“Stop living your life in a box, I mean closet,” she demanded. Never realizing I existed only in shadows of the metaphorical landscape, I began to wonder what it truly is like to live my life in a closet or maybe the accidentally too square space of cardboard. I imagine it to be rather dark and strangely secluded, and stepping into my bedroom closet helped to affirm this. There I was, closed up in a closet too dark to tell the distance between my face and the imposing door, too small for me to move, but sit there and wait, look down at the gentle light peaking in near my feet. To open the door suddenly I was flushed in clear air, the world surrounding me magnified several times. I was God standing there looking as though from the heavens at that closet, its door slightly cracked open covering the darkness of the space. I wonder what it would be like to step out of another, different box, the box of disclosure. If I told the whole world, maybe I could be a super-god delegating the space of secrecy of my confused, dark, closed-off past.
Yet, I have only walked out of a bedroom closet, and this is a closet of a different dimension. What if this psychological space clings to me regardless? I emerge as a washed up, just born alien relinquishing myself from the quiet familiar. My devilish hair drags in curls down sidewalks, slippery and thick coats of syrup tasting the salty gravel. People don’t see this weird specimen as it mulls about around them, but I experience them through windowed spectacles peering out into the “real” world matrix we call existence.
But I think I might be dreaming.
Who can say people that are not out to all those they know are suddenly these isolated, invisible, self-hating lurkers in the closet? How much power does this closet have to describe who I am and what I am going through? How much freedom is there from stepping out, bathing in the light of transparency, whether or not that openness be forced? When we come out of the closet, who is to say we aren’t just stepping into new ones, just with a little better wallpaper and a little more light? Is not the social stigma sometimes associated with sexuality another just as limiting box? The slippery slope of this metaphor can lead to a slight paranoia, as the box once is originally defined, can also morph and side step you on the corner of a new acquaintance. Suddenly when I meet a new group of people, I am once again thrown into the dark hole. Maybe a sign that says, “Legalize Gay” would impede the heteronormative judgment most of us face in first conversations and peripheral side-glances.
I find it troubling that the person who originally got me into the box happens to be out of the box, and never was really in the box in the first place. She is straight, although I only assumed it until she told me. I guess she was in the box about her sexuality too; yet, I can only imagine what that would be like since I’ve been living in symbolic isolation most of my life. Maybe she is in the box with me now with secrets we both know, but I don’t mean to rule anyone to such a claustrophobic existence. Who knows what life is like out there in the open fields of heterosexual and openly gay society? I seemed to have been prancing just fine on these fields until she told me, and like pressured air, I fell into a forgotten ditch, and then the sun set too quickly.
With this much fun playing around in the closet, I am saddened to acknowledge that sometimes metaphors can just be too black and white. As much as “coming out of the closet” seems a colorfully enrapturing experience, not only with the light taking over one’s eyes, but the rainbow flag now etched tight to one’s skin, it does seem a little lacking in complexity in some respects. It doesn’t help that the historical and etymological origins of “coming out of the closet” provides for rather precarious grounds to situate others and myself. It’s a mixed and mashed metaphor incorporating the Baltimore debutantes “coming out” with skeleton statues lying listlessly in the “closet”. Like stepping from death into life, not the other, more natural way around. Too bad I don’t believe in reincarnation.
Let’s work with “coming out” first. According to Chauncey, gay people in prewar years then did not speak of coming out of what we call the gay closet but rather of coming out into what they called homosexual society of the gay world, a world neither so small, nor so isolated, nor, often so hidden as “closet” implies. The Baltimore’s debutantes came out in the presence of hundreds of straight as well as gay and lesbian spectators at the public hall of the fraternal order of Elks. The glitz and the glam associated with debutante events seem a little much for my taste.
Match that up with “the closet”, and the darkness sets in again. Skeleton in the cupboard, or closet, is a colloquial phrase used to describe an undisclosed fact about someone, which, if revealed, would have a negative impact on perceptions of the person. The cupboard is more of a British term, and so I imagine it with shiny, fine tea cups and some liquor hidden to the side. No more these grand theatrical beauties, we are hollow skeletons walking the stage, the light enlivening flesh from tired bones. Not such a pretty sight, but quite fascinating to think about. We gays defy scientific logic; we have found the secret to life.
Beyond the simple opening and closing of doors, I presume my experience to more of a continuum along trails less defined. Moving from the idea of openness and closedness to a more complex set of contradictions, like the contradictions between expressiveness, verbal disclosure, directness, honesty on the one hand and concealing, indirectness, deception, ambiguity, equivocation, discreetness, and tact, on the other hand. This foggy trail, it leads into distance expanses vaguely forming and never just wood and timber cut at 90 degree angles. I am not a mime acting out spaces, powered face juxtaposed with stripes of black. I am not a voiceless prisoner of my own doing. I do not live my life in a box, I mean closet.
[Part I of this week's anonymous posts here]