That Closet Door
Once upon a time, I lived in a winter wonderland. The fantasy was so real, I didn’t know I was deeply under its spell. When I looked upon my reflection, the creature looking back was my “reality.” A few claimed to see me as something “other,” and for years I scoffingly laughed them off. “Can’t they see my iridescent wings?! The evidence is right in front of them!”
Yet, deep down, I always felt I was an impostor. Of what? To whom? I couldn’t have told you, but the fear was visceral. The longer and harder I fought those feelings, the more I felt like a fraud. And so, my “reality” grew dark.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anaïs Nin
I needed to know why, I felt this way. In the periphery, I’d catch echoes of myself that I couldn’t explain and surfacing memories that had been deeply suppressed. I slowly pieced the puzzle together, and bit by bit, the creature in my reflection began to lose focus. My “wings” faded into thin air.
It was terrifying, exhilarating, and ultimately freeing. When the mist cleared, before me was something… someone amazingly beautiful, and she was… me. I had no need of magically imbued, opalescent, fairy wings. Standing tall, at last, I knew who I was. A woman, fantastic in her own right, worthy of love simply for who she is. Not because of who she’s “supposed to” love, who she’s “supposed to” be, or who deemed her worthy of “salvation,” but because every imperfection and every stunning quality together make me, fabulously me.
From that moment, I moved through the trees towards the “closet” door. It was a winding journey, that sometimes turned back before moving forward, again. As I neared my destination, the forest thickened, and I struggled to lift each foot. It grew darker than it had ever been. I nearly checked out; a few times. But I got up. It wasn’t much further. I pushed the final branches aside, then the thick coats, and I reached for the dreadful door knob…
In my alternate reality, I presumed to have an inkling of what it was like to “come out” of the closet. I knew it wasn’t easy. I hoped I’d be the type of friend that would fully embrace and support everyone, but you never know how you’ll respond to anything, despite your best intentions. So, although I felt my heart was there… was it, really?
I didn’t fully comprehend what it’s like to be the one risking everything. Again. And again. And again.
“By default, society assumes you are attracted to, looking to, date the opposite sex. Typically, we don’t even think about how much these assumptions influence everything.”
In today’s world, coming out of the closet is not, and never will be, a “one and done” thing. I read that shortly before stepping through the door, but I still didn’t fully grasp it. It’s more like a revolving door, and that sucks.
I took the first terrifying steps of telling a few, very close to me. For some, I had an idea of what to expect. Others, I wasn’t quite so sure, and some relationships still exist just inside the closet door.
I find the greatest complexities come in developing new friendships. As a heterosexual, you don’t go around announcing your orientation. By default, society assumes you are attracted to, looking to, date the opposite sex. Typically, we don’t even think about how much these assumptions influence everything. In seeking to live outside the closet, I’m not inclined to introduce myself via a list of narrowly defined classifications or by wearing labels.
I’ve had this internal battle. On one side: What I do in my bedroom is my business. On the other: The very real, very large parts of the public me. If someone wants to chat about relationships, plans for the future, an attractive person, and so much more, it becomes a series of choices. Do I skirt these topics? Blatantly lie? Or should I be “straight” up? Do I begin this friendship in or out? If I step into the closet, when do I come out? When I’m sure they would choose our friendship, regardless of their views? Or do I come out now, and risk a friendship that could have been amazing, if we’d had a chance to learn from each other? If my sexuality is even an issue for them?
I won’t stay in a friendship, where they “love” me but “can’t accept” my “lifestyle.” That’s not love. However, I’d like to leave a window open for friendships that can grow beyond stigmas or rigid beliefs, where love can triumph. So, I won’t idly step out of the closet without testing the waters. At least, not yet. Maybe I’m naive, but for now I’d like to call it hopeful optimism.
This revolving closet door is a real bitch. There have been several times, when I’ve stepped through that door, ridiculously scared, and had the conversation. Only to be surprised later, when I’m reliving an impromptu but similar moment with that same person, essentially re-announcing: “Ta da! I’m gay!”
“I tearfully bore my soul, terrified that revealing my truth could result in radically changing our relationship or ending it.”
It’s extremely frustrating. The turmoil, anxiety, and fear leading up to that initial conversation. The stress of the interaction itself plus the resulting follow up or fallout. Then, months later, they’ve forgotten?
It’s also a really painful aspect of the revolving door. I tearfully bore my soul, terrified that revealing my truth could result in radically changing our relationship or ending it. I gave them a huge piece of myself, for good or bad, and they sloughed it off, like it was nothing.
My introduction to and experience with the closet door has shown me that “coming out” is not as clear cut as it seems from the outside. Whether there’s real or perceived reason for fear, there’s a lot of it tied to this damned contraption. Acquaintances who have not voiced an opinion about the LGBTQ community can sometimes turn out to be the most warm and accepting. While some friends tell you it’s “fine” and they “don’t have a problem with it,” yet their actions speak volumes to the contrary.
I have a greater appreciation now for those who have come before and the unfinished journey ahead of me. While I’ve gained this annoyance in the revolving door, I wouldn’t go back into the closet for anything. The black & white, winter wonderland is nothing compared to this vivid world of colour. Here, I breathe deeper, my burdens are lighter, & I dream bigger. Freedom feels amazing.