Today is apparently National Coming out Day somewhere in the world, America I suspect.
Naturally I don’t have much to come out to here. I’m gay, and it’s vaguely possible someone stumbling across my journal while extremely drunk and who doesn’t speak a word of English, or indeed any language that uses the Roman alphabet, wouldn’t realise I’m gay. The gayness runneth freely round here.
Instead I’m thinking about the closet itself, my time in it and just how horrible it was/is. The closet is toxic. The closet takes over your entire life, it has to. Your work, your family, your friends, your home - everything you do, everything you are, every second of every minute of every hour of every day you are in the shadow of the closet and it controls you. It is a lie, but it is a lie that makes the whole life you lead a lie. Fake and falsehood, it touches every part of you. You can’t live in the closet, you just exist. And some people have just existed in that vile place for a very very long time. It is the very definition of soul destroying.
I celebrate whenever I hear of anyone coming out. Anyone. Whether they’re a complete stranger, whether I hate them, absolutely anyone. I pity anyone who is closeted - ANYONE. Even the vilest of closeted homophobes who do their very best to make all of our lives hell (and there’s been a fair spate of revelations about them recently) I can’t help but pity them - because they have suffered so much for so long. Their hate is irrational? Gods, I’m amazed ANYTHING about them is rational after all those years mired in the closet.
I celebrate that someone is free, but I also celebrate because every single person coming out of the closet is a victory and a step forward. The tide of homophobia won’t be turned by words or politics or laws or demonstrations or parades - it will turn by millions of people looking around and seeing that the gays aren’t some alien other - they are their children and their siblings, their parents and their friends and their colleagues. I really do think this is where the battle will be won. I would NEVER push someone to come out (people have to be in a place in their own lives when they are ready for it) but I celebrate when they do.
But I also think of all the times I cling to the shreds of my own closet. The times I avoid a question, or assiduously use gender-neutral pronouns and labels, all the times I hide or avoid. Sometimes it’s out of genuine fear, but mainly it’s simple laziness. Not wanting to face the surprise, the possible agro, the shocked or the embarrassed. Just not wanting the issue to come up. I wonder if any gay person is truly out all the time, if any of us have managed to cast of the last clinging remains of the closet. I know I haven’t - and I’m ashamed that I haven’t. Oh, some of it is sensible, even if I look back righteously and think I should have shouted down the potentially violent homophobe, I realise that would have been stupid. But the rest? Hiding because of social awkwardness? Because it’s easier to let people assume I’m straight? Because I’m too tired to own my gayness? That’s shameful. I’m not ashamed of my sexuality - I’m gay, I’m out, I’m proud and I am repulsed that I let my words and actions imply for a second that I am not comfortable with who I am.
So, whether this day is special or not, I think that is what I am going to push back. I refuse to let the closet cast even the slightest shadow on my life, not any more. I’m not going to run around with linked mars symbols bringing up mansex in every casual conversation (but wouldn’t small talk be much more interesting if I did?) but no more hiding and no more compromising my identity because it’s EASIER to adhere to heterosexual assumption.