Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Anderson Cooper

It's all over the internet: Anderson Cooper has come out of the closet. The narrative out around Cooper's disclosure is more of the "Anderson finally admits that he's gay" variety, rather than  "Anderson takes a brave step." It is interesting to read some of the reactions to Cooper's announcement.

Some have suggested that coming out is more of a low-key process these days than it used to be. The culture around coming out is more of a "let's just assume that I've always been out" rather than "I've got a big announcement to make." Michelangelo Signorile makes a good case for this. 

Jennifer Vanasco reminds us that the struggle for queer acceptance is not over, and coming out as gay is still a big deal. After all, there are still many people who do not want to give equal status to gay men, and Cooper's coming out is the kind of personal-is-political action that tends to change hearts and minds about gay people. 

I think that one of the reasons that there are so many "it's about time" comments is not just that Cooper's sexual orientation has been an open secret for years. I think it has something to do with the expectation that queer people will come out, that somehow LGBT people owe it to the public to identify themselves as such. I wonder if we are moving in this direction as a society--where being queer is seen as the kind of identity that is expected not to be a big deal. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The things that hold us back

In therapy, we often talk about childhood injuries, and often we mean emotional injustices or slights. But I remember one time that a client told me a story about a physical childhood injury. The client was a vibrant woman. She started about something unrelated, but went on a tangent and shared that she was a gymnast when she was a girl.

Once, while learning something new, she landed badly and injured herself. She told me that as soon as she felt the injury, she knew that she was finished with gymnastics. She did not quit practicing or competing directly, but she never learned a new move again. The injury held her back, kept her in the familiar, and prevented her from growing in the sport. Eventually, she grew bored and quit.

In what ways do we hold ourselves back due to injuries? In what ways to we still carry around the belief that we will hurt ourselves if we strive?

This client had a second lesson to learn—that she could hurt herself and still heal from the injury. She took a risk and injured herself. But she did not leave the sport, which means she healed from that injury. What might have been different for her if she had learned instead that she can take risks, fail, and still recover and go on?

How do we view our failures? Are they crippling, or do we recognize that the very fact that we have failures in our lives means that we have survived them? That every failure is evidence that we are built to strive, to achieve, and to cope with struggle?