I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the reasons I was afraid to come out. It’s funny because at the time they all felt so valid, like the biggest deals in the world. Now, suddenly, all of them seem so silly.
I think the most valid reason I was scared was because I didn’t understand what I was feeling, and I knew that coming out would make things complicated and confusing. Well it did for a little while, but they were far less complicated and confusing than being in the closet and trying to be a person that I wasn’t. Still, that fear of mine still makes sense to me. The rest just don’t. Here is a list of things that I was thinking while I was in the closet that I wish I hadn’t let bother me at all:
1. I Didn’t Want To Be A Copycat
When one of my best friends came out to me when we were nineteen years old, it should have helped me realize that I was not alone. It should have made me understand how accepted I would be as I watched nothing change about her life. It should have made me want to come out even quicker as I watched her get a girlfriend and fall openly in love.
Instead it made me scared. It made me scared because I didn’t want to “steal her thunder” or have it seem like I was just a follower. It seems absurd now, but I didn’t want people to think that I was “copying” her. When my next good friend came out and I slowly began to find myself surrounded by people of all different types of sexualities, it only made me feel like I had to push mine down more, like there could only be so many gay people in my group of friends before it started to seem fishy.
Well It turns out that a lot of people are a lot of sexualities. We are all just starting to be more open about it.
I laugh when I think about this now because it is so ridiculous. First of all, in no universe would anyone I know ever believe that I would base claims of my sexuality on anybody else’s. But second of all, even if they did, even if in a parallel universe my friends accused me of just jumping on to someone else’s path, why on earth should I care what they think? Sacrificing my own happiness because other people might have thought I was copying them? It seriously boggles my mind now.
2. I Was Afraid The Girls I’ve Had Crushes On In The Past Would Figure Out That I Had Liked Them
You know what? They probably did. And you know what else? I don’t care. I thought it would bother me, especially when it came to the girls that I remain friends with to this day. I was so uncomfortable thinking about the pieces they might put together once I decided to come out. I pictured them having some sort of “ah ha” moment when they heard the news and realizing those few months where I was acting X, Y, or Z probably happened because I had a crush on them. I pictured it making them feel squeamish and awkward.
Well, not only has my coming out not caused me to lose one single friend, but I also could not be less concerned with whether anyone I’ve ever liked before figures it out. I surprised myself to find out how little I cared, but I was too distracted with the now, with moving forward and finding people who could finally like me back, to worry about who I liked in the past.
If one of those girls walked up to me today and straight out asked if I had ever felt attracted to her, I would happily tell the truth. I would say, “yes, I once liked you as a crush, and now I love you as a friend.” If it bothered any of them, which I doubt it would knowing my wonderful, amazing friends, then that would be something they would have to work through, not me. Sure, crushes can get in the way of friendships, but not old crushes that have long fizzled out.
Beyond that, I finally realized that if I remained closeted, the only thing that would happen is more and more of these hidden-yet-probably-super-obvious crushes on straight friends of mine would stack up. As I wrote in a previous post, being out helps me control my feelings because I can identify them. Had I remained closeted, I would have just continued to amass a collection of straight friends who I would push and push to get closer to until I ended up getting hurt. It simply wasn’t worth it.
3. I Was Scared It Would Affect My Ability To Have Close Female Friendships Without Things Being Weird Or Uncomfortable
Nope. Not at all. Especially not with the people who matter. People who are going to get uncomfortable about it don’t deserve to be my friend anyway. Yes, that is easier said than done because it sucks when somebody you love cannot accept you—or when they can accept you in theory but you can tell they aren’t actually comfortable with the whole situation. But, as I wrote above, the thought of other people’s inability to understand was no longer worth sacrificing my own happiness. Besides, the good friends, even those who are uncomfortable, are the ones who ask questions and show an effort to learn so that they can understand and become more okay with it.
I’ve also found that young people these days do understand for the most part. They understand that they can share a bed with me and not feel like I am going to pounce on them or feel like since they are the gender I am attracted to, I must be attracted to them.
But I think even more importantly, they understand that there is a possibility that I could develop feelings for them, just as there is always a possibility that a heterosexual female could develop feelings for a guy friend. The thing is it just doesn’t bother them.
Gay people are rightly bothered when every person of their same gender assumes they are attracted to them, but it also used to bother me when I did find myself attracted to a friend because I felt like I was fulfilling some stereotype that gay people have been fighting against forever. When this happens, I don’t feel ashamed anymore. Feelings are feelings. You can’t always control who you fall for. You can, however, control how you deal with the feelings based on if the person you feel them for has the ability to reciprocate.
Straight guys and girls still platonically hang out even though at some point in their lives feelings could arise. If feelings do, the situation is dealt with at the time, the bridges are crossed when they’re arrived at. Those things are just a part of life, not gay life.
4. I Genuinely Wasn’t Sure If I Was Gay
First of all, I’m not sure that was ever true. I was in some pretty intense denial, sure, but I knew. I always knew. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want my stomach to do somersaults when a pretty girl brushed passed me, and I didn’t want to lose interest in a hot guy the moment he was no longer in my way, blocking my view of the pretty girl. Nevertheless, it is what I felt, and I knew it for far longer than I should have before coming out.
This, to me, is the most valid reason on my list. It seems the least silly in retrospect because I understand how I was able to convince myself I wasn’t sure. Being told over and over again that you are going to like boys and date boys and want to take boys to prom and marry a boy makes it incredibly confusing when you find yourself lusting after girls. As I’ve written before, for a while I just assumed that the way it worked was I would feel something for a boy when I met the right one. For all I knew all girls felt the way I did about other girls, and it didn’t mean anything romantic at all. I had nothing to compare it to. I had only ever been inside my own mind and body.
The only thing that seems silly to me now about this one is the fact that if I wasn’t sure, I should have let myself be open. Being unsure is okay. I personally was in denial, but there are people out there, lots of people, who genuinely don’t know if they are gay or straight or bisexual or anything in between. Sometimes the only way to figure these things out, I’ve realized, is to just follow your feelings, to do what you want to do in the moment and know that it’s okay to try things and decide you don’t like them or to hook up with someone of the same gender and not label yourself as gay if you don’t want to—just try your best not to break any hearts in the process. That is what I wish I understood. I wish I had just let myself try things when I wanted to instead of keeping it all bottled up for so long.
I’m not writing all of this to discount how any closeted person who reads this might currently be feeling. As I said, at the time, when you are trapped in the closet, none of these things feel silly at all. I seriously agonized about this stuff. I seriously believed it mattered. Then I came out, and all those worries so quickly evaporated. They were replaced by other worries, by other concerns like how to date and how to fix a broken heart, but at least those concerns were valid. At least those concerns were the concerns that were leading me in the right direction, not preventing me from being who I am.