That may well be the case.
As someone who has come out, I speak from a position of having had an overwhelmingly positive experience of coming out.
For me, it has felt better / more open / more honest to be out with people about my sexuality. But I’ve also never been in a situation where my life / my job / my financial security have been placed in danger or jeopardy by me making a decision to come out. In that regard, I am incredibly fortunate.
Many gay gays don’t enjoy these same privileges. So for any number of reasons, they choose to stay in the closet. Maybe it’s entirely in the closet, or just partly. They might be out with close friends and family, but not at work. Or vice versa.
And the closet can be a very lonely place. Not just because of the isolation you can experience from the wider world, but also because a level of disdain and distrust also exists within the gay community towards people still in the closet.
Consider it a form of closet shaming.
If on the one hand, we celebrate the coming out of an athlete, movie star or musician by plastering them on magazine covers and ascribing them qualities such as “brave” and “courageous” – are we not also saying (indirectly at least) that those who are still in the closet are the opposite of those qualities?
Is that why so much media coverage and speculation focuses on certain celebrities who we assume might be secretly gay? Screw their privacy, and whatever reasons they may or may not have to disclose their sexuality to strangers. If they’re famous and gay, we have a right to know about it.
Except of course, we don’t.
Gay guys in the closet deserve our collective respect and support. As a community, we can demonstrate this solidarity and empathy in a number of ways. Not pushing the issue for a start. Giving people all the time and space they need. Understanding that every person’s circumstances are unique and may mean that coming out really isn’t a viable option at this point in their lives.
This article is for the gay guys who, for whatever reason, have chosen not to come out at this very moment. I’m a make lemonades out of lemons kinda guy, so I’d like to place a positive spin on being in the closet.
To be clear, this article is not an endorsement of not coming out (sorry about the double negative there). If anything, I’m trying to take judgement out of the picture. It’s not about whether it’s a good or a bad thing to be in the closet. This is an article for those who are in the closet – and it’s looking at what benefits may exist for people whose reality involves not disclosing their sexuality to anyone.
So what exactly are some of the benefits of not coming out?
Let’s start with compassion.
Going through any experience yourself tends to give you an insight of comparable experiences other people might be going through in their lives. Staying in the closet is a broad form of marginalisation. It means that you can experience sympathy for any other broad range of other minority/marginalised groups as well, whether they be refugees, women or people who think it’s OK to wear socks with thongs (flip flops).
To not be able to come out is freakin’ hard. While coming out is celebrated as being brave and courageous, staying in the closet requires an amazing amount of internal strength. Why? Mainly because no one else knows that you’re going through. It’s an experience that you navigate almost always completely on your own. There’s no one to lean on. No shoulder to cry on.
It’s just you – and the reality of your life – against the world. To be able to get up every day and go about your life, with this as your base set reality, requires an internal fortitude of steel. If this applies to you, know that you are brave, courageous and so incredibly strong as a person. It’s hard – but know that you will get through it.
Wait, enlightenment? Really? Isn’t that something that takes monks and yoga mums years to achieve? That’s not the kind of enlightenment I’m talking about. What I have in mind is the mindset that so many of us who have lived in the closet come to. It’s that frame of mind that you reach in the moments, days and weeks before you finally do come out.
Bottom line – coming out is hard. Not coming out, can be even harder. Rather than judge each other – and the choices we make – let’s respect and support one another. No matter where we are in each of our lives.