By Dyke road
I used to think that the closet was just a mythical bad place that people struggled to break out of until I encountered some situations painted it as a safe haven where some folks plan to live and die in.
There are people will do whatever it takes to remain firmly in the closet.
Anything at all.
What is clear is that those who are in the closet really have something to fear. The question is, are the sacrifices they make worthwhile? Are they right?
I would like to address the issue of coming out or choosing not to in situations where there is no actual threat of physical harm; just the fear of disapproval by people we love and admire.
To be fair, there are many situations that relate to coming out and each of them commands different levels of anxiety and thought. For example coming out to a work colleague and coming out to a parent have different consequences, weights and meaning attached to each scenario.
Since no one shoe fits all, one man’s food can be another man’s poison. No one has the authority to condemn another individual’s situation. We are all free agents and whether we approve or disapprove of people’s actions or life choices, we cannot impose our own views on them. We are only left with room to discuss and debate.
I’m of the opinion that even in situations where it is a matter of life and death, coming out or staying in the closet are choices. When people says things like, “I really do not have a choice but to stay in the closet”, they are telling a big fat lie.
Everyone has a choice.
Some people just have very difficult choices. No matter the views and morals that family, friends and societies have placed on us, we can choose to accept, dismiss or refute them. Even when we do not out-rightly state our opposing views, we can challenge those norms through acts of dissonance.
So, does it make sense for people to choose to remain in the closet because of fear?
My belief is that humans are extremely vulnerable beings. Yet, we are afraid of being vulnerable; and so we do things to hide our vulnerabilities. We lie about being who we are so that other people will not get wind of certain knowledge we consider sensitive and use it against us.
I don’t blame anyone for acting this way because we avoid conflicts when we simply do what others expect from us. When our vulnerabilities are not exposed, our egos remain in check and our lives out of conflict. All seems to be at rest. But, this conflict-free state of rest that comes from not being true to ourselves is a farce.
I have been stood up and embarrassed at parties, introduced as a just ‘a friend’ or a ‘work colleague’ by lovers, and been the victim of near violent rage episodes that were probably the result of a nervous breakdown from the pressures of not coming out. I was once thrown out of an apartment I shared with a girlfriend because of fears that her ‘gayness’ would be revealed to her parents who were visiting us for a few days.
These are just a few scenarios where people would rather lie or hurt the person they are with than admit to who they are. They do this because they are afraid that they will look less perfect, less beautiful, less normal, or immoral. At that very moment, they choose to stay in the closet as opposed to taking the potential sting that might come from coming out.
My father taught me that we lie because we are afraid of something.
Of course, when it comes to choosing when to tell the truth and when to lie, some situations can be very dicey. Social norms require white lies or half truths ; or full-blown, as animated as possible lies. Lying does not necessarily mean only spoken word.
It can also be actions or inaction.
In this regard, we can choose to lie or be truthful through the ways we express ourselves. Gender expressions are constructions therefore if I were to express myself in a way that defected from set norms in my society, perhaps through my dressing or mannerisms, those actions of self-expression can be construed as lies. I might be trying to deceive others into believing that I am just like them. I am part of the “we” and not the “them”. But, lying does not always come with bad intentions.
Three friends I spoke with while writing this article explained to me that we also lie to protect people we love. I asked them if they thought it made sense to lie about being gay and they responded that a person might do it to protect their family name or to protect their families from the disgust or disappointment that comes from hearing such news.
I had a similar experience when I tried to come out to my mum.
She was openly friendly with gay people and she never made any derogatory remarks about them. She understood that was just how they were and she loved them regardless. Whereas, when it came to me, her child, I was not gay.
I might have had lesbian friends who I spent time with but I was not like them. I was just as she and society expected me to be- straight as an arrow and accommodating of all kinds of people.
In the struggle with coming out to my mum and to others, I always told myself that I had no business trying to placate or manage other people’s feelings about my sexuality even though I had the power to hurt their feelings. The additional question, I had to answer to myself was if I was completely absolved of the responsibility of hurting people’s feelings by disappointing on their expectations of me?
At what point does someone’s comfort trump mine? At what point does someone’s ego trump mine? At what point does someone’s morals and value system trump mine? At what point does someone’s freedom trump mine? Is it right to take a hit like that to protect a family member, or to please society? Is it equally right that they expect this of me?
Whenever I got caught in a situation where it would be easier to lie about my sexuality, I would always weigh them next to a bible teaching, “…And the truth shall set you free” (Taken out of the Christian context please do not bash me, thanks!).
I would consider the depth of the hole I was about to dig myself into with that lie and really ask myself if I was ready to bear that burden forever or up until a point that I deemed it unbearable. Would I then be ready to face the dual embarrassment of having to explain that I was in fact not straight and that I have lied about it?
Those situations called for a trade-off and once I chose, there were consequences attached.
Make sure you check out Pt II.
First published on her site DykeRoad
For more coming out stories have a read of the Things I Wish I Had Told You Before I Came Out, Sexual Health for WSW in Nigeria and Coming Out to My Doctor and Don’t Call Me Pretty A Stem Coming Out Party as well as as A little longer: A plea for full existence.
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