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Thursday, March 27, 2014

SL Letter of the Day: Open Your Mouth

Posted by on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

I'm on vacation. Please enjoy this golden oldie from October 12, 2011.

I'm a college freshman. I thought that college would be the place to come out, but the sad fact is that college hasn't changed anything. I'm still unable to admit my sexuality to my friends, teammates, classmates, and hallmates. I have thought about joining the LGBT organizations, but those guys are too "out" for me. Not that there's any problem with that. I just don't think that being gay is anyone else's business unless I want them to know. The hardest part is seeing other freshmen go out to parties, hook up, and date when I don't have the opportunity to do so. I've resorted to going on Craigslist, but my encounters have been weird. What should I do?

Closeted Undergrad

My response after the jump...

You're not required to disclose who you're going out with, CU, or the gender of the folks you would like to go out with. But keeping your sexual orientation a secret indefinitely—not your sexual interests (which you can keep to yourself), but your sexual orientation—will ultimately warp your psyche and your life.

Think about it from the other side: What would the straight guys on your team have to do in order to hide their straightness from you? They could never mention their girlfriends, go out on dates, or hook up with someone they met at a party. They would have to hide their porn and be careful not to check out girls in public. They could never get engaged, get married, or have kids. They might be able to have furtive, secretive, and shame-driven sexual encounters with other closeted heterosexuals they met online or in places where closeted straight people gathered to have anonymous sex, but finding love—true and lasting love—would be extremely difficult.

It wouldn't be impossible—some gay people managed to find lasting love back in the bad old days—but it would be difficult. And the sneaking around and hiding and lying would ultimately warp their psyches and their lives.

If you don't want to get warped, CU, you're going to have to come out. And once you're out, you don't have to hang out with gay people with whom you don't click, and you don't have to be gay the way, say, the LGBT groupers on your campus are gay. Remember: Gay men who are out at your age (18?) tend to be a bit gayer than the average gay dude. They're out in part because they can't be in. And God bless 'em and more power to 'em and the gay rights/liberation movement would never have gotten off the ground without 'em. But since you can pass, CU, you've had the option of waiting.

You have, of course, the option of never coming out. But as you're discovering, CU, it's hard to date in the closet, and DL-enabling sites like CL and Grindr aren't going to deliver the kind of connections you want. So long as you're limited to quickly arranged hookups with guys you don't know, can't risk getting to know, and can't be seen with in public, all of your encounters are going to be weird. Not because all the guys on CL or Grindr are weird—there are good guys on both sites—but because you're trying to have a life and keep it secret, and that tends to attract weirdos without lives.

Look, CU, you're only 18. You've got time. But what you're going to realize, in not too much more time, is that dating and finding love—or even just sex—inside the closet is nearly impossible. You can remain in the closet and keep your business secret, but you won't have much of a life in there. And when you realize that, CU, you'll come out. First to a friend or two, then to your family, then to everyone. And once you're all the way out, you'll find that the guys you've been focusing on—the "too out" guys—aren't the only gay guys out there. Just some of the best.

I know it's hard. But you can do it. All it takes is opening your mouth and saying the words.


Comments (14) RSS

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rob! 1
He mentions "teammates." As he's probably now in his junior year, I wonder if he found any encouragement in the trickle of intercollegiate and professional athletes coming out recently.

If he's still in the closet, he's also probably figured out that never partying, hooking up, or dating often causes others to come to their own conclusions—usually not hostile, more in the line of head-shaking, eye-rolling, and pitying discussions behind his back.
Posted by rob! on March 27, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
johnyawl 2
I'd be willing to bet that some of his friends and teammates already know he's gay.
Posted by johnyawl on March 27, 2014 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Which would you rather be considered, just some ordinary gay guy, or a depressed, conflicted loner just waiting to go off like a powderkeg, perhaps violently?

Unless you're extraordinarily good at hiding your misery, and pretending to be a straight guy, around girls and stuff, I'm betting your friends and schoolmates would be a lot happier just knowing you're gay and not some candidate to be the next school shooter or dorm suicide.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on March 27, 2014 at 3:21 PM · Report this
The "Think about it from the other side" paragraph was very well-written, and is something that doesn't get said enough.

I hear people who are "not homophobic, not at all, but...." every day. Often, of course, these people are also "not racist, but".

These people who are "not homophobic but" say they have no problem with what people do in the privacy of their own homes, but "why do they have to flaunt it?" or "why do they have to shove their sexuality down our throats?" or "why do there have to be so many gay couples on TV?" or "why do we have to give in to their demands about our culture?"

All of them should be made to read the "Think about it from the other side" paragraph again and again and again until they get it through their stupid heads that we straight people flaunt our sexuality every day, shove our sexuality down other people's throats every day, and force people to watch straight couples on TV every day.

It might take them a while to work it out. But it would be nice if they could.
Posted by sh1331 on March 27, 2014 at 4:13 PM · Report this
@4 True statement. The whole thing.
Posted by CobaltBlue on March 27, 2014 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Asking someone out is awkward. And I can't even begin to imagine how much more awkward it would be if the only way you could meet people is reveal something you've been hiding from people around you. Though I really don't get the whole "not anyone's business" argument. Every time my brother brought a girl home I had a pretty good guess what they were up to. It's like that no matter who you bring home.
Posted by Really Now... on March 27, 2014 at 8:12 PM · Report this
Fortunate 8
@6, I also have that reaction to the "not anyone's business" thing.

It's no one's business what, specifically, you do in bed with someone. But if you are going to have relationships with other people those relationships have a public and social component to them unless you to go extremes to keep it very secret.

The only way to make a relationship "not anyone's business" is to spend a lot of time and energy on hiding it from everyone.

But when you are dating someone in general people know, and they may not know what you are doing behind closed doors but they are probably going to assume you are doing something.

I think the "not anyone's business" reaction is rooted in the fact that, while people most likely assume that a straight couple are doing something behind closed doors, they don't dwell on what exactly they may be doing. They aren't obsessed with the details and mostly don't really care.

When you are gay and people find out a disturbingly high percentage of people don't put that revelation in the context of romance, dating and relationships. They see it first in their heads as sex. And they focus on the sex aspect of it.

I remember that shockingly clear when I came out. Many people reacted to it as some kind of revelation about my sex life, while in my head it was more about relationships. I came out not because of sex but because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life alone, but that wasn't how many people interpret coming out, even still today.
Posted by Fortunate on March 28, 2014 at 7:36 AM · Report this
nocutename 9
Fortunate: I think you nailed it perfectly @8.

I understand the "it's nobody's business" wish for privacy, but that should only pertain to what a person actually does; it shouldn't be applicable about who a person is. It's not so much a matter of who you are being anyone's business, because of course it isn't, but it should be a matter of why hide who you are? Why even consider the nature of your identity to be a privacy issue? When everyone is so matter-of-fact about being who they are with everyone, in the zillion of unspoken ways or non-sexualized ways that Dan covers, in just being able to casually refer to your life ("Anthony and I saw that new movie last weekend," or "Sheila's mom came over for dinner and I was a wreck getting the place cleaned up"), I would hope that the defensiveness about one's sexual orientation being either anyone's business or not anyone's business just melts away.

But I realize that I'm speaking from the privileged position of being straight. I don't mean to sound obtuse.
Posted by nocutename on March 28, 2014 at 8:11 AM · Report this
@8 FTW
Some people just love obsessing over differences I guess.
Posted by Really Now... on March 28, 2014 at 9:57 AM · Report this
My experience is that the "it's no one else's business" feelings come from not having fully come out to yourself. If you still feel shame about being gay, you haven't come out to yourself as being a gay man. You are stuck in the "I'm a guy who likes sex with other guys, but I'm not like those 'too gay' dudes who run the LGBT alliance group on campus." When straight guys start dating they get a lot of shit from peers, family, friends about "did you fuck her yet?" or less direct comments, like from family. Straight guys get embarrassed by that, but they don't feel shame about it, assuming they are not being raised by bible thumping morality nutjobs.
When you are really and truly out to yourself, shame melts away if you are getting any support at all from those around you. If you are getting shamed by those around you, find other people to be around you. You just have to take the plunge. Telling one person to start with will give you all kinds of courage. Be brave.
Posted by kwodell on March 28, 2014 at 1:52 PM · Report this
Also, drop from your thinking the word ADMIT. One admits to such things as being a Brony or thinking Miss Bronte a superiour author to Miss Austen.
Posted by vennominon on March 28, 2014 at 2:49 PM · Report this
nocutename 13
@12: Yes admit does seem to speak volumes about internalized self-loathing.

Depends on which Miss Brontë you're speaking of.
Posted by nocutename on March 29, 2014 at 10:55 AM · Report this
Ms Cute - Were you TRYING to give me a heart attack?

I shall borrow an image from when the Brodie set went into the Senior School and thought that Miss Brodie was easily the equal of both of the Kerr sisters together, as I take it even a step farther and declare Miss Austen easily the equal of all three Brontes combined (and the brother, too, for good measure):

"She was the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, and they were merely the squares of the other two sides."

I actually composed an acrostic using that quotation once, but I don't think it was the one in which I used, "Black-and-white but red all over" as a clue for I LOVE LUCY.

Seriously, though, has Miss B risen so high in literary estimation of late that she is now judged fit to be on the same list, albeit it somewhat lower down? Good for her. I'd have guessed her to be trending the wrong way lately, though I'm not sure why.
Posted by vennominon on March 29, 2014 at 1:17 PM · Report this
nocutename 15
Mr.Ven: I long for a world in which the Misses Austens and Brontës can co-exist, without having to vie for the limited position of "best female author."

The Misses Austens and Brontës have so little in common besides their sex, their profession (or avocation), and their nationality, that I don't think they need ever be compared.

Your preference makes me think of Virgina Woolf.
Posted by nocutename on March 29, 2014 at 3:01 PM · Report this

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