When you hear the phrase “coming out of the closet” you probably do not immediately think of the significance of the word “closet.” We all know what a closet is. It is the space we hang up clothes, the space as kids we threw everything into when mom said “You’re not going anywhere until you clean your room.” A place of storage, a place to neatly conceal and protect contents. As a New Yorker working in the fashion industry, I could write for days about closets and their contents. I had never really thought about what a powerful word it is in terms of coming out until I started to write this piece.
This is my first blog post so I’ll start with a backstory of why I am writing for the Gay Dad Project, but I can assume that you already get the gist if you are familiar with the site. My dad quietly came out to our family about a week before I returned to college for the fall semester of my junior year. My high school sweetheart parents were ending their 27-year marriage, so needless to say the news was unexpected. My dad said that he had always been attracted to men but did not ever plan to act on it. He seemed so ashamed to tell us. He said that he did not want us to find out but he could not keep it a secret anymore, that he had been fighting it for decades and would continue to do so because he was convinced it was the right thing to do. This put knots in my stomach. I told him that it made me sadder that he was ashamed of himself than I was over my parents ending their seemingly happy marriage. I said, “You’re not wrong, and you fighting this for so long proves that the only thing unnatural about this is you denying how you really feel. I hope you know that I love you and you dating a man would not ever change that.”
It was in that moment that I too entered a closet in a way. A closet to hide my dad’s revelation until he was ready to talk about it, a closeted child of a gay parent if you will. I was not embarrassed or ashamed, and it hurt me so deeply to know he was. Even though being “in the closet” is not something I will ever totally relate to the way that my dad does, having a small taste of it made me realize something important – hiding the contents of who we are does not change the contents themselves. So why live in shame instead of embracing things that make us unique? And why do we shame others for being different from ourselves when we are all different? Our diversity is our strength, not our weakness.
Being a New York City gal has taught me a few things, one of them being that normal closet space is a luxury some cannot afford. Many of us do not have adequate closet space to stash away our clothing so we opt for displaying our wardrobes on things like rolling racks or open shelving. We cannot hide the contents of our closets because spacious closets do not always exist, so we display the contents out in the open for everyone to see. The end product can be quite beautiful!
In a perfect world, there would be no need to come out of the closet because there would be no need to hide. My dad deserved to no longer feel the need to hide in the closet, but proudly display what was inside. And he did, and let me tell you I have never seen someone as happy as he is today. The contents of our closets may not be perfect, some of the pieces may not make sense to others, but it is a piece of who we are that we should never want to change just because someone may not like it. Would you change your entire opinion on someone based on a piece of clothing they own? I hope that you are saying “No, that sounds ridiculous.” That is exactly how I approached my dad when he came out and how I hope that others like me would approach a parent coming out later in life. He has been a wonderful father, friend, and support system – none of that changed when my dad told me he was gay. If we alllove blindly and deeply, no matter our differences – we might learn a thing or two. And who doesn’t enjoy a little closet inspo? #WhatsInYourCloset
Read more of The Gay Dad Project guest posts here.
Read what others have shared on our March topic:The Closet.