What’s In Your Closet?

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Did Jan’s dad just come out of the closet? I froze. A couple of my guy friends laughed as my dad emerged from one of the bedrooms. I grew up in a small house, so in order to give me and my friends run of the living room and kitchen during the Super bowl, my dad had opted to watch TV from one of the bedrooms. The house was so small that my friends had mistaken the room for a closet and made the joke. They meant no harm, they had no idea, but my blood ran cold. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to closets. I never really thought of my dad being in the closet, figuratively. I thought of it a little more like: he is gay and married but no one can ever know. I never realized that I too had my own (figurative)closet.

The closet is where we hide everything we don’t want anyone to know. The place where we hide the things we’re ashamed of. Growing up with the notion that what I knew about my dad was not to be told made me want to be open and honest as an adult. I am not a fan of secrets and I live my life without needing them. Still, in certain situations, I find myself wanting to go back to my closet and shove a few skeletons inside. When it comes to people that I think will judge me, sometimes it seems easier to not be honest about who I am and who my family is. Instinctively, I want to go back to my closet and hide the truth in there … But it has become a conscious decision for me to be honest.

Each time I am tempted to hold back the truth, and I make the decision to be honest, I find understanding. And it is always a welcome surprise. Just recently I was having a conversation with a friend that I knew from childhood, but had not spoken to in many years. Because of my outspoken opinion on being a Christian that is accepting and supportive of the LGBTQ community they came to me to ask me about my feelings about transgendered children in school. I have a transgendered stepchild so I didn’t want to go into it. However, I decided to engage and talk with my friend about it.

I shared howdifficult it was for our family, and how us accepting them has been freeing for my stepchild . I talked about the anxiety and depression involved. You know what my childhood friend said? They shared that they have been through it too. Their child is not transgendered, but they suffer from OCD and anxiety so they could understand. We got to talk and compare notes about what it is like to be imperfect. As we all are. In this moment I started to realize a deeper value in being honest. If we all put on the faces that we are completely normal, average and have absolutely no imperfections in our lives or our families, were all missing out. As soon as we reveal that we too are flawed, we see that we are all alike in imperfection. So if I can give some advice: forget about your closet and avoid the temptation to keep anything in there.

This month we are writing about ‘the closet’ and what it means to us as children of gay fathers.

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  1. January,

    My heart ached for you as I began your piece, the joking about your Dad in the closet, then warmed at you spoke about your transgender connection. Because of your upbringing you have been able to help others in need. A win in the end!

    Just Beautiful ~

  2. Larry Best says:

    As a dad and a man, I am far from perfect in too many ways to list and I know the shame of the closet along with the damage it does to the self and to families. That said, I hasten to add that my gayness is neither flaw nor imperfection. Instead it is perfectly and simply who I am. That aspect of my being is immutable and flawless perfection. It is also a gift that has challenged me and made me a better person than I otherwise would be. The same is true of transgendered folks. Unlike OCD or anxiety, we require no treatment per se; all we need to thrive is love and acceptance of our perfection.

    • January S. says:

      Although not implicitly explained, this was in the 90s in a small town, and my parents were still married. This was not now, when the world is much more accepting. I was in no way suggesting that anyone who is gay or transgendered needs any treatment to become better or healthy. My step daughter suffered great anxiety and OCD before she came out from not only the fear of how everyone (including her family) would react, to not being sure of who she was. Once she came out, that crippling anxiety became much more manageable. And as far as we’ve come, and as accepting as the world is, being gay or transgendered is still quite often seen as a “flaw”, especially in the situation of my parents marriage which was a straight woman married to a closeted gay man living as though he were straight. I was definitely not suggesting that you or any other person is flawed, but that quite often it is seen that way by others. I am still new at talking about both my dad and my stepdaughter and I am still apprehensive about how we all will be received. None of this has been easy, not what went on with my parents or with my stepdaughter. Even for he most open, accepting people, it can still be difficult for families.

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