Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Emotional/Psychological Pain of Living in the Closet

I am often asked how I managed to stay in the closet for 37 years, especially when questioners learn that I have three children (and now grandchildren).  It is hard to explain and convey to people the lengths that one will go to deceive themselves as to the reality of one's sexual orientation.  Living in the closet is a life of deception, but first and foremost deception of one's self.  The motivation, of course, is to avoid rejection by friends and family and often religious based brainwashing.  The irony is, however, that even as one goes through all sorts of mental gyrations to deny reality, in your heart you know the truth.  Especially when it comes to falling in love with someone of the same gender and never being able to tell them your feelings because you don't want to lose their friendship.   A piece I came across in Queerty reminded me of the heartache and pain the closet entails and how too may young LGBT individuals never get to have normal teen years with love and romance.   Here are highlights:
[W]hat happens when that puppy dog crush doesn’t find its natural closure early on? It must happen all the time. Grade school becomes high school. High school graduates to college, and all those secret feelings stay red hot beneath the surface, always wanting to erupt but knowing better than to ruin the deep and meaningful friendship cultivated over the years. 

At 14, John (we’ll call him John) met a boy who would become his best friend, and so much more. “I spent many sleepless nights wondering why everything had to turn out this way, it crushed me every time I thought about it,” he writes. “Over the course of the rest of high school my feelings of love gradually faded to where I could think of him as a brother, rather than someone I lusted for, although it wasn’t easy.”

Now both 18 and attending separate colleges, John knew he had to reveal two secrets — two coming outs — to his friend. Telling someone “I’m gay” is one thing, but “I’m gay and have secretly been in love with you” is a whole other bag.

“Most of the reason I decided I had to quell these feelings was because he has a girlfriend whom he is committed to and I didn’t want to cause them any disrespect through my actions, words, or thoughts. I cared for him and wanted him to be happy and to do that I wanted to ensure that his relationship with his girlfriend was unadulterated from my feelings towards him.”

But the moment had arrived. John built up his courage and managed to come out to his friend, leaving out the bit about being in love with him. Baby steps.

“I was euphoric. He began to ask me what I looked for in a guy, how long I’ve felt this way, just everything. To finally be able to tell how I felt and discuss it with someone who cares was something I had never experienced before in respect to sexuality. It really sucks having to bottle it up as so many of us have done or are currently doing. As I described to him what my ideal guy would look like, he asked me if I thought he was attractive because my description very closely matched someone with his characteristics. I said yes.”

That’s when the whole truth spilled out — the years of silent agony, the longing and the lust.  He said that he doesn’t hate me for feeling that way, rather he was flattered that I cared about him that much…

He holds nothing against me and doesn’t treat me any differently than he did before, he even said he wouldn’t mind sharing a bed with me again. He reaffirmed my belief that a true friend doesn’t care whether or not you like dick or pussy, nor will they hold your feelings against you. I love this guy with every fiber of my being for giving me the best relationship of my life so far.”
Even while striving to convince myself that I was straight, I had my crushes over the years.  However, I never expressed my feelings.  In some cases, I know my feelings would have been viewed with horror and that the target of my feelings perhaps were not true friends.  In others, I continue to wonder at times "what if I had told him?"  I do know this, the love I felt was real and the heartache and pain was terrible.

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