Monday, March 3, 2014
My Very Own Closet
The phrase "coming out of the closet" is generally reserved for those who previously identified as "straight," or they didn't identify as anything (because society just assumed them to be straight), and then, turning a corner, they chose to publicly identify as "gay."
But what about everyone else who doesn't go from one side of this sexuality binary to the other? What about all those for who the binary of gay/straight is meaningless, or at least hollow? What about those who "come out" in different directions, who start from unusual starting points and end at equally unusual endings?
I have long believed that most people are neither "straight" nor "gay." Riffing on Kinsey here, I think that most of us fall somewhere in between hetero and homo. Indeed, although I am generally attracted to female-bodied persons, that has not been true 100% of the time in my life. I am generally attracted to people with feminine qualities, but not wholly so. The same goes for gender: most people are neither wholly male nor wholly female in my reckoning; most people are neither wholly masculine nor purely feminine. I myself have always had a feminine streak: in middle and high school I wanted to wear women's clothing, but I kept myself from doing it; in high school I sometimes wore glitter to school, which was, dare I say, fabulous. But more to the point: I'd rather talk about my feelings and relationships all day than watch or play sports or video games. But these are just crude gender stereotypes, and at worst I am just reinforcing that useless old binary that holds that some things are "masculine" while others are "feminine" and never the twain shall meet. But they do meet. They meet in me. In my heart. In my head. In my body and in my desires.
I think that everyone is "in the closet," really. But we each have our very own closet, a closet of our own making—something we built up around ourselves, under societal, familial, ideological, and moral pressures, to make life "easier" for ourselves. A grand delusion, in fact. Because performing "straight" and performing "gay" are easy enough in that the stereotypical behaviors and ways-of-being are so commonly known and almost universally accepted and shared throughout our society that it is easier to just be one of those things than to be something different. I know, because I've been performing "straight" for the great majority of my life. I have also long performed "male." These were and are my closets. These are the boxes that I have made for myself—boxes that limit my experience of the world and of this one special life that I get to live.
Although I have been perceived as "gay" by friends and acquaintances at least since high school, and I was even the victim of a minor hate crime in college based on my perceived sexual identity as "gay," the truth is that my closet wasn't made by those who assumed things about me, who bullied me, and who wanted me to feel bad about myself because of my gender expression and my perceived sexual orientation. No, I made my very own closet by pressuring myself to do the very opposite of these assumed things: to be more male, to be more straight. I've always been down on myself for not being masculine enough, for not being straight enough. I always worried that I would never be successful in a heterosexual relationship because I just couldn't get myself to perform the male/straight role in a satisfactory way. I put these pressures on myself. I have long believed that either I must succeed at being a "straight man" or else I will not be happy.
It is strange to find myself grasping in the dark for the doorknob of this closet. I have no idea—and I'm frankly a bit scared—of what I will discover on the other side. But I know that I want to smash this closet into pieces. I want to smash the gender binary. I want to smash the sexuality binary. I want to love every part of myself, all 100%, and not feel bad or embarrassed about any part of me that fails to conform to any one prescribed way of being or another.
In his History of Sexuality, did not Michel Foucault argue that the concept of being straight and being gay was a relatively modern phenomenon? That in the past people engaged in heterosexual or homosexual acts, but the idea of being one way or the other was not commonly understood? I wonder if we might not want to go back to that older way of thinking about sex. I understand that there are many, many labels out there, and that many of these labels are empowering and liberating to those who adopt them. But, personally, I don't want a label. I don't want to be any kind of sexuality except my own. I don't want to be any gender except my own. What am I? If you ask me that, I will say: I am Gregory. I am a beautiful person. I am full of love. What else is there to know?