Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004 Page: 29 of 72
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et." These milestones included low CD4 levels
and AIDS diagnosis.
While coming out can reduce stress by no
longer having to hide, it is important to note that
this is not true for all people. In another recent
study, researchers found that HIV progressed
faster when people are in the closet — except if
they were sensitive to rejection by strangers
(which is called rejection sensitivity). Thus,
while it is important to come out to family and
friends to reduce stress, it can be counterproduc-
tive for people who are sensitive to rejection
when coming come out publicly.
LGBT people have minority stress, which
refers to the stress resulting from societal dis-
crimination. Examples of this type stress include
not receiving support for relationships, discrimi-
"Before it was scientifically established,
not many people took "sharing your feel-
ings" seriously. Today, however, mental
health practitioners understand the
importance of talking about or writing
down thoughts and feelings.
nation in the workplace, and the threat of verbal
and physical assault. Other examples include
hearing a "fag" or "dyke" joke, being ridiculed in
the media, and hearing elected officials and reli-
gious leaders talk about why lesbians and gay
men should not be able to marry or parent. The
result of these stressors can compromise the
immune system and may lead to depression, anx-
iety, and other problems.
Minority stress is actually worse for LGBT
people than for ethnic and religious minorities.
To illustrate, when a child from an ethnic minor-
ity gets called a name s/he receives support from
family, friends, and places of worship. LGBT
people often receive the opposite treatment, cre-
ating a unique type of minority stress where the
same institutions that act as resources for ethnic
and religious minorities are stressors for us.
Some ways in which LGBT people cope with
stress actually increase it.
One way to cope with stress is by isolating. As
children, it is not uncommon to becoming isolat-
ed due to feeling "different." As young adults,
being different can produce isolation when
friends start dating. In addition, LGBT persons
are at risk for isolation throughout adulthood.
Another way that many lesbians and gay men
cope with stress is by using alcohol and other
drugs. Repeatedly putting toxins into one's body
is an assault on the cardiovascular and immune
systems. This can wreak further havoc on your
health and your environment, causing further
stress. Compulsivity is another way of trying to
cope with stress, and sexual compulsion can
cause further problems.
Reduce the Stress of Coming Out
In spite of understanding the benefits of com-
ing out, the key question for many people is this:
If you are still in the closet and are afraid to come
out, how do you do it? Some answers can be
found by looking at coming out as a form of
For example, having social support is a buffer
to stress. So, if you have just moved to a new city
and are considering coming out to your family
and longtime friends, but have no new friends
who know about your sexual orientation, it may
be better to wait until you have made some new
friendships. Another buffer to stress is to antici-
pate people's reactions. When you talk to anoth-
er out LGBT person about your coming out, you
can gather more information about possible reac-
tions from friends, family, and ce—workers, in
addition to how to deal with them.
Talking about your feelings with trusted
friends is also a buffer to stress. Before it was sci-
entifically established, not many people took
"sharing your feelings" seriously. Today, howev-
er, mental health practitioners understand the
importance of talking about or writing down
thoughts and feelings. Studies on the relationship
between illness and journalling have found that
people who kept a journal had less trips to the
doctor and reported being in a better mood than
people who didn't.
These are not the only ways that utilizing
stress management techniques can help. Take a
moment to think about other ways to reduce the
amount of stress during the coming out process.
For example, there are some great books to read,
support groups to attend, and websites to visit.
Because coming out is one of the most important
rites of passage that we go through, think about
it, talk about it, and enlist as much support as you
can during the process.
Jeffi'ev Cheniin, Ph.D., is a maniage and fam-
ily therapist and author based in Los Angeles,
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 20, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, March 12, 2004, newspaper, March 12, 2004; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth238885/m1/29/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.