I am currently a queer living in the closet. Maybe that is a surprise for some of you, maybe not. Either way it is true. Not only am I living in the closet, I am pretty comfortable here.
There is a shift when we enter adulthood. I am still feeling the shift even in my late twenties. Moving out, living on my own, moving out of state, and moving in with a significant other have all solidified my ideas of me as an adult. I think being a queer adult has a tremendous amount of privilege. I am able to make my own decisions regarding my personal life and my medical necessities without having to worry about the approval or support from my family. It is liberating. I think that liberation, however, had trapped me in the closet.
Where I live, people at work use my gender neutral pronouns and my chosen name. My close friends do the same, though gender neutral pronouns may be a stretch for some of them, or a stretch for me given the amount of support it takes to get someone to use them. So how am I in the closet? Well, I have a whole family of people in different states who have no idea about my gender identity. They still use she/her pronouns and call my by my legal name. I have never brought up the subject of my gender to them, and have gone so far as to have my girlfriend use my legal name for me when I am going to be spending time with them. I also have a circle of friends who have no idea that I use a different name and pronouns.
It is a lot of work maintaining this double life. Having to remember who knows what has been a challenge, though code switching from my preferred* name and my legal name hasn’t been as hard as one would think (*I hate the term preferred in regards to names and pronouns. Preferred makes them sound optional, which they aren’t). So why is my closet so comfortable? It is the distance. Not having to see my friends or family on any sort of regular basis makes it tremendously easy to maintain the separation between my cis and trans lives. My ender literally is not an issue for the majority of my days. In that respect, it is easy!
Challenge comes when I talk to or specifically spend time with those who don’t know the full story about my gender identity. Maintaining the separation is difficult and I often find myself increasingly wondering if it would all just be easier to be honest. So much so, that on a few occasions recently I had to hold myself back from just coming clean about the information I have been withholding.And yet, something always stops me.
My closet protects me from rejection and hurt. It protects me from reactions of my friends and family; reactions that I am anticipating will be complicated and unfavorable. I don’t know what it will be like to come out to my family but so far I have survived in my closet, and I am anticipating that any discomfort from living in my closet will feel much better than the discomfort of rejection. Fear of the unknown often outweighs pain that is experienced… until one day it doesn’t. I don’t think I have reached that threshold yet; though I am coming dangerously close.
I decided in 2019 that I wanted to be more authentic. That word came from my internal struggles regarding my closetedness. I want to live a life that is authentic and honest, to others and myself. Part of me is trying to find the lines that define my identity, which is difficult given that my identity lies quite literally outside of the box. I hope that if I can find something solid to rest on then coming out becomes easy. But life isn’t easy, ad neither are identities. Mine is complex, and as frustrating as that it, there is a beauty within learning about myself and seeing ways in which I am not the person that most people expect me to be. I don’t know that having a word guide my year will make any difference in the experiences or choices that await me. If anything, I want to use the word authentic to help guide me in an overall direction, knowing that I don’t have to go anywhere if it doesn’t feel right. Hopefully that word will be a source of grounding when life gets crazy and I am struggling to find my way.
Maybe that word will get me out of my closet. Maybe.