‘The Closet’ can be a terrifying, lonely and suffocating place. It’s a metaphorical cage that represents suppression, oppression and even depression. Looking back on my own experience those three things were certainly true but amongst the darkness there were a few positives that I can now say I truly miss.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not always doom and gloom inside the closet. As you start to push open the metaphorical door and peer into the light beyond the crack exciting things start to happen. You realise that there is an enticing world out there with endless possibilities. Although you might not be ready to spring out of the shadows in all your rainbow glory, you start experimenting and testing the waters. The sense of curiosity, compounded by the guilt you feel for doing something ‘immoral’ can actually be quite exhilarating. I remember the thrill that came with kissing boys in the back of my car in deserted carparks or sneaking guys out of my bedroom window in my parents house. Sure most of these highs were then followed by lows and feelings of shame but during those stolen moments I felt ecstasy that I have found hard to replicate in my later years.
It’s the feeling of doing things for the first time, things that you are told are wrong but which feel so right – these are the times I miss from my youth and from inside my own closet. Finding moments to hold hands with a boy at a party when nobody was around and then letting go as soon as your friend walked into the room then desperately waiting for that friend to leave so that you can do it again. Receiving messages on your phone from your crush and then telling your mum it was from your boss when she gets too nosey. Smiling at a stranger in the change rooms at an inter-school swimming meet. Once out of the closet these situations don’t hold the same sense of danger. The fear of getting caught is removed but it is the fear of getting caught that makes your heart beat faster and electrifies your senses.
When I first started experimenting with boys and going to gay clubs I felt as though I was doing something that was on the fringes of society. For someone who had been brought up in a somewhat conservative environment, being gay almost became an expression of rebellion for me. The cover ups and fabricated stories allowed me to be part of one world at night and then return to the normality of heterosexual, conservative life by day. It was fun, for a time.
After a while though the thrill of breaking the rules diminishes and you are left with the realisation that you cannot be happy and in the closet forever. For the short period of time, in the beginning of the long walk out of the closet, every experience is brand new, every man-to-man touch is a blessing and every moment, no matter how brief, spent out of the closet is a relief. These are feelings that can never be replicated again. This is what I miss from inside the closet.
Image by Damon Baker