Feb 16, 2012

The Inglorious Comfort of the Closet - Thoughts on Coming Out

It is very difficult to write on this subject without being emotional, and also difficult to say anything new, so I feel like I need to put a few disclaimers up before I actually start this post. First of all, this is just a gathering of my thoughts, and I don't intend it to contain any particular pearl of wisdom. Not discovering America, just putting things in order for my own benefit. Second, I don't want anyone to feel judged (except for those of you that I'm actively judging, but I'll make sure to let you know specifically). It is a sensitive issue for all of us, and if there is any anger on my part, it's mostly directed at myself for waiting so long to come out, and the condition of being in the closet itself. And with that said...

What is the closet?
I frequent the "Coming Out, Relationships & Bisex Talk" section of Just Us Boys. I like giving advice, it makes me feel all helpful and stuff. But after a while, I began to see patterns in the topics that people post. Certain things invariably repeat themselves, as if it's a script someone else has written, and all those members keep following. All of them - symptoms of the closet. I will never forget that one topic - from a guy whose boyfriend was completely in the closet, complaining about how it put so much strain on the relationship - and more particularly, the answer it got from a member named TX-Beau, who I have a great deal of respect for:

Alright. While we all sympathize with someone who is in the closet, NO ONE has a right to it. It's simply this unfortunate place some of us who can't get past our fear find ourselves in. If we don't out people, it's because we know how hard it is to live that horrible life, and how hard it is to find your courage - not because closeted guys have a right to demand we respect their closet. There is nothing respectable about the closet, it's the big lie.

While legitimate reasons to stay in the closet DO exist - physical and financial security for example - most of what we tell ourselves in order to stay in the closet is bullshit. It is a trap our society creates, but it's a trap that our mind springs. It is that comfort zone which we are miserable in, but which protects us from the world - we are in control of our secret, and as long as we keep it, we are safe from the world's judgment.

When the truth is, there is nothing to judge
One of my favorite things to talk about in regards to the coming out process is internalized homophobia - that horrible mixture of fear and brainwashing that our environment has beshat upon us, which whispers to us, from the back of our own brains, that it is NOT ok to be gay, that it is shameful, emasculating, pathetic, wrong. Two out of three gay guys that I have met so far exhibit one form or another of this condition, and it is a very difficult thing to overcome, at least until you recognize it and stop caring what the heteronormative stereotypes are. Advertizing that you are "straight acting" is not a virtue, it is a glaring red flag that you are not comfortable with who you are. Anyone who thinks femme guys are to be laughed at obviously hasn't had sex with one. In the end, we all like d**k, and we have a chance to give the finger to heteronormative stereotypes of what is ok for a man to act like and do, and what isn't.

The lies we tell ourselves
In the time I've spent reading and writing in gay forums, a few symptomatic cliches stuck out from the mass of closeted paranoia:

My sexuality doesn't define me...
False. Your sexuality defines you through and through. Sure, it's not the only thing that defines you, and no doubt other things define you just as much. However, I claim that very few things, if anything really, defines you more than your sexuality. In my case, I spent the first 25 years of my life in self-deluding denial. It was a secret I didn't dare admit even to myself. Could anyone with any powers of reasoning even for a second think this hasn't defined the way my personality has developed? After I came out, it took me a few months to shed the last threads of secrecy, and then I burst that closet door wide open. Who I am today is an unbelievably different person from who I was barely two years ago, and that is again a direct result from the fact that I am gay.

...And it's nobody's business, so I am not going to flaunt it
It is everybody's business. There is no right and wrong here, it's just the way it is. I will quote TX again:

OK. First a note on sexuality. People are going to inquire, wonder, ask, look for explanations. They just are, because sexuality is an extremely public thing, and sharing that part of our lives with our friends and families is not only pervasive, it's expected. Your mother wants to know when she's getting grand-kids, your friends want to know who you're banging, it's everywhere you look, up front and out loud.

And it really is. A straight guy is never uneasy with talking about his sexuality. It is everybody's business and he is confident about it. And make no mistake - he is constantly, 24 hours a day, flaunting it. A man, coming out of a car and kissing his wife goodbye as he is taking their daughter to daycare, is flaunting his sexuality right in your face. And yet you think that your kissing your boyfriend goodbye on the street is somehow different, a thing to be kept private because it is "nobody's business"? Like I said - false.

I am waiting to find a boyfriend, and then I will come out
No, you will not. First of all, even though everyone comes out in their own time, when they are ready, it is not something that becomes easier with age. Quite the opposite actually, and it takes more and more extreme circumstances to force us out of the closet as we get older. Second, it is unbelievably harder to find a boyfriend while closeted, but I plan on writing a separate post about that. But most importantly, third - coming out is ALWAYS and ONLY about yourself. Even though we see those scenes in movies where a boy comes out to his parents, holding the hand of his boyfriend, in reality coming out is a little bit like dying. You are absolutely alone, regardless of whose support you have. There is always only one real reason to come out, and that is the realization that you can not live the lie anymore. It is about you, and you alone. Believing that someone else in your life will magically make it easier or make you more ready to face the world is being dishonest to yourself.

Not death, but rebirth
A life ends, and a new one begins. I am the living proof that it gets better, and I live every day of my life rejoicing in the choice to come out. I walk taller - my smile no longer fake - with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. The biggest secret about coming out is how little most people actually care, and the biggest challenge you have to overcome are your own fears and shame. Once you are ready to truly believe that if anyone thinks less of you, that's exclusively their problem and they can go fornicate themselves, you are ready to begin your real life. And really, there is so much more room to breathe out here...

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