I decided to write why people stay in the closet–what prevents them from accepting themselves and moving on. While some people might say, “Duh, that is so obvious,” you might be surprised to find that a lot of the reasons are internal and not affected by external experiences. In fact, I will leave out some of the more obvious reasons to not make this article impossibly long. This is not an exclusive list in any way, and it is a representation of what I went through and what other people told me they had been through. I also write ways in which to overcome the obstacle and finally accept who you are.
I place this obstacle first since it was what I struggled with the most. When you are gay and in the closet, you are lying everyday to everyone, including yourself. Every time a male, gay individual states he thinks that girl walking down the street is hot or has a nice ass, it’s all a ploy to make the unsuspecting (or suspecting) viewer re-categorize him into the straight realm. These lies start to really build up, especially when you are dealing with your best friends. You spend hours with them a day, laughing, sharing intimate moments about yourself, but you constantly have a wall up that you refuse to let down, even for those who love you and care about you the most.
How could I sit, stare my friends in their eyes, and tell them that I had lied to them almost everyday we had ever been together? This kept me in the closet longer than what I would have liked. I couldn’t admit to it. I knew my friends were accepting, but I couldn’t admit that I had lied to them for so long. This is something that a lot of straight individuals probably don’t think of very often, but it’s real and an issue.
How did I overcome this issue? I realized that everyday that I don’t tell them, I am just lying more. Everyday will be harder than the last. Everyday you lie is just another told and another knot to unravel. I needed to be true to them. I needed to start being myself and allowing them to see the real me. The second you stop lying…let me tell you. It feels liberating. Glorious. And natural.
2. Previous relationships.
This issue I avoided like the plague in high school. The last girl I “dated” was the summer after eighth grade and the furthest we got was a kiss. Like, a single kiss. I even dumped her because I knew inside it was not right. I already knew I was gay. I expressed interest in girls in high school but I would never allow myself to get too close for I knew it was wrong. I basically went asexual until college. With that said, it is not uncommon at all for gay individuals to have multiple opposite sex partners before coming out. This is for several reasons. Often, the individual is confused and wrestling with their sexuality. Other times, it is a cover-up. I know many a gay guy (as in 0% current interest in women) who had sex with multiple girls in their past.
Now I want you to realize how you would feel if you feigned interest (or had true interest, but it was confused or befuddled) and then you realize and accept you are gay. You want to come out, but you can’t. Why? Because it follows similar principals of the previous point: lies. But now the entire relationship could come across as a lie. Surely, you cared about the girl you were with. You probably seriously liked her and you got a long great, but sexually it just might not have been there. There are so many variations of what could happen it is actually hard for me to write about this subject. You just don’t want to hurt anyone.
Here is what I say to this: If you are you past relationship still get along, obviously something was special between the two of you. If she/he still cares about you, he/she will understand. Unless you plan on staying in the closet your entire life, you will have to come out sometime. You need to jump the hurdle. If the relationship ended on a bad note and you two don’t talk or hate each other…then who cares!? Just live your life and let the world know.
I want you to enter a world where you are told everyday how wrong it is to be gay, and where gay is synonymous with bad. Now I want you to pretend the suddenly, you are gay. What is the first thing you do? Deny it. Call it a stage. Something that will eventually pass. You will start to hate yourself for having those feelings. You will do everything in your power to make them go away.
Now surround yourself with people who all make fun of you for the person that you are. Add in the factor of the media representation. You can flip through the television and certainly find some religious or conservative channel telling you it is an abomination or that you are choosing the very thing that is currently eating you alive. You are choosing to have these horrible feelings. I remember believing (for a short time after the realization that I was gay) that the gay-conversion camps might actually work. I remember thinking that I wanted to go. They don’t work. They never will. You are just lying to yourself. Take this extremely well written and detailed report of a man who entered the camp “undercover.”: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/undercover-at-a-christian-gay-to-straight-conversion-camp/
Anyway, this is something that will get better with time. As you realize things aren’t changing and your feelings will always be there, eventually you just either have to accept or be eternally conflicted. I remember having this, “Why me!?” mentality, but that went away. Like I said in an earlier post, I wouldn’t change being gay for it is who I am. Something else that would help is realizing that you are not an abomination. You are a wonderful, unique individual with everything to give to the world. That you will be loved, and you will love. One of the things that helped me the most is that by accepting myself, I could help others accept themselves. It is a weird concept, but I always think to myself, “Hey, I am who I am. And I can help other people by accepting who I am by showing them it is okay, lean with it rock with it, alright?” And trust me. The second I accepted myself, I was never happier. The pain and the embarrassment went away.
4. Lack of production of grand-children.
This was not something I had to deal with much, but I know a lot of people who did struggle “accepting this.” This problem is even more exemplified if you are an only-child or the only male child in a legacy where your last name needs to be carried. A lot of times, it is easier to accept that you will not have children (even if you really want them) than the fact that your parents will never have grand-children. Sometimes it is just so much easier to let ourselves get hurt than hurt someone else. A lot of parents of gay individuals even express their fear over this.
First of all, sometimes it is okay to be a little selfish. You can not live your life miserable just because your parents want grand-children. Maybe you would have never gotten married? Maybe you were born infertile? Maybe the person who you would have married as a “straight” individual can not have children? You didn’t choose to be gay, and therefore it is not you fault. With all of that said, who knows where science will be in a couple years! Being a biologist, I feel that it is not impossible, or even impossibly hard, to transfer a male’s genome into an egg which could then be transplanted (yes it would be expensive, but possible, right? Since the male carries both the X and Y chromosome?). Also, consider adoption! What a wonderful thing. You can bring a child into your life that needs you more than anything in the world. Or, if you are male, you could mix your sperm together and use a surrogate with a partner so that the baby’s father is unknown. As a woman, you could get a sperm donor. So stop worrying about this. If you want to give your parents grand-kids, it can definitely happen!
5. The loss of the picket-fence.
This is a concept that I have named, and I struggled with it a lot. Next to the lying factor, this probably held me back the most from coming out to those I love (and myself). When you are a child you hear all about the perfect, nuclear family, with the adorable dog and the big back yard. You imagine yourself getting married or bringing the people you are dating to Christmas or birthdays or family dinners. You want to be normal. Then suddenly, you think you aren’t normal, and you lost all of that. You can’t have kids. Marriage is no longer an option in most states. Your family might not agree with you bringing home someone of the same sex, for it might burn the younger family member’s eyes (when in reality, they probably could care less and it’s the adults who are uncomfortable). You will never live in that cute little house that you always imagined in your head.
Stop having those thoughts! They are not true! Yes, I vehemently believed them. Probably most gay individuals did when they were first coming out–but then comes and important realization: you can have all of those things. I already discussed that if you want to have children, you can get them. You might have to move or work really hard at it, but you can do it. Marriage? Many states are now making legal, and the President endorses gay marriage. Even if your state doesn’t, that does not prevent you from having some type of promise ceremony or reception/celebration. Bringing your loved one back to your family? Not everyone is going to accept you for who you are, but statistics show that more and more people do every year. Are you willing to give up being with the love of your life because you wouldn’t be able to bring he or she home? I didn’t think so. And maybe, if you haven’t come out yet, you still could. And you could still have amazing dinners and celebrations with your friends and family that love you the most and accept you for who you are. I would rather be having dinner with them anyway! The only thing that will change by coming out is that instead of lying to someone and pretending to be sexually attracted to them your entire life, you can open up the possibility of finding your soul mate, and the person laying next to you in the morning would be the love of your life. I admit my views have changed a little. I more now imagine myself in a modern high-rise on top of some awesome apartment complex, but hey, that’s what I want now. And you WILL be happier
Religion is such a hard one to face. Growing up in a nonreligious environment, I never really had to experience this. I remember going through a short-lived religious phase in early high school is hopes that it would help me be straight. I remember never coming back once the silver-ring thing was forced upon me because frankly, I knew I was never going to get married, and I didn’t know if I wanted to go my entire life without sex…ever. (and, wait…I was gay).
Since I have little experience on this subject, and everyone knows the issues of religion, I will try and refer you to several links to help you overcome this, and then I will give my opinion on the matter.
And my absolute favorite, which I really think will help people: http://www.soulforce.org/resources/what-the-bible-says-and-doesnt-say-about-homosexuality/
Seriously. Read those. Especially the last two. You will feel better. As I attempt to avoid my personal beliefs, since I, like I said, am non-religious, all I can say is you have to be yourself. The Bible and the other religious texts tell us a lot of things we should and shouldn’t be doing, and as a society, we follow nearly none of them. Being gay is natural. It is found is species across the world. It is found in every single society, whether they admit it or not. You didn’t choose to be this way. And if you believe that God is the creator, it is certain that he MADE you the way that you are. Maybe your purpose is to enlighten the public about gay issues and save the population from persecution. Who knows? Again, this is something that is hard for me to discuss or convince you that it is okay. But all I can do is tell you that it is okay. That I can feel it in every fiber of my being that it is okay. Just because the church says no, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t say yes. Also, in the words of Maroon 5, “You Will Be Loved.” I promise. I actually am giving you a whole-hearted, cross my heart and hope to die promise, that you be able to reconcile, and God does not hate you for being gay. I KNOW it.
7. Family, and the void of acceptance.
I don’t need to go into why it is hard to come out to your family, especially if it is non-accepting. It is obvious. You don’t want to lose them. You don’t want them to be disappointed in you or hate you. You need their support. You would miss them if they left your life. You hear everyday that family is the most important thing in your life. But I want you to now quickly define what family is. Seriously. What did you come up with? If you said your mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, etc…you are missing a crucial part. What about your future husband/wife/partner? What about YOUR kids. What about the people that will be by your side until the day you die? I mentioned this in an earlier post, but your parents will not be around forever. Some of you may have already experienced this horrible realization. The person you marry or choose to spend your life with might be. Furthermore, will your parents be living in your house or apartment the rest of your life? Certainly not! Your wife/husband/partner might be though. Accepting that other people, including your friends and the your love interests are just as, if not more important to you–that’s a good first step being able to accept yourself and come out.
Now you are yelling through your screen that you still don’t want to lose your parents or siblings. I can almost hear it as I write this. I want to remind you that more often than not they will accept you. They love you more than anything. Maybe it will take some time. But for the most part, they will. Imagine a your parents telling you something extremely horrible about themselves. Would you still love them? Probably. It is hard to just cut someone off. And saying your gay, it isn’t even horrible. Try to educate your parents as much as possible. Show them videos, like the one from my “inspiration” post. Send them the articles about religion to them. State how much you will always love them. Sadly, if they don’t, I still have to insist that you will be happier being the person you truly are instead of a fake facade. Trust me. It doesn’t seem that way. But you will find the love of your life, and isn’t that a primary purpose of our existence? I think it is at least. IT GETS BETTER.
Here are a few more videos that might make you feel a little better:
Hilary rockin’ it for us gays:
And one of my favorite, emotional videos:
Also, if you need help, please email me, email@example.com. Also, check out the following sites: http://www.itgetsbetter.org and if you have ANY type of suicidal thoughts, check this out: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
I love you all.