It's hard to live with a secret. I imagine every day of your life you're terrified you'll be found out, that the part of you holding the secret will be ripped open and there you'll be, exposed, vulnerable and at the mercy of those around you who know the truth. Having secrets, are, at the very least, stressful. Think about all the energy you put into keeping up your lie?
When it comes to secrets, a big one for many gay men and women is the fact that they're gay. Whether they keep it from their friends, family, co-workers or all of the above, the stress on their lives is devastating to them both physically and mentally.
A recent study in Canada found that those who were "out" had "fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression and emotional exhaustion (called burnout), than those who had not disclosed their sexual orientation." Well, yeah, because once you've come clean about who you really are, you can put your lies to bed and the knots in your stomach will eventually cease.
Although this makes sense in theory, there is also another side to it. In Canada, where the study was conducted, same-sex marriage is legal in the whole country, that right is protected. Unfortunately, here in the States we've yet to evolve that far in our thinking and acceptance of those who might love differently from us.
As one of the researchers pointed out, "Coming out might only be beneficial for health when there are tolerant social policies that facilitate the disclosure process." What does this mean? That you should probably taste the waters of your environment before you decide which is the healthier route to take. It's hard to believe in 2013 that anyone would still have an issue with homosexuality, but homophobia and ignorance still run rampant in this country — a fact we all witness everyday.
So does coming out lower stress for gays in the United States? I think that answer varies. It would all depend on where you live, your support network and if those in your circle are willing to love you no matter what, even if they necessarily understand or agree.
In the end, what's most important is being you and being true to yourself. You should never come "out" until you're ready to deal with the results, and no one should have make you feel obligated to do so until you feel it in your heart of hearts that it’s time.
You'll know when you’re ready, and those around you, if they truly love you, won’t give a damn and if that’s the case, you can kiss your stress goodbye.
What do you think? How does environment play a role in coming out of the closet?
More great stories on YourTango: