In the last three days I've had the pleasure of watching the fabulous movie, The Big Sick, the incredible musical Fun Home, and reading Trumpet, A Novel. All three are great art. The first two are based on the writers' lives. All are about "coming out", or not, to one's self and one's family and culture. All show how how when people hide who they are, they are separated from the people around them and have internal parts that are dissociated from each other.
In Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani (who plays himself) is a Pakistani-American in love with a white, non-Muslim woman, who cannot show his parents who he is and who he loves. In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel does come out to herself and her parents. Her father, a closeted gay man, commits suicide rather than being fully known in his small town. Jackie Kay's Trumpet, is a novel about the fallout surrounding a married transgender man's outing upon death and it's effects on a variety of characters, in and outside the family.
We all have ego states. We may have a different persona in a work situation, at home, hanging with our best friend, or dealing with an emergency. Unless we are highly dissociated, we can move smoothly between "parts" and roles, bringing up the most germane set of skills for each situation. When we are not "acceptable" as we are, we may hide that part, even from ourself. We may repress it, or simply develop a separate persona in a separate arena–the secretive gay bars and "tea rooms" of the past, the hidden online communities for any "kink" you can imagine, of the present.
When we accept who we are and what we are, and can be that person, we can be whole, but the process is not easy. Telling the family that we are not practicing the religion, the gender role, the choice of partner, the expected occupation can bring us disapproval (at the least), ostracism, and in some cultures, death. Even if it's "mere" disapproval, it's difficult. We are wired to please those people, to belong, and to be protected by the family. We define ourselves by how we are seen and treated. Going against that by choosing differentiation (being who and what you are even if people don't agree or approve) is scary and can bring up big shame. Not doing that, kills the possibility of true intimacy: being known. And it may separate us from ourselves.
In Big Sick, we get to see Kumail, after being accepted by another family, be able to "come out" as secular and in love with a blonde. In Fun Home, Alison goes to college, falls in love, and is able to accept herself and tell her family. Later in life, she creates a (wonderful) graphic novel about her coming out, and the tragic end of her father, who never could. In the musical, Alison as a child, a college student, and an adult sing together, bringing all parts together for a perfect integration, that brought down the house.
After 25 years of marriage and 36 years of doing therapy, I can speak to the importance of self-acceptance and true intimacy to my life and my relationship. As a bisexual person, a Jew in a Christian country, and not-very-gender conforming person, I can speak to the importance of being out and known, even when I'm not accepted. I am known by the people who want to know me. I am self-accepting (knowing that I can always improve). My husband and I strive for openness, even when the other one doesn't adore or agree with an opinion or aspect of us.
As a therapist, it's my job to help people accept all of themselves, heal what can be healed, and bring all parts to eventual integration or integrity.