Looking Back at the Closet
Photo: Nicholas Monu/istock
They say that in some situations hindsight is 20-20 and coming out of the closet is one of them. You won’t know what will happen until you do it, but here are some realizations that might help you on your way.
1. The news might not shock your loved ones. You fear the rejection that may come after their surprise that you duped them with your clever masquerade for all those years. But, once you tiptoe out of the closet, maybe no one will even bat an eye at the news. The most common response might be, “It’s about time. You were, like, the last to know.” Many times, it is your own sense of denial that is pushed up against the closet door.
2. It’s OK to say you’re gay, bisexual or transgender. Call your sexual identity what it is. Many gay people do not appreciate it when you say, “I’m not gay or bisexual, I just fell in love with another woman.” Hello! Why not just wear a shirt that says “I’m not a lesbian, but my girlfriend is.” What’s in a name? Only courage and the empowerment you feel when you give your love the respect it deserves. There’s no shame in saying that you’re bisexual, ambisexual or even plain old ordinary homosexual.
3. It’s lonelier inside the closet than out. Your ticket to gay parades in bright sunlight, bars where you can grind with a same-sex partner and websites where you can use your full name is waiting to be punched. The fear of rejection and ridicule is doing nothing more than keeping you isolated. You’ll find more dates by getting out there than you ever will slow dancing with the Odor Eaters in the walk-in.
4. You’ll free your mind for other things. Do you realize how much energy it takes to swap pronouns in advance of using them? Changing all those “she”s to “he”s as you tell the story of your hot date last weekend is exhausting. And that’s the hot date where you had to pretend you were just two old pals, in case someone you knew showed up at the bowling alley. The brain power required to hide a significant part of yourself from others can be used for better, more noble purposes, like curing cancer or writing the script for a lesbian drama that actually resembles real life.
5. Coming out is a continuous process. Most of us don’t get to give a press conference or go on national news to declare “I’m out!” to the world. If this were the case, it’d be over and done with, everybody would know and you’d never need to discuss your sexuality again. The truth is, we come out to our families. Then, we come out to our friends. Then we come out at work. Then we make new friends and have to come out to them. Coming out is not a single event; it is a series of conversations. It gets easier over time. You’ll learn when to have the sense to come out and when it’s nobody’s business who you shack up with.
6. You don’t need to push the issue with your family. If you have the kind of family that doesn’t really want to discuss your sexuality, but they also didn’t go the route of kicking you into the street, you do not need to have that awkward conversation with them more than once. There is no need to turn every family gathering into a group therapy session. If they don’t ask you about it, but treat you the same and treat your partner respectfully, then why rock the boat? However, you may have to come out to your grandmother over and over again, because she has lost touch with reality and forgets what you already told her.
7. If people can’t embrace the real you, then you don’t want them in your life. Send those folks off to the White Sale to buy a new sheet to wear at their next cross burning and don’t waste your energy missing them.
8. On the other hand, sometimes it’s OK to forgive your loved ones. If your family or friends can’t accept you as a gay person, try to keep a door open and an olive branch extended. Be the bigger person, especially if the person, say your grandparent, is ill. In the end, it will make you feel better that you didn’t shut them out.
9. Once you’re out, you can never really go back in. That’s like trying to fit into your old prom dress. You can do it, but it’s not pretty.
10. Half the people you went to school with are gay. The fact that all those high school and college classmates are out and proud makes all those years you felt so different into a gay ironic comedy. If only you had known, the crowning of the homecoming queen would have taken on a whole new meaning.