Being "In the Closet" is when someone who is gay has yet to open up and tell significant people in their life about their sexual orientation. Typically, being and staying in the closet causes others to be uncertain of what the gay individual's sexual preference might be, though many will typically assume the person is heterosexual.
One of the thoughtless and cruel methods of bullying used among teens, as well as some immature adults, is to call someone gay simply if they exhibit what are stereotypically considered to be gay characteristics such as a guy being effeminate, or a girl who is strong and boyish. In such cases, the person being targeted may not actually be gay at all, though sometimes they are but may still be "closeted" around their family, or even to themselves, which makes such bullying particularly cruel and inhumane.
People stay in the closet when they don't feel that it's safe to be openly gay in their particular community or social environment. Unfortunately, one of the realities of the world is that if you are different from the main stream in any way, you are a potential target for the thoughtlessness and cruelty of others. However, such criticism can be diminished when you embrace that which makes you different, love yourself, and realize that you are unique... the only "you" on the entire planet!... as then it is easy to understand just how special beyond measure you truly are.
Even if you are in the closet, your being here right now, on this earth, is truly a miracle!
Despite the many ways that human beings are different from each other, or how illogical it is to expect every human being on the planet to be heterosexual, we unfortunately live in a predominately heterosexist society. As such, gay kids typically learn to be ashamed of who they are even though there is nothing wrong with them. This is one of the injustices or faults of Western culture.
The result is that later in life it takes time to accept being gay and make the first bold step of telling someone. The earlier in life that a gay person can come out, the better it will be for their present and future self. It's not healthy to stay in the closet and it also prevents you from getting on with life, having life experiences, finding a boyfriend, establishing a career, building friendships, and so on.
However, it goes without saying that all gay people do not have the exact same experience with coming out, accepting who they are, and then finding a partner. There's no formula or pattern that must be followed. Everyone is on their own journey and deserves the freedom of coming to terms with being gay in whatever amount of time they need. Variables such as a person's surroundings, the tolerance or intolerance of friends and family, and a person's physical location on the globe, all have an effect on how each of us muddles through it all. This is why some gay folks are able to be so openly gay and have a partner, while others living in the same city choose to be patient and give themselves more time before coming out.
Of course, one needs to be careful not to fall into the habit of using "being in the closet" as an excuse for not facing the uncomfortable task of coming out, as avoiding coming out can be unhealthy and detrimental to one's well being. Admittedly, I did just that for many years which I regret, so I am speaking from experience. You are only young once so coming out during your teens is ideal. But forcing someone to come out, or outing them against their wishes is wrong and cruel, no matter how good your intentions might be, as being outed only makes a person feel more powerless in a world that they already find overwhelming. I would also add that outing someone under the guise of "helping them" is a selfish thing to do as such an act is not about them but about you. Though you may think you are helping, what you are really doing is making their very personal situation about you, "the helper", rather than about them. If you really have a closeted person's best interests in mind, treat them as an adult and allow them the respect and dignity of being in control of their own life choices.
It must be up to the individual to make the choice one way or the other to come out, when they are ready.
Supporting someone who is gay by letting them be in control of when and where they will come out is the best thing that a friend can do. Simply being a shoulder to lean on and someone to talk to, to confide in, and to listen, is often more helpful than you might realize.
Rest assured, the injustice of shaming gay kids and the need for gay folks to come out later in life is slowly being eradicated by those who are companionate, forward thinkers regardless of their sexual preference. Gay kids today can take comfort in knowing that the laws protecting homosexuals exist as a result of homosexuals and heterosexuals working together to create an inclusive society.
Next page: Coming out again, and again, and again
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Last Updated Aug 2017
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