The closet…

It can be a very scary place to be sometimes. Especially when you’re young. So many confusing emotions. Fears, questions, rejections, and disappointments. When trying to figure things out for the very first time…it can feel like you’re carrying the whole world on your shoulders. I’d assume that we’ve all experienced a similar feeling on some level. It takes time and practice to find pride in who you are. And…equally as important…it takes support from the people that love you.

However…let’s say that you had a younger sibling, a nephew or niece, or maybe a child of your own…and you begin to see hints that they, themselves, may be going through the same struggles that you did growing up? I mean…what do you do? What do you say?

This issue’s question is about whether or not you would reach out to help family members through the difficult times they may be facing. Now, remember…they’re not ‘out’ yet. And that alone can be an obstacle to overcome. Do you tell them that you ‘know’? Or, at least, that you suspect they might be gay/lesbian/trans? Or is that a decision that you think they should do in their own time? At their own pace?

Can you put it off until later? Will they suffer because of it? Will ‘outing’ them by trying to help make things better or worse? How would you, personally, approach this situation? Let us know! It could really help other people who asking themselves these same questions.

Being through it before yourself…you have the gift of wisdom and experience to give to someone younger who may desperately need to hear it. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy, or that it shouldn’t be treated delicately. Give us your thoughts on this!

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“First, I would leave hints that I am completely fine with sexuality. You know, like whenever it gets mentioned, that sort of thing, I’d make it clear that I wasn’t intolerant.

I already have with my niece and nephews. My niece came out as bisexual a while ago. She amazes me because she’s still quite young, even younger when she came out as bisexual, I think she was no older than 10 at the time. And she’s already familiar with all the “newer-ish” labels that even I am still learning about for the first time.

Kids man, they’re so informed on this. She has friends who identify as pansexual, and various other lesser known labels. I think it’s cool and it gives me hope for the next generation. Ideally we’d live in a society where we didn’t even need labels for sexuality, but we’re not there yet. Some people are still struggling with racism.

It’s hard to say what I would do if I had a family member who was struggling with their identity because, by and large, Scotland is quite a tolerant society and my family are pretty accepting too. So it would never come up, personally.

But if I was living in a different situation, I guess first I would drop hints, like in a conversation, that I was a safe person to be open to. That I wouldn’t judge them, and that there was nothing wrong with being LGBT. It’s the bigots who have something wrong with them.

I wouldn’t come straight out and tell them that I knew because that might worry them even more. Maybe they’d think that there was something they were doing or saying that gave them away.

Then hopefully they’d come out to me, and I’d be able to offer them an ear, and some support. I wouldn’t encourage, or discourage them from coming out. They’ll know when the right time for that is, and it’ll be their choice to make.

I’d help them, and give them any thoughts I had about it, if they asked.

The only thing I would make clear to them, is that there’s nothing wrong with the way they feel. And I’d also encourage them to put happiness before any misguided sense of duty that society or family puts on them. Like “grandma wants grandkids, you have an obligation to respect her feelings.” etc. No fuck that. Live for you, not for anyone else.

I don’t like the pressure that some family members put on them. They even do it disingenuously, sometimes, because they’ve exhausted all the other ways of trying to tell them “you’re *wrong* for being who you are.”

It’s similar to the way some parents want their children to follow them in their career paths. Even though their son or daughter is interested in pursuing something different. Sod that. They have their own life, and you have yours. So make it an happy one with no regrets.” –Mike

“I actually address this sort of thing in my story ‘In Chandler’s Hands’. He is the older, but not too much older, gay guy I wish I’d had around when I was 14-15 and struggling with my sexuality. Having a ‘Chandler’ in my life would have prevented a lot of pain and opened a lot of doors that were closed to me then, including my Closet Door!

He makes himself available. He is obviously gay and he shows an interest in Brandon (from Billy Chase), but not necessarily a sexual interest. Chandler definitely sees how gorgeous Brandon is, but he, being a 20-something, also sees how vulnerable Brandon is at this time in his life. Chandler’s Gaydar is getting strong signals from Brandon, but, rather than coaxing an admission of gayness out of Brandon, Chandler builds a relationship of trust with Brandon so that he can come out in his own time. By being a role model for Brandon, Chandler shows him how to do this ‘gay’ thing. Chandler isn’t bothered by his sexuality. He accepted it and, because of his fierce red-headed nature, defended it! He had a lot of the same doubts and struggles Brandon is his having, but he overcame them with two simple truths and one declaration – “I am as I was made. I am perfect just the way I am! You don’t thinks so? Well FUCK OFF then!”

Chandler gives Brandon the message that he is perfect just the way he is and that no one should tell him different, no matter who or what he is! With this affirmation, Brandon lets slip his sexuality to Chandler. Chandler then vows never to tell another living soul about it and he never does, allowing Brandon to do that on his own.

If we can be more like Chandler with our gay youth, then we can be a great help to them by being the best versions of ourselves that we can! The best way to teach is to show.” –MrM

“I think we all have that “If only” thought when we remember feeling as though we were all alone, broken, and worst of all unlovable because of who we were. The feeling of those around us that we love suddenly turning on us once they know is overwhelming and not unfounded, unfortunately. I always wished someone would have approached me and said they knew and that it was okay. Every imagined conversation back then went exactly that way. Then you remember that there is no guarantee that others, regardless of how much you care about them, will react with love and support. We have too many examples of the exact opposite.

You don’t out someone else to the world, you don’t have that right. But, you can take a couple of small steps to show how important someone else’s privacy is. I’ve actually had this happen years back and it went really well. Just be sure to consider how close you are to this person first.

I was an adult and my friend’s son was in his mid-teens. It was obvious to me that he was awkward and a little closed off. It was also obvious how he responded to his peers about how hot this girl or that one was that he wasn’t on the same page as the others. This was also before I came out to my friends and family so I put serious thought into not just how to let him know I could “see” him and that no matter what, that changed nothing for me. I also had a way to gain his trust a bit further: just by asking for his.

I found an opportunity to talk to him alone on a drive out to the place I worked. He was coming along because we were having a pretty big event and I offered him a night out for some fun. During the drive, I asked him a few questions that I had considered previously. I intended to out myself to try to get him to commiserate and hopefully do the same, knowing I was putting a lot of trust in him. I asked if I could talk to him man to man, which is odd for me since I never acted like an adult, ever. He responded, “Yeah, you know that.” Then I told him that I thought I knew the answer already but I was hoping he wasn’t homophobic. It had the desired effect, he thought for a moment and said that he wasn’t. He was paying close attention to me but looking everywhere else but at me. Then I asked him if what was said in the car, stayed in the car. He said yeah. So I took a deep breath and told him that I had been hiding the fact that I was gay. I knew from very early on and that I was still frightened to tell my friends and parts of my family so I just decided to keep it to myself. I was pretty close to him back then so I told him I felt like he was someone who wouldn’t judge me too harshly.

Now, I was nervous to tell anyone else outside of the internet but I was also worried about him as he was beginning to pull back from everyone including me. I told him that my confession was about something that has always been there but I was getting tired of hiding from the people I cared the most about and then let the silence do its job. After a few minutes, he confirmed that what was said in the car stayed in the car and outed himself and really began to talk…

Long story short, If you are gay and you suspect someone you care about is gay then you have a way to prove that you can be trusted, by asking for their trust first. I knew very well that my conversation could have uncovered absolutely nothing if he wasn’t ready to talk but, that he at least would know that if he was, in fact, struggling with his sexuality that he was not alone. I didn’t force him to deal with what I thought I knew or suspected. I asked him for understanding and showed him that I trusted him. We talked for days after that. Shared our fears about the truth getting out but proving to each other that there will be those who simply aren’t going to look at us any differently. He was around when I came out to the group I called family and for the most part, that slowly fishtailed and I learned that I was not who I had always been to most, often treated as if I had been willfully deceiving them. Not all but enough to kick in my foundation in at the time. My friend did eventually come to terms with himself that he was, in fact, Bisexual and that it was okay. His family reacted like mine at first but as with me, time simply showed us who were a part of the family and who simply couldn’t be.

Just in case you are wondering, It’s been many years since that conversation and of all the people who were a part of my life back then, he is one of the only ones who is still there. He’s doing very well and there isn’t one person in his life today that doesn’t accept him for who he is.

Opening the door is the only thing you have the power and the right to do. Making someone step through that door is where we can’t overstep. Even an assumption can come across as an accusation and make that person feel cornered and exposed. Show that you are someone that could understand and you have opened that door. Keep in mind, for some this feels like the end of the world as they know it until given proof otherwise. So just be kind, understanding, and patient and allow them the space and time to decide for themselves, on their terms.” –JeffsFort

(In Response To JeffsFort) “That is amazing, just about sums it up exactly, everything you said, but the last bit is VERY IMPORTANT. It’s so close to “feeling like the end of the world” you might not live through it. One wrong gest, one wrong word, and you close up for years. You want, oh god you want, someone you can trust to talk to, but you are trusting your whole LIFE, your very existence, once you say it, it’s out!

And who do you talk to, what adult, when you’re still in the closet, and you meet your first boyfriend, you have your first experience, you think you’re in love, and there is only you, and him, but if something goes wrong, if you break up, you’re on your own. All that is just as difficult as coming out, you could be struggling with a relationship and you’ve got to handle all that and being gay and all on your own!” –Talo Segura

“Well, for me, I came out of the closet at 13, after sitting inside of it for three years. It wasn’t that I was hiding in there; rather, I didn’t realize there was even a door that could be opened to the rest of the world. After I came out, a new family moved into the neighborhood, with two boys, Danny and Lachlan. Danny was three years younger than me, and his brother, Lachlan, was six years younger. Danny was unquestionably straight, but as we grew up together, I noticed that Lachlan was…different. He started acting shy and withdrawn around his male friends at school, as Danny reported his concerns about his brother to me. I asked Lachlan one day if something was bothering him, and he told me that he had a crush on his best friend at that time. They both knew that I was gay, from the beginning of our relationship, and it was never an issue for them. I told Lachlan that I would help him through whatever concerns or problems he had, and he eventually came out to his friends in Freshman year of high school. He now has a boyfriend, and they’ve been dating for nearly seven years. I’ve always tried to be an ally to others who are LGBT, and if I had to, I’d do it all over again.” –Page Scrawler

“So many questions…

I’ve always been a private person, my whole life. Not just with being gay, but with a lot of things. A big part of that is the feeling I get from being dishonest. So it was always like, ‘ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies’ most of the time. But I really did struggle with being gay as I was realizing exactly what that meant. I seriously thought that there was something wrong with me. My father certainly made things one hundred times worse.

Plus, this was an era (not all that long ago) when words like faggot and ass pirate and queer were not only common, but were considered fighting words. And by the time I got to the 6th or 7th grade…we had the AIDS panic to deal with. So the idea of ever telling anybody was absolutely terrifying! And I just let it burrow down deeper and deeper until I thought I could ignore it.

Then some damn cute boy shows up and it shoots RIGHT back up to the surface again! Hahaha! So, no luck there!

So, I can’t imagine what kids go through now, when we have more information, more open discussion, more support, internet and coming out videos…I don’t know if that makes things any more or any less comfortable, but I’m hopeful.

I’ve noticed some of my own younger cousins, and one of my closest friend’s kids doing and saying some of the same things that I did when I was their age. I recognize the ‘vibe’. And as much as I want them to discover and be proud of who they are, I worry about them. I really do. Mostly because all I can really do is ‘be here’ for them when they’re ready. But what if they don’t think they’re ready until it’s too late? What if they don’t take the hint? What if they truly feel as though they’re all alone and no one will ever understand?

But I would never ‘out’ them. I think that would make things much worse, and I wouldn’t take that invasive step just for my own peace of mind, you know? I would think that would cause paranoia and distress. “If he knows…then EVERYBODY must know!” I think that would make things much worse.

So, I’m conflicted about how to handle such a thing, and I, honestly, haven’t really been through it yet. I’ve had friends and co-workers come out to me before, but not because of any suffering that they were going through or because I invited them to talk. I just happen to be laid back enough in my personality that they know there isn’t much that they could tell me that would get me to hate them for who they are. And then there are the teens that I talk to online who come by the site and open up about who they are, which I’m extremely grateful for, but it’s usually someone else making the first move to talk to me. I haven’t had to sit a family member or younger friend down and make any moves to let them know that they can trust me. When the time comes, and I think it will…I hope I do a decent job of it.

Thank you guys SO much for your input on this question! I will definitely take it to heart. And I hope the readers of Imagine Magazine will too. You guys are the best! Love you lots!” –Comicality

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If you guys want to add your two cents to any one of the ‘Q & A’ sessions for future issues of Imagine Magazine, we’d LOVE to hear your input and your personal stories on the forum! Feel free to attach your screen name, or do so anonymously! Drop by “The Shack Out Back” forum on the 1st and 15th of every month for a brand new topic of conversation! We look forward to hearing more from you! 🙂

 

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