Cowardice

So the last few posts have been upbeat & positive about my prospects for coming out to my family. Especially after having such a great experience at Butch Voices and feeling the validation of my peers, I’ve been feeling increased internal pressure to do it right away. And I really have been thinking a lot about how to do that. But the high from the conference and meeting butch friends is beginning to fade in the day to day grind of life, and my courage seems to be waning along with it.

My problem seems to be good ol’ fashioned cowardice.

Now, to my delight, I’ve been blessed with loving, clear-thinking friends, especially Special Femme, who have reminded me of the courage I employ daily in my gender nonconforming appearance. And, on most other general topics and challenges I don’t have a courage problem (not including spiders because, eeww). Deep down, I know that I am not a coward fundamentally. But on this, I’m certainly acting like one.

I’m afraid.

Simple as that. I fear so much surrounding this that I’m paralyzed. I am rational enough  to recognize the problem, yet I don’t know for sure how to solve for it.

But there’s a trick I’ve used forever that gets my brain working whenever I’m stuck: I inventory my tools to see what is the best one for the job.  By “tools”, I mean any asset (tangible or esoteric) that I can apply to a challenge to resolve it. Sometimes that’s actual tools (hammers and the like) sometimes its skills or knowledge or connections or experience or money or prayer…it is anything I can access that might be helpful for resolving a problem.

In this case, my problem is paralysis due to unreasoning fear. It has occurred to me that maybe naming the fears could highlight possible solutions.  Much like my Call To The Universe post, where I made my wish-list real by putting it in writing, perhaps listing what I dread can free me from the trap enough that I can put my brain back to work.

So, here’s what I’m afraid of happening if I come out to my family:

Plausible:
– Angry disappointment leading to cold, perfunctory relations
– Righteous indignation and denunciation as a hellbound sinner with a soul in immortal jeopardy
– Complete emotional shutdown and the silent treatment, being excluded from family events
– Being vilified to mutual friends and acquaintances
– Verbal abuse directed at me or my beloved
– Pointed suggestions about “cures” available for my “affliction”
– Efforts to fix me, the broken confused spinster who clearly needs looking after

Unlikely But Possible:
– Disgust and derision leading to shaming and public humiliation
– Shock severe enough to cause a heart attack in certain family members
– Permanent estrangement from some family members, being shunned
– Violent language or physical behavior directed at me or my beloved
– Vandalism of my property or personal effects
– Libel or slander about me delivered to my employer

That’s the bulk of the types of things I’m afraid may happen in response to my coming out. My problem is that they’re all fortuitous events beyond my influence. Folks will react however they react. What I  fear is actually the pain that will result from receiving these reactions from my dearest loved ones.

So if I can’t control or influence the reactions, is there anything I can do to head-off the pain or mitigate how badly the reactions will hurt?

I don’t have any answers to any of it. But now that I’ve named my nemesis, perhaps my brain can get to work figuring out how to defeat it.

Any suggestions?

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4 comments so far

  1. Singerella on

    I think it’s easy to be prepared for negative reactions. I still get shudders from time to time when I remember all the years I just assumed that coming out meant I’d be homeless under a bridge with no access to my own children. It was easy to believe that would happen. What I didn’t expect was to find support in the most unlikely places. So I’d just say that as you prepare for things to feel a bit unsettled, also remember to look for the support that will come out of the closet with you. Some people suck. Other people are lovely. Once you come out, you start to realize that there’s not a lot of middle ground there. But that means the lovely is REALLY lovely, not fake.

    You’re not a coward, and you deserve to be known for who you are. It’s so good to be out. You’ll see. Promise. (FemmeDiva here, btw)

    • Searching4Self2013 on

      Thanks for that reminder. You’re right–it’s easy to expect the worst. Really gotta work on that knee-jerk reaction. So far, the reactions I’ve received have all been positive. But I’ve only come out to a few safe people, folks who’s negative reaction wouldn’t be crushing, just disappointing. This paralysis is all about fear of those things from the people most central to my daily life (aside from Special Femme). I’m accustomed to believing them all to be lovely; I fear finding that some of them suck at being allies. But, again, gotta get up the courage to give them a chance to show my fears unfounded. Ok, self, go!

      Thanks for the pep talk, Amy. Cute new screen name!

  2. Lillybet on

    “The ONLY thing we have to fear is fear itself… and spiders. Fuck spiders.”

  3. FemOutLoud on

    Of course you’re afraid of those things happening–or perhaps more accurately, that you won’t be up to handling them and rebuilding happiness if they do happen. Who wouldn’t worry about that?

    Have you ever removed a spider from your living space, all on your own, without any help? If so, then you’ve already proven you can do even the scary things. You really are strong enough–and by the way, that’s all you have to be. Strong “enough.” Not Superwoman, just “enough.” You can do that.

    My guess is that a little of the scary stuff will happen, and will be countered by bright spots of support from others in your family, and that when the dust all settles, you’ll have a path clear to seek happiness in an authentic life. And if Fundamentalists aren’t so big on “gay,” many of them are pretty big on “honesty,” as well as trying (admittedly often unsuccessfully) for Christlike love and for leaving judgments to someone better qualified. Just maybe, your loved ones will surprise you. I hope so.

    *hugs*


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