An adolescence of shame about being LGBTQ+ can have lingering effects on our behaviour that stretch well into adulthood
Guilt and shame can be addictive. In certain religious and traditional contexts, it can even be venerated, honoured – the requisite emotion that subdues human ego and maintains humility at the feet of a far higher power. But it can also leave an indelible stain on our character, our personality, and our mental health that endures for years, particularly for those brought up in such conservative environments where guilt and shame were measurements of our own self-worth.
“It’s good to cry when you pray. Tears wash away your sins,” an aunt – a devout Maronite Catholic – once remarked to me as a child. I took those words and held them close to my chest, and for many years in my adolescence, Good Friday was the moment of repentance, of a dive deep into my own being in search of guilt. I’d sit, in darkness, burrowing into the corners of my mind, scouring the memories of the previous year in search of acts or incidents that would render me guilty, that would strike the emotional cords, and activate the stress hormone that made tears well up in my eyes.
My Good Friday ritual of self-exorcism was put to rest many years ago, but perhaps it’s time to create a new ritual
In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.