We’ll be exploring coming out and sexuality for the next quarter. This month we’ll be taking a look at the closet. To get us started it made sense to look at what the closet is.
What is the closet?
When we talk about coming out of the closet we’re usually referring to revealing our non-heterosexual orientation. The expression has been in used in this context since the sixties. When we think of a closet it is small and dark, and very private. It’s a good place to hide in.
Since then the term has become much more generalized. It can refer to someone hiding just about anything. We hear things like closet conservative, to closet kink lover. The one thing all the variations of the closet have in common is that it’s a place where we feel safe and hidden.
The dynamic of hiding.
Hiding is a prevalent issue for almost all queer men. Since childhood, long before we understood what it even meant, we felt our difference. Most of us began to pick up subtle clues that our difference was wrong. For fear of rejection from our primary caregivers we learned to hide.
The thing is, that our sexuality and/or gender identity isn’t the only thing we hid. We hid anything that made us feel different or abnormal. Any interest that wasn’t appropriate to our gender or culture was also hidden. We put these things away in the dark closet-like recesses of our unconscious minds.
The destructive force of shame.
The closet is the place we hide anything that we don’t want to show the world. It’s important to understand that whenever we hide anything that is an essential part of our makeup, sexuality, gender identity, among so many others, we are enforcing feelings of shame around whatever it is that we’re hiding. That shame can be debilitating, even toxic.
Coming out of the closet.
The process of liberating ourselves from shame and living true selves is called coming out of the closet. It can be one of the most powerful experiences you’ll ever have. Coming out isn’t a one-time thing. It will happen many times in different contexts in your life. Eventually, you want to reveal all of the things you’ve been hiding.
Part of our path to empowerment as queer men is to recognize what the closet is, what we’re hiding in it, and how we want to come out. Coming out is very personal and should always be done on your terms, for your reasons. But you’ll find, over time, that the more out you are the happy and more powerful you’ll be. You also get better at the process. It really does get easier.
Don’t judge those who aren’t ready.
It is crucially important for us to remember that the closet serves a purpose. It keeps us safe. Deciding to leave the closet behind is one of the bravest things a human being can do. It isn’t our job to judge those who simply aren’t ready. If we offer love and support we can encourage people to figure out what they need to do, and where they need to be more open and honest in their lives. The point of coming out is to make life more authentic, and better. As hard and painful as being in the coset can be, we must allow everyone the freedom to remain there until they’re ready to discover how powerful and delightful an out life can be.