A personal note: on the closet.

I’m dispensing with the writing and publishing talk today and getting extremely personal, because I need to.  In case you read no further, here’s the point of this post: come out of the closet.  I’m not talking about being gay or lesbian, not specifically.  Whatever closet you are in, whatever you are keeping secret about yourself and hiding from the people you love and care about, come out.  Now. Live in love, not in fear.

I’ve spent most of my life in one closet or another.  Around the age of 14 or 15 I started to get inklings that I might be attracted to boys.  I successfully hid that from myself for quite some time, and let me tell you, the human mind is an amazing thing to enable a guy to spend hours making out with his college girlfriend and go straight to the computer lab to look at gay porn, and never consider that he might be into guys.  On my 18th birthday I was suddenly struck with panic attacks.  I turned to people I love, people from whom I had generally hidden my emotions, and they helped me through it.  I had to face the truth, but it still took me until I was 25 – 7 years! – to really accept myself and come out to my friends and my family.

Despite that learning experience, and the relief of being out and open about myself, I retreated right back into a different sort of closet.  This time, it was my true self, my own personality, that ran and hid.  As I entered the world of gay clubs and parties, and started really drinking for the first time in my life, I began to pretend to be someone else.  I took up the popular persona in the gay community, the cynical egomaniacal loner.  I played the part so well that the first time I watched “Queer as Folk,” I thought I was seeing myself in the character of Brian Kinney – but what I was seeing was the disguise, the person I was pretending to be.

A couple of years after that, I stepped into yet another closet, and this time I pulled someone else in with me.  I can’t go into details on that here, because it would violate that person’s privacy, so please forgive me for being cryptic.  What I can say is that I hurt that person severely, and now that all I want is to throw open all the closets in my life, I’m not sure that I will have the chance.

We all hide in our own ways.  We all wear masks.  It’s easier, and safer, to show others what we think they need to see in order to get the results we want.  It’s a way of defending ourselves against pain and fear and manipulation.  But when you hide, you live in fear.  You aren’t true to yourself and your desires, you are living for other people.  The pressures you feel on you are inspired by the people and the things in your life, but they come from you.  They are your fears, and if you let them control you then you will never be truly happy.

I found an expression recently.  “Fear less, love more.”  It’s pretty simple, and  yet it’s something that I completely lost sight of in my own life, and let me tell you it cost me.  I’m even thinking about getting it tattooed on my wrist so I don’t forget again.  I don’t want to live my life in fear.  I don’t want to make decisions out of fear.  I want to live my life in love.

It pains me to think about the years I have spent hiding from love, and hiding my own love.  How I have played cynical about life, and told myself and the people around me that I don’t believe in ideas like commitment, and marriage, and that I don’t believe in true love.  Many of us do it, because love is scary.  We don’t tell the people in our lives how we care about them, what they mean to us.  We don’t let them feel how special they are to us.  We do it because love is risky.  It’s scary.

But we cannot give in to that.  We can’t fear the one thing that can make human beings truly happy. We have got to embrace it, throw ourselves into it, even if we are terrified and even if we get hurt.

Let me tell you, fellow writers, this absolutely applies to us as authors also.  Fear leads us to avoid risks.  It leads us to keep ourselves out of our stories, and write dry unemotional adventure stories instead of investing ourselves into real emotion, real human experience.  Fear makes our writing flat, dishonest, and disinteresting.  Fight it.

As for me?  Here’s my confession, and let me tell you I’m terrified to make it:  the real me absolutely does believe in true love.  That’s something I haven’t admitted to myself in many years, because I was hurt in the past and I was afraid.  The real me is incredibly sensitive, and measures every encounter, every personal interaction, for its deeper emotional meaning – enough that it sometimes (often) crosses into hysterical over-thinking.  The real me is a nerd, who loves Wikipedia and Skeptoid and Good Eats because he loves to learn new things and find new ways to explore and enjoy this world.  The real me plays Dungeons and Dragons.  He is attracted to boys, but he is also attracted to girls (and if you don’t already know from personal experience, let me tell you how lonely THAT is).  He loves to dance, and loves to sing along really loud with his favorite songs, especially in the car.  He enjoys sappy movies, as long as they are well-written, and he takes a lot of his lessons on life and love from art, movies, and more than anything from music.  The real me loves to cook, loves to go on adventures to new places, and loves to stay at home with someone he cares about and just lay around together.  He loves to explore new cities, to just wander with no plan and discover the tiny details that other people forget.  The real me cries every time some television show or movie or something starts getting all patriotic about freedom and liberty and such.  The real me is fiercely individual and independent, but he also really wants a partner, a person with whom he can share his life and his dreams.

I know that fear will never go away.  I know that a part of me will always be drawn to that closet, to hide away from the world where things are safe and no one can hurt me.  The trouble with that logic is that there will always be one person inside that closet: me.  If no one else can hurt me, I can certainly hurt myself, and I can absolutely hurt other people.  Take my word on this – it may seem stupid to try and learn from a trite blog post, but recent experience has taught me the hard way.  It’s a lesson I don’t plan to forget.



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