When I think of closets, I think of them as dark hiding places. I think of isolation. I think of lacking air. I am not gay, so I don’t know what the closet is like for my father who is. I can only tell you what it’s like to see his coming out, a process that to this day is incomplete. It is a process full of shame, darkness and fear of rejection by those you care for most. It is finding an identity and a life. It is harrowing, difficult and not always a shining victory the minute your foot exits the door.
When my father came out, he never told me to hide it from anyone. But I got the sense there were certain people I could tell and certain people I couldn’t. Not just for his sake, but for mine. When the mentioning of parents comes up in conversation or if I am around those who I am not sure where they stand on gay rights, I hold my breath.
I too live in a closet that is not so obvious. More like one with blurried glass. I can see outward and people can see in, but not clearly. I can be deluded into thinking I am part of the outside world, when I am not and never have been. It has taken me almost thirty years since my father’s initial coming out to understand that I too, in my own way, have always been an “other”.
While not gay myself, my life has been affected by homophobia in my community, in the media, in my family and friends. Yes, even to this day I find homophobia and ignorance lurking in even the most liberal of friends. A feeling that somehow I am a complication, a gross presence simply for not being like everyone else. An enigma, or even better, a research project. I had a friend repeatedly tell me about all the studies they did on queer families and how they were surprised I was not gay as well. This from an intelligent liberal person who prides themself on having many gay friends.
I am only now realizing why I have had this sensation of not being able to fully breathe. I am only now seeing my own closet and finding the language to define it.
Elizabeth Collins was raised in the South by gay men. She now lives in Los Angeles and performs stand-up comedy. You can contact read all of her Gay Dad Project posts here. You can also contact on her websiteor follow her on Twitter& her blog.
Read all of our posts about the closet.