is similar to multitudes of LGBT persons to provide an understanding of the inner workings and development of happiness and hopefully in reading someone else’s transformative story, it can inspire and resonate to one’s own future happiness and well-being.
I grew up outside a small Kerry village high in the idyllic Macgillycuddy’s reeks where my house was surrounded by blissful green woods, crystal streams and loughs, expansive fields for cattle, sheep and horses and where Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil stood proud in the backyard. I was privileged to have two loving parents who worked hard 24/7 for a good standard of living for each other and their only child. While I didn’t have siblings I had a very close extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins who treated me as one of their own. The early stage in my life was quite lonely to say the least. I never knew anyone outside my family and because of my poor immune system I was always sick which lead an extreme case of glue ear where I was deaf for a good part of my early development. So I didn’t have other kids my age to socialise or play with. My best friend through childhood until last year was the late family dog.
But where there is absence there is a greater meaning and appreciation of what is important. Primary school is the first place where I took heed to this. Firstly the ability to build friendships, socialising and develop interpersonal skills outside a family setting. But now this is the part of the story with the LGBT twist. It was in high infants where I naturally and involuntary realised that I had an attraction to both girls and boys, in a childlike Disney sense. My dear mother and her family were very spiritual free-thinking people who raised me on the values of being your own self, never caring of what other people think, living a life free from stress and hate, living a life with compassion, love and a fantastic appreciation of life itself. So as a child I naturally absorbed these values from my surrounding environment, therefore I didn’t have inner conflict about this attraction for both the opposite and same sex at first.
Unfortunately Kerry where I grew up at the time was a society morally, socially and politically conservative. A place 99% ethnically white, Irish, Roman Catholic, GAA footballers, a place not exposed to new social progressions and thoughts. A place where to be an individual or to be unique or to be different was strongly frowned upon. Where uniformity was the key society construct.
So being a young innocent child I had my natural free living values which were in conflict with what my society demanded. When I innocently kissed both girls and boys in high infants, the teachers took me aside to tell me that it was wrong what I was doing. A child’s cognitive ability to learn from surroundings and adults is quite powerful. It is here where I learned to fear my attraction to the same sex. This continued well into my teenage ages. My insecurity enveloped me to a point where I closed myself to the world out of fear of discovery of this attraction. Along with this my peers demanded this false outward appearance of a stereotypical masculine person just to fit-in in school. I had to cover up my kind, caring and compassionate personality. I even had to cover up my intelligence just to make friends.
I was a shell of a person. I was truly unhappy at the time. My insecurity manifested into a dark cloud of unhappiness and low self-worth. This is what I thought was the norm. This is how I thought how I had to live. I thought I was the only one; this was a time before widespread internet so I had no one to relate to or be inspired by. It was a scary place for me. I saw cases in secondary school where if you had a flamboyant nature you were beaten regularly. They had to assimilate by going into a relationship with the opposite sex to avoid this. If you were suspected of being attracted to the same sex you were shunned from society. The worst memory for me was when an old bachelor committed suicide by drinking battery acid, my neighbour, a very kind man but loneliness and depression consumed him in the end but everyone in my community were more concerns about the local petrol station owner’s son coming out as gay than my neighbour’s loneliness and depression that led to his suicide. There were many occasions where I thought a classmate figured out my ‘dark’ secret. On all these occasions I was mistaken but never the less I refused to go to school for the fear of the backlash from my peers and the subjective shame I would bring to my family.
Even though in secondary school I was quite recognisable by everyone. I did avoid close friendships and became a lone wolf. I did have relationships with girls but I felt something was lacking. To be void of friendship and emotions it causes a deep void of emptiness in your heart and your soul.
It wasn’t until I discover spirituality that things began to change for me. When I mean spirituality I mean the modern meaning of an inner preoccupation of the inner being which brings a blend of humanistic psychology with esoteric traditions aimed at personal well-being and personal development. It brought back my natural self that I was repressing for years and even enhanced my true self. It also started my advocacy and volunteering passion in helping others. I was beginning to blossom as a person. I regained those life values instilled in me as a child and because of this spiritual awakening I was near happy but still there was an element I was neglecting.
It was the end of first year in college when I was working in London that I finally accepted my attraction for the same sex. All I needed now was a catalyst to spark my coming out process which was a close friend that I worked with spiritually who I admitted for the first time ever out loud that I was bisexual. It was at that moment where I began the long process of coming out to myself, family and peers.
The coming out process is a spiritual experience in its own right. The early stages of the coming out process you feel confused, have internalised phobias and experience turmoil within yourself. The next stage involves soul-searching or a personal epiphany, which is often called “coming out to oneself” and constitutes the start of self-acceptance. But at the end an LGBT person feels no inner conflict, a resonance of peace and fulfilment, where you feel free to experience the love and life that you were meant to have and to be full of confidence and happiness for the rest of your life.
This is exactly what happened to me. Even though the latter stages of my coming out was full of tears, pain, grief and temporarily stunned from my community in Kerry. It was profoundly eclipsed by the happiness and joy I had for being complete and being my true self. I lost the fear, insecurity and internalised conflict and I gained so much more. I truly have a happy life. I’m flanked by loving and sincere friends and family who only want the best for me and help nurture that happy life. I have balance with all aspects in my life whether it my physical/mental/spiritual/emotional well-being, there all in balance which gives greater joy in life. This is reinforced by my spirituality which taught me to forgive, grow, love and help with compassion. I truly flourished and prospered as a person for accepting all elements of myself. Again I mention where there is absence there is a greater meaning and appreciation of what is important.
Happiness has fundamental importance to the human experience. It is an un-alienate right by all. Happiness is a mental and emotional state of well-being achieved through a range different means. Be it through psychology, philosophy, religion, spirituality or biology it is an attainable state of intense joy for one’s self and the positive effects are endless.
Our society has this imaginary demand for uniformity, putting people into boxes or groups with same characteristics and attributes, we’re all the same basically, neglecting the fact of our individuality and our uniqueness. Yes we all have the same human biology but we are unique genetically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Our happiness is something that comes from within us, not through other’s wants. Caring and fearing about other’s thoughts puts your mind into a mental prison. This is why we sometimes need resilience for happiness whether it comes from intolerance or discrimination. As the Dalai Lama once said ‘Do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace.’
We have the right to be happy like everyone else. We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home wherever it maybe.
If I could pass on anything from my coming out experience onto you the reader is that you are unique and you have the ability for joy and happiness in all its forms. There is a strong need for resilience but self-acceptance and love of self must be gained before true happiness and no one has the right to alter that happiness. I also hope that my coming out story helped inspire or resonate with your own future happiness and well-being.
- List of LGBT spiritual/religious organisations (Spirituality Ireland.org)
- For related Articles on LGBT Spirituality from Spirituality Ireland.org you can click the following link: LGBT Spirituality Archive
For related Articles by Danny Pio Murphy you can click the following link: Danny Pio Murphy Archive (Spirituality Ireland.org)