Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cleaning out the Closet

I think the biggest tragedy of the closet is the vast emotional distance it imposes into our every human interaction.  Until I began coming out at age 24, there wasn't a single relationship that I trusted.  Co-workers, friends, siblings, even my Mom and Dad... I was absolutely convinced that if anyone knew my deep dark secret, they would shun and reject me.  Or worse.

It wasn't just paranoia.  Growing up, I had an effiminate cousin who was repeatedly beat by his older brothers in an unsuccessful attempt "turn him into a man."  I heard my father justify the attempt with faint praise.

In high school, I stood by and watched the disdain and contempt with which most treated the "less than masculine" guys that preferred band and drama over sports.  I joined in the laughter hoping no one would see through my facade.

At the US Air Force Academy, at least once a school year, a suspected cadet was escorted from classrooms and subjected to intense interrogations by the OSI.  He would be given the choice of admitting guilt and turning over the names of other gay cadets or risk having his "shame" exposed to home town newspapers.  For the week to 10 days it took to out-process these disgraced cadets, they were accompanied everywhere by an officer.  They wore stripped-down green fatigue uniforms to make them stand out from the rest of us in our uniform blues.  I vividly remember that sinking, brittle-glass feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I would run into one of them being escorted from dorms to administration building.

So what do you do?  Keep everyone at a certain emotional distance. Don't ever share too much.  Lock away every romantic feeling you have in fear it will expose you to shame and ridicule.

Is it any wonder the suicide rate among GLBT adolescents is three to four times the national average?

Over at there is an article about a South African rugby player who's using his blog to document life in the closet.  As a professional athelete, he's convinced (probably correctly) that his very livihood is at stake.  Here's the article... it's worth a read.

And here is his actual blog.  Closet Rugby Guy

If you are gay or lesbian, you'll probably see a lot of your own struggle in his words.  And if not, then I encourage you to walk a mile in his shoes... perhaps you'll gain a little insight.

The story can have a happy ending.  My own coming out experience was the best thing I ever did.  Both my parents have been amazingly loving and supportive.  My siblings accept my partner like family.  Recently I've been reconnecting with old friends via Facebook and I'm hoping to really get to know them this time.  If there is one thing I hope you take from this, it's...

Be who you are.


  1. Well this is interesting. I posted a comment on Closet Rugby Guy's blog today and then I saw yours after me so I thought I would check out what you had to say. Come to find out you are in Sylmar. I'm in Simi. Who would have thought a post from half the world away would bring us back home. I enjoyed both of your posts.

  2. Thanks Scott. That's a long way to go to find someone in your back yard.. lol. My partner used to keep his horse stabled out near Moorpark. :)

  3. Wow....your description certainly brings back painful memories. Fortunately, I had a similar happy ending myself. My parents, and 5 brothers/sisters fully accepted my coming out and embrace both me and my partner. Dad had some issues at first, but prior his death in 2000 my partner was considered part of the family and he made sure that I knew it.

    What about reconnecting with old friends on Facebook? I didn't have many friends. One reason I'm reluctant to join is I know people from my closeted past will contact me and I don't know if I want to deal with that. Although hearing from them, especially the ones who took pleasure in "torturing" me, could offer some great healing from that awful time in my life. Something to think about...