2009 was a turning point in my life. At the end of 2008 almost no one knew that I was gay, or “struggled with same sex attractions.” However, by the end of 2009 I was out to my parents, my priest, my roommate, and also discovered another same-sex attracted friend. My home was safe, my dorm room was safe, my spiritual community was safe, and I was no longer quite so alone in my struggle. The stage was set for the walls of my closet to fall away, and by the end of 2010 I was writing publicly about my experience as a celibate gay man. After 10 years, the closet now seems remote and distant, the ghost of a past life lived through the lens of near constant fear. My secret is no longer my secret, my shame is no longer my shame, and my loneliness not quite so lonely.
The closet allowed me to believe fundamental lies about myself and my relationship with others. The closet told me that I was un-loveable and that my shame and self-hate was justified. In the silence of my closet I believed the lies that I told myself, and the echo chamber of my fear was deafening. When someone told me, “I love you” I knew they couldn’t really mean it. They couldn’t mean it because they didn’t know that I was gay. I believed that nobody could love me because I was gay, so therefore their love was contingent upon my secret being secret. Most of these lies had no basis in reality, but in the closet you can easily mistake shadows for monsters. Everything becomes distorted in the dim light and you believe that outside the closet is scarier than the darkness you’ve surrounded yourself with.
Reading over old journals I’m still shocked by my outlook on friendships. I often found myself writing letters to unknown friends that would never be shared. Letters that were filled with fear, shame, and an overwhelming sense that to continue loving me, even after knowing the horror of my desires would be a great feat of grace. I truly believed that my sexual orientation, my constant attraction and emotional interest in my own sex, was cause for rejection. It made me a leper, someone only the bravest could continue to associate with. My fears were almost entirely unproven and as I began the difficult process of self-disclosure, I came to see just how baseless my beliefs were.
In every case, without exception, disclosing my sexual orientation was the beginning of vulnerability and greater levels of intimacy and friendship. “I love you,” was no longer contingent on a but, and slowly became a fact that could sink into my being. Slowly I was able to believe that I was lovable by friends and family even as a gay man. This began opening the possibility for me to actually believe and know that God loves me. The same fear, shame and rejection I projected on the most important relationships around me, I also projected onto God. The problem was that I could never escape from God. There was no coming out to Him, only the constant terror that my darkest shame was already known to Him. It was only by soaking in the enduring love of those around me, that the same doubts and fears I projected onto my relationship with God could also begin to fade.
The closet is a cold, dark, vicious lie told by the devil to keep us away from God and from the love of those around us. Sadly, a few do not have my story and still face a significant possibility of rejection after coming out. Their fear of being abandoned because of their orientation is justified and can often boom reality after coming out. Circumstances may truly require some to remain in the closet. However, everyone deserves to be fully loved by at least someone. Even if only a few people know your secret, it only takes a few dissenting voices to begin countering the lies about your worth. Through their love, the love of God may also slowly sink into your being and became manifest.
Scripture tells us that no height or depth can separate us from the love of God, and certainly no closet should.