Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shedding the Figurative Closet

I used to never see the appeal in “coming out of the closet.” In fact, I found it kind of laughable and ridiculous. I couldn’t understand why gays and lesbians felt the need to openly expose themselves to an array of personal, emotional, and social troubles by all at once openly declaring to the world that they were homosexual. It seemed like a rite of passage for all who experience same-gender attraction, but not for me.
Coming out of the closet was
laughable and ridiculous to me.

I’m close to many people who have come out to friends, loved ones, and associates. I’ve seen the hurt that often trails behind coming out. I’ve witnessed the stigma attached to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals. I have seen loved ones who turn away from their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters; I have seen the fast decay of bonds and ties that eventually become brittle and break away. I’ve witnessed the slow ceasingof contact, the silent “unfriending” on Facebook, and the arguments over whether homosexuality is right, wrong, good, or bad; and all because an LGBTQ individual decides that they want to make it known that they are different than the majority, and be accepted for it.

Yet, seeing many people go through it, I have felt in my own way, through their experiences, the long-sought, yet sudden liberation associated with opening that figurative closet door and stepping out, never again to return. I liken it to a mountain journey. You climb through the forests of shame, guilt, fear, and secrecy that obscure your view as you press onward and upward from the foothills where you began. Just when you think you can go no further, the forest opens into a great plateau overlooking a vast expanse. You step out into the light of the sun at noonday, and a crisp wind catches you, invigorating your spirit with a brisk rush of fulfillment—a striking difference from the stifling twilight within the trees. 

How did so many others seem to find fulfillment
declaring to the world that they were gay?
But the feeling of the cool wind is not so much your reward, as is the view. Standing at such a height allows you to gaze out upon your trials and tribulations of the past—though steep and treacherous as they may have seemed at the time—knowing now that you overcame them all and made it to a higher point than you had ever thought you could reach. You even see the foothills where you began and think to yourself, “Look how far I’ve come!” 

Such freedom, as I have witnessed it coming to others, seems to displace the deep, lingering heartache of keeping a secret that you fear, if others knew it, would bring about your utter abandonment in every way and by every person. It cleanses the innermost wounds of the soul, and fosters healing in the hearts of those who experience it. Greater still, are those loved ones who remain beloved—who do not let go, but cling tighter to their friends and family who share with them the one secret within them which seems darkest and deepest of all. Sweeter ties are formed when fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters extend to their LGBTQ loved ones a full hand of fellowship and love, along with expressions of understanding and hope.

Under a veil of secrecy, I confessed
to a few that I was attracted to men.
I have seen it happen many times to many people. And without a doubt, I have felt that, for them, it was right—it was good. There was an added measure of joy that could be sensed within them. There was a glimmer to their eyes that was not there before; a relief, a comfort. To be fair, I must say that many, if not the majority of my LGBTQ loved ones have had mostly positive experiences with their coming out process. Yet, for so long, I have remained unconvinced that coming out of my figurative closet was something I needed to do. Of course, there have been several times when I have waited for the shadows to descend upon my closet, and, under a veil of secrecy, inched out of the door just enough to confess to someone whom I trusted, while swearing them also to secrecy. 

On most of those occasions it was severely nerve-wracking. I don’t think any of the times I have come out to individuals has been easy for me. Just saying the words is a difficult thing. Then there’s the trouble of how to approach my sexuality in the moment of confession. How exactly do I say it so that they will best understand?

“I’m gay.”

“I have same-gender attraction.”

“I like men.”

“I experience homosexual feelings.”

To me, it seems that it’s going to mean something different to everyone, and so the wording has to be just right. I realize that everyone is going to understand in the moment I spit out the sentence that other males float my boat. That’s not difficult comprehension. What worry me are the labels that people associate with the terms. Gay, homosexual, queer—they register differently with everyone. 

I tried not to use "gay" as a label for my
same-sex attractions.
For a very long time, I would try not to call myself “gay.” I was told in Latter-day Saint-themed support groups for same-gender attracted men that calling myself “gay” was a label that denoted the accepting of an identity that I not only didn’t want to have, but that was tied to a community that I didn’t want to be a part of. I’ve never felt the need to march in a gay pride parade, waving a rainbow flag at the crowds. That is not what my attraction to males is like for me. If anything, I have always been resentful of my homosexuality. And it’s true that I am a much happier person, and better in control of sexual vices by choosing not to participate in some things that other LGBTQ individuals prefer. But I secretly admired those who could proudly stand up and say, “I am gay,” never fearing repercussion, having moved far beyond the stigma and the judgment of others; I longed to experience the full extent of that great plateau, the freedom of the wind, and the view from the top.

A few things seem to stand in the way of me simply waving a rainbow banner to the world in one, swift motion. Unfortunately, I am very afraid of the social whiplash associated with coming out. I do not doubt that my closest friends and family will still love and support me. But I know that people misunderstand, gossip, and back-bite, and that word travels fast. I understand that people will hear through the grapevine that I am gay, and I will not have a chance to explain or defend myself. I am well aware that many in our world simply do not understand the significance of having a seemingly-innate identity that clashes with the majority around you. And I know that many still think that all LGBTQ individuals are created equal, when in actuality they are not.

Ty & Danielle Mansfield on the
cover of LDS Living Magazine.
Then there’s the issue of not only being gay, but being a fully-active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). It’s not that I’m worried about being excommunicated, or removed from my Church, for I am in full compliance with all necessary commandments and teachings in order to sustain membership. More than that, I love the gospel of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and I strive every day to be more like Him and to become closer, through Him, to my Heavenly Father. In every way, I attempt to bridle my passions, actions, and behavior to stay within the bounds the Lord has set, so that after this life I might return to live with God. But honestly, there just aren’t enough religiously-active gay Mormons sharing their stories to displace the prejudice which I fear. 

In recent weeks, mixed-orientation marriages (MOMs) within the Mormon faith have received remarkable publicity. Ty and Danielle Mansfield told their story in the May 2012 issue of LDS Living Magazine.

Josh Weed decided to come out of the closet on his blog to celebrate he and his wife’s ten-year anniversary.

Josh & Lolly Weed
(Photo from Josh's Blog,
"The Weed."
I find this all great news for me, being in a similar boat; but it confuses a lot of people on both sides of the issue—the LGBTQ community, as well as the Latter-day Saints. I find that many Latter-day Saints are surprised that there are gay and lesbian persons within their own religion who marry the opposite gender. They find their idea of what being gay is suddenly skewed by a righteous, Mormon homosexual. The LGBTQ community, in my experience, is usually shocked that a gay person remains within an organization which they feel constrictively prohibits an identity and lifestyle that the LGBTQ community says they were born to embrace. 

Either way, I still see prejudice. Someone, somewhere, is not going to understand why I am what I am, or why I do what I do. And I don’t know if I want to endure the monotony and struggle involved with telling my story over and over again to every person at Church who asks, “So why are you still active?” And every LGBTQ friend who asks, “Why don’t you just be true to yourself and find a boyfriend?”

But, I digress. Let me make the point I sat down to write. I finally realized that the encouragement I received to say that I was “same-gender attracted” and not “gay” was like pretending that my attractions for men were somehow different from another gay man’s attractions to men. It is not more acceptable or more righteous to be “same-gender attracted,” though I think phrasing it thusly softens the blow for those who don’t agree with a homosexual lifestyle. Neither does being “gay” mean that I have to march through the city streets during gay pride wearing nothing but rainbow underwear and passing out free condoms to the crowd.

Stating that I am “same-gender attracted” has just become too tedious. Saying that I am “gay” is much easier. Three letters, one syllable, and everyone knows the implication. There’s no way to sugar-coat it—I am sexually attracted to my own gender at a significant level. Any word(s) you want to use, the meaning is the same—but the individuals who experience such attractions are not, nor do they have to be the same. 

I  am no longer ashamed to call  myself "gay," because I
know that I am much more that just my sexuality.
I think that all LGBTQ individuals of every walk of life experience the same positive and negative issues with their sexual identity in some form or another. It’s not easy for some, but it’s not hard for others. Each one has a different story, and each a different experience with their coming out. Some come out as early as 10 years old; others not until their mid-forties. For me, the process has been slow going, but my desire to quicken the pace increases with every new day.

I know that right now in my life, a complete, public, confession is not best for me. I think the world and I need to grow a little bit more before I am ready to shed my closet entirely. But where others have found, and continue to find success in coming out of the closet, I hope that I can, too. Every day is a little bit closer. This post will be the first step in a process I hope will lead to a positive, complete coming out, as I have decided that my blog will no longer be private, and that I will post updates to my blog on my Facebook page. From here, it is one step at a time.

My name is Wade. I am gay. But I am so much more.


  1. Great post Wade, as usual. :) See you this weekend!

  2. I loved this! So very well written, Wader. I've heard about those couples recently too, very interesting! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Thanks for always reading, Fe. :-)

  4. "I finally realized that the encouragement I received to say that I was 'same-gender attracted' and not 'gay' was like pretending that my attractions for men were somehow different from another gay man’s attractions to men. It is not more accepting or more righteous to be 'same-gender attracted.' "

    I'm struggling with the same labeling, not sure what to call myself.

    1. Thanks for commenting, TFI. It is definitely a process to decide. No person with homosexual attractions is right or wrong, it’s just about what you’re comfortable with. Your “label” may change many times before you settle on one, too, and that’s okay. What's most important is to remember that homosexuality is just one key on the piano that makes up your whole character, with all its attributes, facets, quirks, and qualities. With so many other keys that make up you, the one “gay” key doesn’t have to be the focus. You cannot play the beautiful sonatas of life with just one key, nor can your music be complete with even one key missing. I’ve always liked that analogy. Good luck to you!