This month marks 2 years since I came out as queer. It also marks 2 years since I realized I was queer.
I’ve been pondering on all that recently, on what it was like living in the closet for decades without even realizing I was in a closet.
I think the closet metaphor is pretty apt for describing living not only as a straight person but completely convinced that you *are* a straight person. You’re stuck in this confined space, thinking that this is your reality.
Although, I wonder if maybe a locked room might be a bit more accurate, one that has all the comforts and gadgets one would need to live a life of heteronormativity. Those comforts and gadgets would reinforce this facade you’ve been taught through your family, your church, your schools, your peers, and your society.
But then one day, a window appears in one of the walls, and suddenly you realize that there’s more than what’s in your confined room. You realize that now some of those odd sounds you sometimes heard or those unusual scents you sometimes smelled weren’t just your imagination; they were part of this world outside your room. The fact that you found those sounds and smells pleasing meant that not everything you like is in that room anymore.
Realizing you’re queer is like seeing through that window, and things becoming clearer. Coming out as queer is like getting a key and unlocking that locked room.
For me, realizing I’m queer didn’t mean I left that room. It meant that I could freely add to that room. I wasn’t stuck with whatever things other people supplied that room with, even if I did like a lot of it. Now I could decide to keep as much as I wanted in that room while also adding more to it.
But even after locking the door, it can still be challenging. Extending the metaphor, some people only see me as being an occupant of that room. Because I’m married to just one woman, have children, and look and act like just an average guy, they assume I’m an average guy, what they might even say is a “normal” guy. And even though I’ve been able to unlock the door to that room, that newfound freedom doesn’t mean a whole lot if I have to keep convincing people that I actually have a key for the lock, that I’m not still in the room they assume I’m in.
Unless I tell people I’m queer, my queerness is invisible. People see me and they assume I’m straight and am monogamous by nature. They assume that if I were in a different relationship other than my current one, it would also be with a woman.
And on the other side of it, there are people who think that I should be abandoning the room altogether. Once I unlocked the door, I should’ve walked out and never come back, that I could only be fully queer—or authentically queer—if I left that room and dwell in the outside world exclusively.
So then there’s this constant tension of not being queer enough. From both sides. Those who think you shouldn’t be queer at all—and you probably are going through a phase— and those who think you should be queerer—and that you’re just being an imposter.
And that means that just because you’re out of the closet, it doesn’t mean you’ve stopped internalizing the outside messages.