Coming Out Openly And Honestly
I am struggling. I have been so excited to share our latest CCS product with the world. I truly believe that it can (and hope that it will) help people and their loved ones have better and safer conversations about one of the hardest things to have to talk about.
But I am struggling.
I’m struggling because up until this product, pretty much everything we have done with the CCS cards has been in areas that I have had experience in and feel comfortable with. This is not the case with our latest product.
I have so many voices in my head and heart. My head tells me about the importance of ‘branding’, ‘strategic positioning’ and demonstrating your credibility and expertise in the product area. But my heart tells me just to come out and share the truth with you, no matter what. This just adds to my struggle because I am always more comfortable helping others share their inner most thoughts and feelings than sharing my own.
So, here goes.
Over the last 2 years I have been working on a CCS product called Coming Out, Staying Close. It was the brainchild and passion project of our distributer in the US, Susan. She has a lesbian daughter and a gender fluid child. She has lived and breathed the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning) community for over 20 years and realised how the CCS cards could help. I trust and admire Susan implicitly. I jumped on board because I trusted her expertise in this area and the project excited my passion for improving connection and relationships. It was a big yes from me – let the collaboration begin!
As I sit here now, 2 years on (longer than we anticipated — but isn’t that always the way!), I am struggling with authenticity. I struggle because I am not gay. I do not have a child who has come out to me as gay (yet anyway, but who knows?) or transgender. Who am I to help?
During the development I have attempted to educate myself in a world that I am totally accepting of, but do not totally understand. I don’t know firsthand the struggle of coming out to someone. I don’t know the inner turmoil of sensing who you truly are and praying to God to be different or dead, because you can’t bear to face the truth of who you are. I don’t know what it’s like to have someone you love judge who you are and reject you because of one tiny truth. I have no idea what it’s like to be a child of a parent who goes from being dad to being mum.
What I do know is that judgement is a cruel and destructive force. I also know judgement can be diminished with an open conversation and a genuine attempt to understand.
My first LGBTQ conference was an eye opener. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had no idea that gender identity and sexual identity are two separate things. (A nice way to remember, and differentiate is: sexuality is who you go to bed with, gender is who you go to bed as). I hadn’t appreciated just how discriminatory it is every time a form says to tick if you are male or female, or to select which public toilet to go to. I was surprised by the fact that some cultures actually have 5 ways of identifying gender. I was struck when I heard the rates of suicide and depression in LGBTQ is up to 6 times higher than the general population.
I left with the feeling that judgement had a big part to play in many of these issues. I also left having a cold hard look at the times I have judged and vowed to not do that anymore. I’m working on it.
A few months after the conference I had the opportunity to meet the people featured in the supporting videos for Coming Out, Staying Close. These amazing families opened their hearts and bravely and generously allowed us into their lives, in the hope that their experience will help others in similar situations. I was in awe of their courage and honesty. Imagine facing the challenge every day of having to justify who you are and how you choose to live your life. That is genuine emotional resilience! They are brave, authentic and true. I love every one of them!
I also think I found out what true love means. Being in the presence of Liz and Evan is witnessing love at its best. Evan was born female and has been transitioning to male over the last couple of years. Liz and Evan got together when Evan was female. Seeing Liz’s acceptance and generosity and love for Evan is, well, I don’t even have words for. Liz sums it up when she says:
He said, “Will you love me if this is me?” I said “Yeah.” I love him as a person no matter what.
I don’t know what it’s like to be gay or transgender. I don’t know what it’s like to have a child tell you that they are LGBT or Q. I take courage from Ash Beckham, one of the best speakers I have ever heard, when she encourages all of us to come out of our closets and have the courage to open up:
Hard is not relative. Hard is hard. Who can tell me that telling someone you just became bankrupt is harder than telling someone your husband cheated on you. Just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.
I do know hard. I’m happy to have the hard conversation. With three teenage girls in the house I know that hard and love combine often. In our house that is usually in the form of standing firm and steady while doors are being slammed, tears are shed and conversations are in raised voices. Then comes the calm, the hugs, the making up and facing the difficult thing together.
So what is Coming Out, Staying Close really? Well, you can find out more here. Needless to say, it’s about using the CCS to help people have the hard conversations around coming out as LGBTQ. My hope is that it will help reduce judgement and increase understanding. I look forward to a time when these are no longer hard conversations, they are just conversations.