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6 Mins

Sharing LBGT+ experiences: Feeling nervous about being vulnerable?

February 12, 2024
Hayley Holtham-Leek

February is LGBT+ History Month, an event hosted by the charity, Schools Out, which creates an opportunity for all of us to remember the past, celebrate the present and establish a better future for the LGBT+ community.

While LGBT+ History Month is a positive event; a marker of how far we’ve come and a chance to commemorate the inspirational people who have fought for civil rights, it can also be a triggering time for anyone who doesn’t feel able to be up-front about their sexuality or gender. They may feel excluded from the celebrations or feel the weight of their own struggle more intensely during this time.

Many people are still afraid to ‘come out’ or live life as their authentic selves. There are many reasons for this; opening up about your sexuality or gender isn’t straightforward and the experience is different for everyone. We don’t all have a supportive network of people around us, and some religions and backgrounds are less accepting of LGBT+ people.

It can also be anxiety-inducing. There’s a lot to think about; who to tell and when, how much to say and what questions they’ll ask. It requires being vulnerable, which can be uncomfortable if we have fears about rejection, judgement or our trust being broken.

Ultimately, being vulnerable is a risk because there’s a chance that we could get hurt. However, there’s also a chance that positive things could happen as a result of opening up. For one, there’s a power in sharing. It gives the person that we’ve confided in the opportunity to support us, which could strengthen our relationship, deepen our connection and help us to feel less alone.

We may also feel a sense of relief. Concealing parts of our identity can prevent us from fully expressing and embracing ourselves, which can diminish our self-esteem. We may feel as though we’re constantly putting on an act for other people and live in fear of being ‘found out’, which is exhausting, stressful and likely to take its toll on our mental health.

Sharing your gender or sexuality can be difficult. Not everyone may feel able to open up, and equally, not everyone will feel the need to. It’s a choice that’s completely up to you. If you’d like to share this part of yourself with others, but you’re struggling to be vulnerable, we’ve put together some tips that may help.

  1. Talk to someone you trust  

Sharing something important can be nerve-wracking, so the person that you chose to talk to should be someone who you can trust. You don’t have to fully open up right away; practise talking about yourself and your feelings with your trusted person, and the more that you share, the more comfortable you’ll feel when being vulnerable.  

If there isn’t someone in your life that you can talk to and you’re struggling, you can call the LGBT+ helpline, Switchboard, on 0800 0119 100.

  1. Practice self-compassion

It’s normal to be apprehensive, nervous or scared when opening up about your sexuality or gender, especially if it’s not something that you’ve done many times before. It’s important to show yourself compassion if you’re struggling to talk to people. It’s not easy and it might take some time for you to feel comfortable. Remember that it’s a process and even getting to a place where you want to share is a step forward that you should be proud of.

  1. Embrace vulnerability in others

It can help to look at other people who are living as their authentic selves and embracing their vulnerability. They can act as a source of inspiration and motivate you to express yourself.  

Equally, look to your friends and family who are being vulnerable about their own experiences and show them support. Allow them to open up to you and practise active listening; take in the detail of what they’re saying, show interest, curiosity and empathy. The more that other people share with you, the more comfortable you will become with different emotions.

  1. Have an exit plan

When opening up about your sexuality or gender, it’s a good idea to have an exit plan, just in case things don’t go as you hoped. That way, if you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable, you will feel prepared to leave the situation quickly.

  1. Seek professional support

There are lots of mental health support groups, communities and resources for LGBT+ people.  

LGBT Foundation: https://lgbt.foundation

Pink Therapy: https://pinktherapy.com

Stonewall: https://www.stonewall.org.uk

Switchboard LGBT+ helpline: 0800 0119 100

If you’re experiencing anxiety or low mood as a result of not feeling able to open up and express yourself, you may want to consider talking therapy. At ieso we offer online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which gives you the tools you need to stay in control of your mental health. It’s free for some NHS patients - register to find out if you’re eligible.

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This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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