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.