Contrary to what the majority thinks, many people still fear coming out as LGBT. “There’s rejection, hurt and violence, and therefore a great fear of coming out,” says Dr. Sharon Gil. But when you ask people who came out how has their life changed – most of them emphasize that coming out only changed their lives for the better.
“Somewhere, in 2001, I was a 40 year old man who was deep in the closet, introverted and closed towards the world around him,” says Zvika Levanoni, an IDF employee. “One day I came to a meeting of Forum Haifa, a meeting place for the LGBT community in Haifa. A few months later, I got a phone call one evening. The guide at the Forum asked how I was and invited me to go out for a movie. For three years, we went out, we went to the movies and ate in restaurants, we went out for weekends in hotels and we had intimate conversations.”
“As time passed by the guide told me he wanted to formalize our relationship, and I told him I was deep in the closet and there was no way I’d be someone’s boyfriend. The guide did not give up on me, and after four years together he was given the key to my apartment and moved in with me.”
For an alumni event at the military base where he worked, Zvika finally arrived with his partner. “They greeted us with a warm and welcoming embrace, and phrases like ‘it’s about time’, ‘way to go’, ‘where did you hide him all along?’ Even “I’m proud of you!” was said to me that evening. The table we sat at became a place of pilgrimage. It was amazing. People just came over, shook hands and greeted us.”
“Look, you work in a place like the army for 32 years. People don’t know anything about you, and let’s just say that I was the happiest person there at the end of that event. Since then I get invitations to weddings and stuff like that, and the invitation says ‘to Zvi and his partner.’ Of course we go to all the events together. I was surprised by the openness of people in general and the reactions of families in particular. To live in the closet is to live in prison. The real freedom exists outside the closet.Live your truth.”
Dr. Sharon Gil, a senior lecturer at the School of Social Work at the University of Haifa and Director of the Center for rehabilitation of victims of sexual assault of the academic institution Shaar Carmel, argues that: “The issue of coming out is less discussed in terms of literature on the assumption that it is a subject that’s already less disturbing to people. There’s an assumption, that may be wrong, that coming out is not an issue. But the reality in which I work and treat people – is worse, and certainly there is still rejection, injury, violence, and therefore fear and shame about coming out, even today.”
What are the feelings that accompany a person who comes out?
“I would separate between coming out at a young age and coming out later in life, especially when hiding at an older age is often in family frameworks. In both cases, concealment is concealment and secret is secret, but prices are different. When a teenager walks around with a secret in relation to his sexual orientation, the feelings are usually fear of rejection, shame and guilt that he might hurt people close to him. The central feeling is a feeling of isolation, because when I keep a secret, no one is there with me in fact. But what actually happens usually, is when you expose this secret, like exposing other secrets, you realize that in many cases, there’s a surprise in the ability of other people to accept us – even if there is no immediate acceptance. ”
“Of course there are cases where the surprise is in the opposite direction. Then it only increases loneliness and a higher risk of destructive behaviors and suicidal thoughts are relatively high. In adults, the story is a bit different because the secret was kept for more years, or there are adults who discovered their sexual preferences late and then the transformation is much more dramatic. You actually discover one day that everything you thought you were is changing right before your eyes. ”
“On the other hand, adults have better coping skills and less destructive behaviors. The crisis they experience is more in the sense of breaking up a family, with all that implies. However, I think that anyone who wants to come out, does not have to do it by storm. This serves no purpose, and it even hurts the process sometimes. We also have to work toward the normalization of coming out.”