Hi, everyone. My name is –. I’m gay. I’ve been gay for as long as I can remember. I’ve been open about this in some places online, because online, I choose to surround myself with people who are understanding. And there are a few idiots who give me a hard time, but online it’s just words. I can press delete when someone says something ignorant or hurtful. It’s easier to deal with than in real life. In real life, their words burrow inside me and fester, decomposing into a corrosive acid of hatred, a torrent of vitriol that bursts forward whenever someone pricks my wounds…
I’ve decided that I want to start telling people I’m gay in real life. Because I’m ready to go back into the world and move on with my life. And I’m old enough now to realise that if people judge me for my orientation, they’re the ones with the problem, not me. But there’s a big problem.
It scares me.
I remember what drove me into the closet in the first place. I remember the hatred, the names, the disgust, the intolerance. This closet is now my prison, but once upon a time it was my shelter. It kept me hidden and safe from those who wanted to harm me. It kept out the bad words, the fists, the spit. I sat inside, in the cool dark closet, and I was no longer afraid. I could relax. I could be myself. In the darkness and silence I dreamed and spun stories and built sandcastles out of dust like a spider. Like Lucy, I discovered a whole secret world in my wardrobe, populated by imaginary characters. I explored and adventured to my heart’s content. And in the darkness I grew strong. Strong on my own. I learnt how to live without the approval of others.
Eventually the closet which was my home became a jail. It suffocated me, trapped me in its wooden sides, starved me of fresh air and sunlight. I had grown too big for it. I want to go out into the world again. I’m stronger now, resilient enough to survive on my own. I want to feel the grass under my toes and the mosquitoes on my skin. I want to smell eucalyptus and taste the salt of the sea. I want to run under the open sky, hear the wind whistling in my ears, and look back at that small, cramped closet and wonder how I managed to live in there all these years.
But I’m scared.
I’ve hidden my sexuality for so long, even from myself. It will be so strange and awkward to come out to people who’ve known me for years. They will look at me in a new light. Maybe they’ll judge me. Mock me. Reject me. Shun me.
Change is always difficult. But sometimes it seems more difficult than it really is.
I will begin by telling one or two close friends. My goal is to tell random strangers without fear. One day I’ll even tell my family – once I’m financially independent.
But before I can tell other people I have to be comfortable with myself. I have to be open with myself. So.
I’ll say it aloud.
Now while looking in the mirror. Looking at myself. Like I believe it.
I’m gay. I’m gay. I’m gay.
The Earth didn’t shake. Lightning didn’t strike me. I didn’t drop dead. It wasn’t as hard I’d thought. I feel like my skin fits a little more comfortably. Like the person I see in the mirror matches the person I am on the inside just a little more.
I think I can tell someone now. Yes, I can. I can start with people online. That’s easier. I can deal with words. I can take them apart and put them together, like Lego blocks, build things out of my imagination. I like words. They make sense.
I feel like I’ve pushed open the closet door a tiny crack. And the world looks beautiful out there.
If you’ve read this, do you want to drop me a comment telling me that you know I’m gay and it doesn’t make you think less of me (unless you do think less of me, of course. I don’t want you to lie)? It would mean the world to me and help me build my confidence.
Have you ever built some kind of closet for yourself? Do you still live in one, sometimes, always? Don’t worry. If I can find the strength to push open this door, anybody can.
It was my choice to go into this closet in the first place. And when I’m ready, I will kick down the door and step into the light, and the world will marvel at the strange and wonderful creature that emerges.
Hello? Is anyone out there?