Monday, September 07, 2009

The witch (that's me) and the wardrobe

My energy is somewhat better than at my last post; thanks for all your encouraging comments.

By the time the babies are abed, we've cooked dinner and cleaned up it's 8.30 - that only leaves me an hour and a half a night to change the world! so this will be a quick entry.

I've been thinking a bit about closets. In my talking with people about the same sex parenting issue, I've come across four people so far who've said, "Oh, I couldn't write a letter of support, someone might realise I'm gay".

I just don't get closets. Well, I get them in Afghanistan or somewhere my very life would be at risk, but why would one choose to live in a closet in Australia?

Okay, one woman was, ahem, older. She said, "I've worked for this [charitable] organisation for thirty years. I don't want to leave in a cloud of disgrace."

So sad, and she's probably totally misreading her organisation (but who knows?) but I do get people who are older being closeted. They've come from a different era. It's the people who are more my age that I don't understand.

Reasons seem to be either career (I'll lose my job) or family (it would just kill my mother) related.

To the first one I wonder - How much would I have to get paid to stay in the closet? To say,"yes all you straight religious freaks are right, I should hide who I really am so I don't upset you"? Maybe if I was an international multimillionaire movie star I'd be tempted to keep it quiet if it would jeopardise all those villas in the South of France.

To the second one: have there actually been any recorded cases of people dying from someone telling them they are gay? My parents and I didn't talk for three years after I came out, but they came around in the end, and now (twenty years later!) they're great. I suppose the point for me is that even if they hadn't come around, I think I would have survived. I couldn't skulk around pretending to be something I'm not. It must just be shattering to one's self esteem.

I was talking to a new gay male friend about it - musing on how closets seem to be much more prevalent in Queensland. Maybe because the "gay community" (such as it is) is smaller, I come across a wider range of people than somewhere like Melbourne where it's easier to find a whole crowd of like-minded types. He was saying he had a rule for himself now - no dating closets. "Sometimes they're really cute," he said, "but it's so insulting to be introduced as 'my friend from work' - and even worse to be co-opted into going along with it".

Now I'm not a psychologist but I live with one so that qualifies me to be able to come up with theories. So theory 1 is that people who are closeted a) have parents who are disapproving and b) haven't worked through that stage of development where you realise your parents are not right about everything.

I mean, it's hard to imagine that someone who is closeted would have loving, accepting parents, isn't it? To be the sort of person who is closeted, you must have got a lot of messages that you are not okay. And then, there's a stage in adulthood where you realise that your parents will not agree with everything you do, and that is okay. You are okay, despite their disapproval.

And why are closets bothering me so much, at this time when I am being more out than I have ever been before - Queensland's representative lesbian mother? Because when I meet a person who is closeted, who feels ashamed of themselves for being gay, who feels that others would reject them if they knew they were gay - well I suppose it triggers the same feelings in me.

I also get cross with them, especially at times like this. Here's a low risk thing you can do to support gay rights! What are you waiting for? Us to get the rights for you? It's your struggle too! By staying silent they're just perpetuating the discrimination. It's like black people saying, "oh no sirree, I'm not gonna go for any rights, not me. Doan wanna upset the massah".

Ah well, it'd be best to avoid the closets then. Don't want to face any dark feelings now!

On with the job!


Anonymous said...

A woman I was totally besotted with could never come out to her family, there were all sorts of reasons, none of which I was in a position to argue with. It was hard, being the shameful secret that had to be hidden, but harder for her, having a family she couldn't trust to share herself with. Some people need a gentle nudge to help them come out, some need a guidebook on how to tell Mum how to deal with it, others really need their friends and supporters to help them stay closeted because coming out isn't safe.

The hard part is remembering that the last group aren't obliged to share their reasons with every out person they meet.

Personally my not speaking period with my mother was cut short by my grandmother dying. It didn't really matter then how much my mother had offended me, I wasn't prepared to leave my Mum to deal with the funeral alone. She never apologised, and I get to live with knowing that there are limits to my mother's desire to be included in my life, to know me and to support me as I am.

Mikhela said...

I agree,people don't need to share their reasons but their reasons are obvious, I would think: shame, fear, low self-esteem. I think that idea of it not being safe to come out bears investigating - is it truly "unsafe" or is the person going to lose a couple of shallow friends and some fundie relatives? No one has to come out, of course, but the person who stands by while their workmates harass someone else for being a "fag" because if they defend the fag the closeted person will be targeted is contributing to homophobia as much as the offenders.

Note I'm talking about my privileged Western university educated city friends here, not people in Afghanistan or South Africa who really ARE being stoned to death for being gay.

(more to say...must stop)