For many who have previously regarded their experience of same-sex attraction as shameful, the experience of “coming out” is a refreshing, affirming and empowering act of self-expression and acceptance. Thus coming out is almost universally taken among progressives to be a healthy, positive and necessary (even if sometimes scary) step forward for those with non-conventional sexual orientations.
By contrast, nearly all religious conservatives believe that same-sex attraction is not a positive thing to be affirmed. Many religious conservatives are thus not willing to approve of any level of a person’s act of “coming out”. From this perspective, even the acknowledgement of same-sex attraction being a "thing" is problematic - and a validation of something damaging.
Some religious conservatives, however, believe there are other ways of working with same-sex attraction that are more loving and accepting of the person (if not the romantic expression of the attraction itself)From this perspective, the act of identifying with the attraction can potentially limit and obscure other (deeper, spiritual) aspects of identity - especially over the long-term; but also damaging from this same perspective would be any violent repression of the attraction or shaming of the person.
Compared to the more commonly described experience of full celebration and affirmation of one’s attractions as part of one’s identity, this kind of “coming out” experience for some conservatively religious SSA-identified individuals does not include a celebration or affirmation of their attractions as fundamental to identify, but rather, an open honesty about their feelings. As one straight (conservative) man has said, seeking to express what he has heard from friends with SSA, “I would describe it as a mindful acceptance that 'hey, this is my experience. It's real. And I'm not sick or disgusting or evil because of it.'”
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
- Have you experienced or observed “coming out” to be an overall positive and helpful thing in people’s lives - or something else?
- What exactly does “coming out” mean to you - and to others you know?
- What practical difference does it make (if at all) what exactly the word means?
-Is “coming out” a positive and healthy thing in relation to sexuality, in your view? If so, why yes? If not, why not?
-Are there (or are there not) meaningful differences in ways to “come out”?
Heidi Weaver-Smith, Jacob Hess, Arthur Pena, Cynthia Kurtz
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