Mar 2, 2012

Romance in the Closet and the Big Lie

I've wanted to post something on the subject for a long while now, and I finally found the time to do it. I understand this post is not something many closeted people will like to read, but I feel that it's something they need to. I want it to be clear that I am NOT making fun of anyone. There is nothing fun about being the guy in any of these situations, and I know how bad it feels, how horrible it is. However, there is a comical element to it, once you have gotten far enough to look back and laugh at it.

We all want someone in our lives. We are always looking for that special person who will complete us, care for us, love us and make everything better. But can you find him from the isolation of the closet? Unfortunately, I have to say the answer is no. It is my deep conviction, but also everything I've seen in my life so far supports it. Just... no. There are so many problems with this situation, but they can easily be summed up into four big categories. And sadly, all of those lead to a bad place.

"I'm in love with my straight friend"
Probably the most common topic in the "Coming Out & Relationships" section of JUB is a variation on that topic. It could be a college dorm roommate, a childhood friend or a new acquaintance, but the story is basically always the same - a closeted gay guy who is desperately crushing on a close straight friend. They get obsessed, can't eat, can't sleep, the guy is all that matters, he is everything they ever wanted, but oh, if ONLY he were able to return their feelings! A few deranged ones will even go as far as admitting their feelings to their object of desire, thus completely obliterating whatever relationship they had with him in the first place, or at best - adding a thick layer of awkwardness to it. Most however just pine, suffer dramatically, and look online for help to a problem that should not exist in the first place.

Let's get a few things straight (haw haw haw). First of all, no, you are not "in love" with him. Love is a deep emotion, and healthy. Love makes you feel safe and appreciated. And in the end, love is rarely one-sided, because it needs to be nurtured to survive. What you are, is crushing. What you are, is obsessing. But mostly, what you really are, is being dishonest. To yourself. Because, semantics aside, whatever you're feeling, you don't want him to reciprocate. Should he ever do, that would make everything real.

And that's the whole point, isn't it? There is a reason why most out gay guys don't really care about straight ones. Suffering and lusting after the unattainable, focusing on it with such fervor, that everything else ceases to exist... that is nothing but a way to keep everything real far, far away. You can never have him, so you're safe. You don't have to move away from your miserable comfort zone in the closet. You don't have to put yourself out there, make a move, take a risk, have a REAL relationship. It's all pretend, and it's all a fantasy. That is the truth of it. That is why you go for the straight guy.

"I love him, but is he gay?!"
Another wonderful tragedy in the macabre tale of closeted romance (and a regular at JUB) is the story of a closeted boy who falls for that one wonderful, funny, interesting guy, but can't quite figure out whether it's reciprocated or not. "Does he like me?" and "Is he gay?" are two questions you should not go online to ask. The answers can never come from strangers on the internet, they can only come from you. But how can you ever know, when you can't go to them and tell them who you are? When you can't show your interest in any direct way? When all you can do is circle around them, giving greater and greater significance to smaller and smaller things that he does or says, until everything he does or says screams at you that he is gay and madly in love with you, and if you could only be completely sure, so you should ask someone online...

No, I am afraid that's not how it works. You will never know, because you can't approach him. And because you can't approach him, everything that's happening is happening in your head. And because it's happening in your head, it becomes surreal, proportions get completely skewed, and you get as far away from actual reality as one could get. Also, sad to say, chances are he's not gay, not interested and probably has no idea what fantasies are happening in your mind right now. Which is why he is not running away screaming.

"I came out to this gay guy, and now I am so in love with him!"
Few people are completely in the closet. Often there will be one or two close people who know you are gay. Coming out is a continuous process, and you are "really out" not when you come out to one person, but when you don't care who knows. But let's say you are not there yet, and somehow circumstances made you come out to a gay guy. He is kind to you, wants to help you in the process of coming out, so naturally you fall madly "in love" with him. This one I can say from actual experience, as I've been that barely out guy myself. It happens to a lot of us, but the key difference - what makes it wrong instead of right - is that for a lot of guys that is, for a long time, the end stop of their coming out.

I mean, really, why should you come out more, deal with more risk of rejection, more real world, when you have already found the perfect guy. Well, here's why. He is not the perfect guy. He is just the first gay guy you have been able to be open with. It makes you feel freer than you've ever felt in your life. You finally have an open connection to someone who knows exactly how you feel. But it is a starting point, not something to obsess over. That's just closet habits kicking in. And just because he is gay, doesn't automatically mean he has any feelings for you other than wanting to be your friend and help you. Of course, he might very well be the perfect guy. But you know nothing about being out, you know nothing about what you need in a boyfriend, and you know nothing about how a healthy relationship works. So what you will end up doing is scaring the poor guy away with your intensity. The core rule every guy - gay or straight - needs to learn early on is "just because you have a d*ck, doesn't mean I want it."

"My boyfriend is in the closet..."
But you know, some times those obstacles are not the end of the world. Some times you get lucky, you meet someone, you make a connection and you got yourself a boyfriend. And you have a relationship, right? No. Wrong. What you have, is a new secret on top of the old one. And let's be honest here - you've had your old secret for faaaar longer than your new one. A relationship cannot be a secret. It is not a one thing that you can isolate from the rest of your life. It is a part of the entire social experience. You might want to think that you'll have it all now, but can you hold hands in public? Can you kiss him goodbye after a night out? Can he meet your parents? Your friends? No, the closet won't allow it.

And the closet is a very selfish place. Protecting the big lie is everything. No one can know, right? Ever. So your boyfriend becomes second to keeping the secret. Your relationship is all about you and how to defend your big lie. You demean the guy you're with by treating him like a dirty little secret. He has to go out the back door when your parents come home unexpectedly early. Pretend you're nothing but friends when you meet people you know. And really, which one will you choose if your closet gets threatened? Well, experience shows you'll most likely sacrifice your big "love" when it threatens you with exposure - real or imagined.

When all your problems should not even exist in the first place
There is rarely a good reason to stay in the closet once you reach a certain age. I have talked about that before, and I'll likely have reason to do it again. The closet is a lonely, self-abusive and ultimately egotistic place that destroys your chances of romance and turns your dreams to dust. Most out gay guys won't even consider dating someone closeted, and the other closeted guys are just as afraid as you are. You're both each other's secret and shame, a thing not to be talked about and to be hidden away. No healthy relationship survives this strain, and for good reason.

But in the end, the choice is yours. You can lust after the straight friend and destroy your friendship with him. You can circle around your crush, never quite certain what's up and if anything is up, until you drive yourself crazy and become so weird he'll just quietly back away without breaking eye contact just in case you start getting frothy in the mouth and attack him with a knife. You can mistake kindness for interest and jump on the first person you feel you have a chance with. You can look behind your shoulder nervously any time your boyfriend attempts any sort of intimacy, until you make him feel completely worthless, a point of shame. OR you can take steps to get out of the closet, meet other guys who are gay for sure, who can and will reciprocate your feelings, who you won't have to hide. I promise you, it is a great and liberating feeling.

And it's not like you have that much choice really. As someone who struggled a lot with coming out of the closet, I will commit suicide before I let myself be dragged into anybody else's.

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