Awakening to our spiritual nature can be a painful experience: everything we thought we knew about our world shatters.
We may question who we are, how we've lived our lives, and whether we can continue to participate in our usual routines. We may feel different to and separate from the people around us. We may feel like we're living in a different reality (because we are, we've awakened our 5th Dimensional consciousness and it's hard to have one foot there and one in the 3rd Dimensional 'reality' here on Earth).
A spiritual awakening can be a time of anxiety, confusion and disorientation. It certainly was for me.
Sharing our new spiritual identity with our friends, families and work colleagues can also be fraught. People might (will) judge us; laugh at us; reject us. It may affect our relationships and professional reputation. It may limit the places we feel comfortable to show up and be ourselves. We might have to look for a different community to belong to.
The phrase 'coming out' is often used to describe our emergence as a newly spiritually-conscious being. Being spiritual has even been described as 'the new gay'.
But is it the same? And is it ok to use the term 'coming out' in a spiritual context?
As a Queer woman, who has been 'coming out' about my sexual identity for 30 years and living in my spiritual truth for approximately half that time, the answer is No.
While language cannot 'belong' to anyone, we have to recognize and respect its origins and use, particularly when a term is used by minority people and has become politicized.
'Coming out' was first used to describe the process by which young aristocratic women entered 'society' via the Debutante Ball. When they came of age, they'd be presented to the King or Queen at the Ball, and their quest for an eligible bachelor would begin! So, in that context, 'coming out' reinforced a heteropatriachal, class-based system (to get academic about it).
Gay men started to adopt the phrase in the early 20th Century. 'Coming out' meant joining a gay community, meeting others like themselves, starting to date and have relationships. Though I presume it was still a class laden term: gay men would often 'come out' by going to a Drag Ball. I doubt gay coal miners, dockers or other working class men would have had the same experience!
'Coming out' as gay acquired a sense of Pride. But sex between men was still a criminal offence. There are many older men today who, in their youth, were imprisoned for their sexual relationships and who, today, are still reluctant to 'come out' to their GPs, care workers, residential home staff, neighbours etc. resulting in considerable isolation in their later years.
In recent decades, 'coming out' has been commonly used by all LGBT+ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, queer and other people who identify under this umbrella acronym) to describe the process of telling others about their identity, publicly living their truth.
Even though LGBT+ people now have legal protections in some parts of the world (though even these are under constant threat of roll back), 'coming out' still carries the risk - and the reality - of rejection by our families, homelessness, discrimination, abuse and violence, death by suicide and even murder.
So far in 2020, at least 21 trans people have been murdered in the U.S. most of them Black Trans Women. In Chile, there have been three murders and dozens of violent attacks against Butch Lesbians in recent years. A third of local authorities in Poland have, this year, declared their areas to be 'LGBT-free zones', supported by the country's right wing government. In the UK, LGBT Hate Crimes have been rising, including the highly publicized violent attack on a lesbian couple on a London night bus last year.
LGBT+ people all over the world carry a constant fear and anxiety, albeit in varying degrees. Psychologists and sociologists describe this as 'minority stress' - the unique set of pressures experienced by minority groups because of stigma and discrimination in daily life. Minority Stress has been shown to negatively impact mental and physical health, contributing to cancer, heart disease and other illness.
While people experiencing other forms of discrimination e.g. racism, can often draw support from their families, LGBT+ people are more likely to carry this burden alone, particularly LGBT+ youth who are at higher risk of self harm and suicide. LGBT+ people who experience multiple forms of discrimination - including Queer, Trans, or Intersex People of Colour (QTIPoC)- carry higher levels of minority stress.
In my own case, I started 'coming out' at 17 and have continued 'coming out' for the last 30 years, in every new situation I go into. Not because I like screaming my sexuality from the rooftops, but because it's unavoidable if I'm going to talk about my life and experiences, if I'm going to show up as 'me'.
'Coming out' has caused me - and still causes me - fear, anxiety, pain, self-questioning... It's still met with explicit rejection, discrimination, disdain... as well as the silent reactions that, as an intuitive person (as many minority people are), I can easily read. Being ethnically 'other' compounds this experience.
So... back to 'coming out' and spirituality.
Yes, there are parallels. No, no one should have to be 'in the closet', hiding their true self. No, revealing our 'skeletons' - our hidden selves - should not carry a risk of rejection and discrimination by family, friends, employers etc.
But 'coming out' as spiritual and 'coming out' as LGBT+ isn't the same thing. I know because I've done - and continue to do - both.
If we want to talk about our spirituality (me included) there are other terms: I favor 'spiritual emergence'.
Using a different term acknowledges the particular history of the term 'coming out' and the ongoing experiences of LGBT+ people.
For heterosexual, cis gender (living as the gender we are assigned at birth) people, using the phrase 'coming out' is a choice. Please choose another phrase. Please stand alongside LGBT+ people as we continue to struggle for acceptance and an equal chance to live as our true selves.
Please be involved in the wider movement towards authenticity and unity consciousness in our world - where we can all be different, but equal. In my view, it's one of the most spiritual things we can do.