Come Out, Be Happy

June 26, 2008

Published in the January 1, 2007 Edition of QSaltLake

My mental image of someone living in the closet is a person sitting on a chair in a small, dark, rectangular room with clothes hanging all around. In my minds eye it appears to take little effort. In reality, living in the closet is truly an emotionally exhausting experience.

Living your life in the closet means existing in a state of hypervigilance. The reality is that you don’t just get to sit in the dark, you’ve got to keep your secret, and that takes energy. Every day that we’re dishonest with others it costs us something. But every day that we’re dishonest with ourselves it costs us much more.

When I was living in the closet, intent on appearing to be everything I was taught I should be, I discovered that it was easier to keep my secret if I held everyone at arms length; and so I did. And by keeping everyone at a distance I crippled the relationships in my life, I limited their depth and sometimes whether or not they could exist at all. I didn’t realize this until I stopped hiding, until I was honest with the people that surrounded me. I looked around myself to find empty space. Empty space where people should have been, space where honest and close relationships should have existed.

When I came out to my Sister she told me that for my whole life up until that point she’d felt like there was a part of me that she couldn’t reach. I asked her if she’d ever suspected that I was gay and she replied, “I always knew you were different, I just thought you were better, and you are…” I learned two things from this experience and several others like it. 1) No matter what people know or suspect, they see what they want and expect to see, and 2) none of us are as good as we’d like to think we are at pretending to be something we’re not.

I think everyone should come out. And if you’ve already come out of the closet I think you should take a few more steps away from the darkness that you used to live in. Nothing will chase the shadows from your life as quickly as the illumination of honesty; honesty with family, honesty at work, honesty at school, but most importantly honesty with yourself. I’m someone that believes that there is always a higher plane of existence within your own mind and soul, there’s always a way to better yourself from within.

My belief that everyone should come out does not necessarily mean that I’m advocating the gay lifestyle, what ever the gay lifestyle may be in your opinion. Regardless of my personal views the only thing I’m advocating right now is honesty. I don’t believe a person can truly be happy and at peace unless they are living in congruity with the truth within them, no matter what that truth is. But coming out and being honest does not ensure happiness.

If you tell a child that they’re stupid and ugly over and over again chances are that they’ll believe you. Likewise, if you tell someone that they will not be happy unless they live in a certain way, according to specific principles, there is a chance that they won’t be happy living any other way. Not because it’s not possible, but because the human mind is a powerful thing and it will control us in whatever way we teach it to.

I came out because I’d crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s and the peace and happiness I’d been told would come to me never showed up. I no longer believe a person should remain in a situation where they have to fear being condemned for living, or at the very least accepting, the way they were created. I’m of the opinion that any creator that makes something a certain way only to condemn it is deserving of no deference.

I don’t mean to oversimplify things. Coming out is a process that is different for everyone, it takes a different amount of time for different people, usually years to totally come out, you may be coming out for the rest of your life, but that process starts at personal integrity. The realization that you are the way you are due to no fault of your own and that you were not flawed from the time of your birth. Self-acceptance is typically the first step, but for some the simple desire to accept oneself may be the beginning of their journey.

In the years since I’ve come out I’ve discovered parts of myself that I didn’t know were there, parts that had been neglected and underdeveloped because all my energy had been going to becoming the person I thought I should be rather than the person that I am and would like to be. It sounds stupid to say but before I came out I never realized that I could be funny, or that I could act goofy, and I definitely didn’t know that I was a good kisser. I suppose I was a little anal retentive, actually. They should have given me a scouting merit badge for my anal retentiveness.

Life has not gotten easier for me since coming out, in many ways it has become more challenging -think gay dating- but it has also become more worthwhile. My joy feels more real and unrestrained and my hardships seem to be of greater personal benefit. There are so many wonderful and accepting people in this world, but you won’t really get to know any of them until you give them the opportunity to see you as you are. Whether they accept you or reject you is up to them, but being honest in your existence is wholly up to you.

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