Peeking Out, From Inside the Closet

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Peeking Out, From Inside the Closet  – When Coming Out Feels Close, Yet So Far Away

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It was early on a December morning that I was walking back home from my girlfriend’s apartment. In the winter the streets of New York become wind tunnels, so I was holding my skirt down with both hands, trying to prevent an ill-timed Marilyn moment. Ever since it had gotten cold we’d spent our days curled up watching Netflix and ordering in sesame chicken from a  Chinese restaurant nearby. Her apartment had become our haven, which I was then reluctantly leaving, to go home and get ready for a Christmas dinner with friends that didn’t know about her. I had given myself ample time to prepare, enough to get back into the closet and shut the door tight enough that no rainbow beams could shine through and unmask me.

I had given myself ample time to prepare, enough to get back into the closet and shut the door tight enough that no rainbow beams could shine through and unmask me.

That was last year. Last year, I spent most of my winter either with my girlfriend or gushing about her dimples with my roommate. Yet, I spent Christmas Day at a table full of people cracking jokes about my affections towards tall men with dark hair, in response to which I nodded in deceitful agreement. The dinner’s hosts, a straight couple, had been close friends of mine for a couple of years. He was the emergency contact in my wallet, and she had put sheets on their couch for me to sleep on whenever I had called her in tears. They were as close to family as I had in the city. Now, the same couch that had been my salvation many nights before, had suddenly become my cage. There I was, trapped, inhabiting a version of myself that no longer existed.

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Defining my sexuality had only come earlier that year, thanks to this blossoming relationship with my first-ever girlfriend. I was not yet ready to come out to the world and assume a new persona full-time. Sorting out this new altered reality was enough to keep my mind occupied. I needed to take it one step at a time. So when Christmas came around, I sat there and talked about school, the weather, the food, Beyonce, everything that would be covered at a regular family dinner. It was an enjoyable evening, albeit one that made me feel like an impostor, taking someone else’s rightful place.

I was not yet ready to come out to the world and assume a new persona full-time. Sorting out this new altered reality was enough to keep my mind occupied. I needed to take it one step at a time.

 When I got home I fought with my girlfriend over the phone, on account of us not spending the holidays together, despite being a couple. Our relationship did not last long, but it mattered to me greatly. There was no way to hide my beginner ways from her, so I was grateful to see her accepting my reality, and patiently going through the steps with me. Our breakup was amicable. It turns out the stereotype is true, lesbians really do stay friends with their exes. I wouldn’t have guessed it.

This year, those same friends will host a new edition of the same gathering. Recently, I found myself in the company of the same ex, when we celebrated her promotion at a bar downtown. What happened that night is not important. Whether we made out in a dark corner of the bar, or bought a bottle of wine to share afterwards, is between me and her. What matters is that I found myself a year later in the same company, yet in the same closet. I have come to terms with my sexuality, but I am still not ready to announce it.

Over the past year I have broken the news to the key players of my life, one by one. I’ve asked them to keep it to themselves. I am still terrified of wearing a sign on my forehead that says “lesbian” in bright, sparkling letters. Yet, I also know it is a weight on my soul that must be lifted at some point. So, the question must be asked: why, then, am I so afraid of coming out?

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Over the past year I have broken the news to the key players of my life, one by one. I’ve asked them to keep it to themselves. I am still terrified of wearing a sign on my forehead that says “lesbian” in bright, sparkling letters. Yet, I also know it is a weight on my soul that must be lifted at some point.

I moved to New York for college, not knowing anyone prior. My academic experience has been one of triumph, defeat, challenges and emotional resilience. I have cried breakdown tears and I have cried I-can’t-believe-I-did-it tears. This whole time I’ve been away from family, from home, from everything I’ve ever known, thrust in a world where I had to built a life for myself from scratch. Every morning, I must amass all the emotional resilience left in my body in order to continue pursuing my degree and, with it, my life’s goals. Coming out would mean a new battle I’d have to fight on a daily basis, one that I have to energy left for.

I am not ready to divulge this precious information to those people and risk reactions that will imply my having to erase them out of my life. I choose to veil myself in ignorance and keep them close. So, in a city of LGBT landmarks and drag queens, I stay hidden. It very well might be cowardly, but I choose to preserve myself and my emotional well-being until I see fit to test it again.

So, in a city of LGBT landmarks and drag queens, I stay hidden. It very well might be cowardly, but I choose to preserve myself and my emotional well-being until I see fit to test it again.

My ex has been out for some time. Her Instagram bio says two things about her, age and sexuality. I remember the disappointment in her eyes when I explained why I choose to keep my friends in the dark. She used to say that if they were her own friends and they did not approve of her sexuality, she did not want them in her life. This sound judgement made all the sense in the world to me. I too, had been living my life that way.

In high school, I had once ostracized a friend for criticizing Ozzy Osbourne to my face. I had never been afraid to tell people what I really thought of them. I always thought this was part of why I felt so at home in Manhattan. But to this day, I’d rather not know how my “friends” will react to the news. I’d like to continue living in blissful ignorance until I have made sense of it myself, and I’m ready for the battlefield. Until then, college will keep me fighting enough as it is.

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