The Closet

11 Oct

Somehow Ellen Degeneres is tied to my closet.

When Ellen came out in season 4, I was in middle school (and completely oblivious to my own sexuality). My parents were disgusted. They said homosexuals are punished by God with the HIV/AIDS virus. We stopped watching the show. So I knew it was bad to be gay, and I didn’t want any part of that stigma.

My Senior year of high school I felt apart from everyone else. I didn’t know why. It was loneliness despite being around people constantly. I would hang out with my friends, but feel like I wasn’t close to them. I didn’t understand it, chalked it up to wanting to graduate. Senioritis can make people feel tired of the same ‘ol thing, and I had been in this same friend group off and on since pre-school.

When my older friend came over with rum & cokes and came out to me, I about had a stroke. Not because I didn’t already know about her (you could tell by looking) but because we had never openly talked about it before. I didn’t really want to either, as it made me feel awkward and weird. She said, “You know I’m a lesbian” or something like that, and I literally spilled my drink. As I was avoiding eye contact and busying myself with cleaning the liquid off my parent’s kitchen counter, she said something along the lines of, “Fine don’t say anything, just ignore me.”

As shocked and stressed as I was, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or make her think my reaction had anything to do with her, I reluctantly opened up. I can’t remember what I asked. But I choked out some question about her. Something like, how did you know [I can’t remember, I was so stressed out}. The implication of her coming out to me was that we both knew I was a lesbian too. Except, it was a lightbulb of realization for me. It hadn’t been some secret I was harboring–I literally had no clue until that moment.

I felt sick. And not because of the rum & cokes. I felt sick that I was gay. I didn’t want to be. I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt different now that I knew. At work the next day, I kept feeling adrenaline course through me, and I was afraid now that I knew I was a lesbian that others could somehow tell. I was embarrassed. And sick.

My boss (my friend’s girlfriend) pulled me into the bathroom at work. She said, “I heard you and [my girlfriend] had a little talk.” Sort of accusatory, not at all empathetic. I was just mortified, and not really wanting to talk about it, and I still felt sick. She asked me not to tell anyone that they were gay. Here I am, hour 17 of coming out to myself, and my boss was primarily worried about me outing her. Selfish. I promised I wouldn’t. I mean, I didn’t want to bring up anything gay to anyone, lest be known as gay myself.

Then, the rest of the summer, it was like nothing happened. My friend didn’t really bring it up, and of course my boss didn’t either. I had this new knowledge about myself, but nowhere to turn with it. I sure AF wasn’t going to indicate what was going on to my parents. I NEVER wanted to tell my parents. I didn’t think they would take it well. I had sort of drifted apart from my school friends. And besides, I was embarrassed to even think about it, let alone voice it to anyone else. The internet wasn’t what it is today, either. It was dial up and the AOL homepage sort of stuff, I didn’t know where to search about it or how to find anyone to talk to. I just held it inside. All that summer before college, I just felt awkward and lonely and kept the secret to myself.

I felt: Sad, scared, alone, afraid someone would find out, regretful, depressed. I wished I was trans so that I could legitimately be a boy and my singular attraction to girls would be seen as normal. I wished I was bi so I could at least soften the blow to my parents. Or just forget about this liking girls stuff and truly date boys–and actually feel something for them. I couldn’t make myself be either of those things. I had tried very hard to make boys work, but I just wasn’t physically/romantically attracted to them, and thus didn’t feel very much for even the nice ones.

Even at college I didn’t have anywhere to turn. Nobody I could really talk to. I looked online for the Ellen show DVDs. They didn’t exist. I couldn’t find anything about her online except a small Australian(?) website called, “After-Ellen.” But not much was going on there. It was as if Ellen Degeneres came out and was forced to disappear. Nobody liked her in 2002-03. I took that as a lesson that nobody should find out about me. My life would be ruined–everybody would hate me. I listened to the Indigo Girls so much that my roommate’s boyfriend could sing along. It was the only gay-outlet I knew of.

I would cry a lot. Nobody understood me. How would I ever, ever even date women, let alone find one to be serious with? Statistically, my chances were bleak. And I couldn’t just move to a city where gay people were more prominent.

This information is 10 years after I came out:

Now, I would never have a normal wedding. I had dreamed about what my wedding would look like [heteronormative indoctrination, I know now] and was really disappointed. Even if I had a wedding (doubtful) it would be weird bc all the traditions fall apart if it’s two women. I didn’t know if I wanted children or not, but now it would be a lot more difficult if I did want them. I also worried I wouldn’t ever lose my virginity [because penial-vaginal intercourse is the only real way to have sex according to heteronormative norms].

I never even knew I was gay until I was 19 years old, dated my first GF from the closet, and didn’t come out to my parents until I was 23 years old.

I’ll write again later, but I was inspired to tell a little of my story because both young Gaylors and older boomer ActuallyLesbians lack some major empathy about being in the closet. And I think it’s because city people generally have a more liberal atmosphere. And people are coming out younger and younger and spending less time in the closet.

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