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So for a long time now I have known I was lesbian, that I have liked girls and that I do not like guys. I feel stuck and scared to fully embrace my identity as a lesbian because I am scared of what others will think about me. I have been through a lot in my life which has caused me to not speak my truth about who I am. I realize as I write this, my behaviors come from a fear-based mind set. I think one of the other main reasons why I do not embrace my sexuality is because I have had this high expectation for myself that I will grow up to be the perfect, beautiful wife to a handsome husband that has lots of money, because that’s what our society wants young girls to dream about having. That is the ” perfect life.” Well when I do not like guys, it goes against the American ideal life. So I feel like I strive to be the perfect weight and that has led me to my eating disorder. Trying to conform to the Americas ideal family life is making me crack, and is putting me under too much pressure because I am oppressing all the feelings I have. I end up pushing myself into situations just because I want to prove to myself that I am not gay, that I do in fact like boys, and that there is nothing wrong with me. I mean, this is very ironic because I am so open minded about other people and their sexuality, because my dad is gay and I do not judge him. For myself though, I come with so much self judgment toward myself with the eating disorder and my sexuality, that in some ways they go hand in hand. I know this letter is all over the place but this is what was on my mind and I just need some guidance and advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to this.
Letter submitted by:
Hello, I’m glad you decided to reach out to The Trevor Project. Its not always easy opening up to others about our troubles, so I admire your courage to ask for guidance. You are dealing with a multitude of issues, none of which are easy. My heart goes out to you for everything that you’ve had to carry on your shoulders.
Through your articulate letter, I see many different things about you. I see that you are kind, compassionate, experienced, wise, and intelligent. You also carry a tremendous awareness about your burdens and where they come from. For example, you make very intelligent insights around the fear-based mind, and are able to analyze the sometimes illusive but poisonous standards society has on women and sexuality in general. You’re also able to see what’s beneath your eating disorder on an emotional level, and you’re also able to objectively observe the ways you try to prove you are not gay through your actions. This is impressive to me, as not a lot of people carry this kind of awareness, nor do they have the courage or interest to see this deep into what burdens them. It takes maturity and wisdom to really look at your actions, your troubled mind, and why you do what you do. This is such a huge step to healing your life- being able to make all these intelligent observations. You’ve already overcome a big hurdle so don’t overlook your own accomplishments.
There are a couple main things I would like to say before offering some advice. The first is that the catalyst for change is you. Our goal here isn’t to solve all your problems, but simply point you in the right direction. The second is that if there is only one valuable piece of advice you take away from this letter, its that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are not at all wrong for being a lesbian, and I am absolutely certain of this because of my years of experience talking with people, research, and handling my own issues. Your sexual feelings are right, natural, and beautiful. Your feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness are also completely understandable and warranted. If this is all you took away from this letter, and you truly believed it in your heart, it would be tremendously healing. And lastly, you are not alone. I personally related to most everything in your letter, and I know that thousands of others do too. I hope that in some way this offers some peace of mind that there are many who understand exactly how you feel.
In regards to your eating disorder, its wonderful that you’ve identified the issue and the kinds of thinking patterns that are causing it. What will help you is finding a licensed therapist who has years of experience dealing with eating disorders and will know the most powerful tools to help you through it. Please try to seek help from a professional (whether through insurance or other means) because sometimes we can’t fight these battles alone and if we try to, its just like trying to paddle upstream. Getting a professional involve may also help if you find you have symptoms of depression, or feel like you might be susceptible to it. Depression is a serious illness just like eating disorders and needs to be treated. Please check out the following resources on eating disorders that may open some doors for you:
I would also suggest checking out the book “You Can Heal Your Life” By Louise Hay. It is a popular book (that I myself own and love) and has helped many people. One of your challenges you need to work on is self-compassion. This book, a therapist, and the other tips I mention below will help you start building an unconditional friendship with yourself. After all, the most important relationship you will ever have in life is the one you have with yourself.
It must be wonderful to have your Dad who can relate to you. It is very beneficial to have him in your life because I also suggest building a support system. Like I said, we cannot fight certain battles alone. A support system is extremely powerful in a multitude of different issues. Have you considered opening up more to your Dad about some of the things you are feeling and going through with your sexuality? Do you have close and caring friends you can confide in about some of what’s bothering you- people you can run to when you are struggling? Please check out http://www.lgbtcenters.org/Centers/find-a-center.aspx and consider finding an LGBT resource center near you. I bet you could find some amazing people there who can help you, console you, and understand you. Also consider joining http://emptyclosets.com/ where you can find and talk to many others facing the same issues.
I completely understand the oppression you feel from society’s expectations, and your fear of being judged. The fear of being judged for being gay is crippling, and I admire you for enduring those times where you have been judged by others. Sometimes its the risk of being judged is too much, so I don’t blame you for acting fearfully sometimes. Its ok to do so! None of us are perfect. Remember that most of us, especially people at The Trevor Project, have stories of fearfully hiding our sexuality at different times in our life.
I think most everyone feels the oppression of society’s expectations in some form, whether its a woman wrestling with the American ideals of marriage and raising a family, or a man wrestling with America’s ideals to have a masculine and muscular build to be attractive, yielding women to develop disorders and men to spend hours in the gym and fight depression. My point is that you are not alone, and I am by your side along with so many others who are sick of America’s beauty standard. Its so harsh! And its absolutely everywhere in the media (magazines, news, tv, movies). It has poisoned our beliefs and thoughts. All I can do is encourage you to follow your own way of life, and not listen to these limiting standards. When you start doing this, you begin realizing how special you are for being different, and how much it would suck to just be like everyone else! Then you begin inspiring others to be loyal to who they are instead of how others think they should be, and that feels good. Just think of the shining example you could set for not following America’s idea of “the perfect life.”
I would like to offer you a couple simple techniques when you feel the fear-based mind set creep in. Work on bringing that awareness you have for your overall situation, into specific circumstances. When you start noticing that you feel like hiding, or temptations related to your eating disorder, take a deep breath and simply observe what it feels like to want to hide or act out of fear. Maybe give that feeling a texture or color so you can better grasp it. Start owning and knowing your negative or dark feelings so their control over you loosens. Tell yourself, “I know this feeling. What can I do differently?” Just simply bring to mind what possible actions could break habits of behavior.
The second thing I’d like you to do is whenever you feel frustration, sadness, self-hate, fear, or feelings related to your eating disorder, find a quiet spot to be by yourself. Take a deep breath and bring to mind that feeling. Then I’d like you to deeply contemplate the hundreds of others in the world who feel exactly how you feel, and the many others who have felt it in the past. Send them a feeling of compassion and understanding. This is a way of turning pain into compassion.
Remember that you are not alone. I hope you can begin to loosen your idea of “the perfect life,” and realize that a perfect life is when you are being true to who you are and doing what makes you happy, not what someone else says should make you happy. Don’t hesitate to write to us again, and if you need to talk to someone or you are in crisis, you can call our hotline at 1-866-488-7386.
The Trevor Project