DAMAGING EFFECTS OF THE CLOSET
[This is a repost of a comment that one of the readers made. I thought it deserved its own post.]
When one takes a very close and open minded look at all of the men in high profile positions that have been outed should lead one to believe that simply condemning homosexuality does not work in stopping or preventing it. Many of these men are members of the clergy. It obviously will never work in preventing or stopping homosexual behavior or orientation given the many facts we have available if we dare look. If the clergy themselves who vehemently condemn homosexuality on the pulpit but then in private engage in homosexuality and fantasy I believe provides some important evidence. The evidence of which I speak is that homosexuality goes much deeper than simply acting out physically. There is not a gay man that I have ever talked to that hasn’t admitted to trying or wanting to change their homosexual fantasies even before they have their first experience. We, as gay people learn very early on what behaviors are considered normal and which are considered not only abnormal but abhorrent. I, like so many other young children tried with all of our might to pray these powerful yet disdainful feelings away. Many clergy members choose the clergy for the very reason of trying to rid themselves of these overpowering natural urges. They privately hope that if they join the clergy they will be closer to God and then perhaps he will rid them of these feelings. This is what is meant by “the closet”. The closet is an emotional place that many homosexuals choose to live in, in order to prevent anyone from finding out or discovering their deeply hidden feelings. Both men and woman often do this. In fact most gay people start out in the closet once they have been socialized enough to understand that society does not permit these types of activities or feelings of same sex attractions. Instead these young boys and girls are forced into pretending that they have “normal” feelings of attraction like all the other kids. Unfortunately many choose to live in the closet for long periods of time causing more emotional harm to themselves and more victims of the deception.
The length of time one chooses to live in the closet has to do with so many variables. Some choose to live in the closet for religious reasons. They may be from deeply religious and socially conservative families. They may feel that by exposing their true nature that they may lose the love of their parents, families or their caretakers and are terrified of being shut out in some way such as losing their love or being punished for their feelings. They may also choose the closet for professional reasons. They may carry fear of losing their jobs or have fear of moving up in a company. Therefore economics can be a very powerful reason for staying in the closet way into their adulthood. I believe strongly that the topic of “the closet” needs to be addressed and understood. I believe it is essential to discuss “the closet” to provide the necessary context from which to view this issue and the many scandals. Particularly now however I am speaking of men at this time. The reason being is because I believe men use the closet even more often than woman because of societies more narrow view and expectations of what behaviors are considered acceptable and “normal” for men. This discussion needs to be civilized, and our knee jerk reactions and judgments held in check. We need to discuss this subject with compassion because there is a lot of emotional pain involved in living in the closet. We have to discuss this with a very sincere desire to try and understand why so many men are seemingly suddenly becoming gay. Of course this is an impression to some but far from the truth. These men have been living extremely lonely double lives, riddled with guilt in “the closet”. Woman can be tomboys much easier than men can be sissies. Of course not all gay men are effeminate by a long shot but that is a stereotypical image of gay men and therefore many men attempt to cover up any behaviors they may have and believe may bring unwanted suspicion onto them. Therefore men, whether they be gay or straight, will practice stereotypical masculine behaviors to thwart any suspicion out of fear and/or necessity. This is especially true if they feel pressure to do so to protect their careers, career advancement, fear of social denunciation or they have difficulties reconciling their religious views with their natural inner feelings and same sex attractions etc. These are however the most common reasons for men to join the astounding numbers of other men that are also hiding in the closet.
The fear of being discovered can be enormous and absolutely terrifying. These men will often then do whatever they believe society expects from them. They will marry and have children out of desperation in an always unsuccessful attempt at suppressing these natural longings and hoping that they will eventually go away. To Gays these attractions feel perfectly normal and are. Would we rather they try and unsuccessfully continue to hide by getting married and have homosexual secret liaisons with men and feel terrible guilt in doing so. They will do their very best to compartmentalize their lives and be successful at it for awhile but not forever. However I believe and have found while researching my book that the longer one stays in the closet the more damage is done. It is generally very difficult to compartmentalize ones life for long without some emotional problems developing in varying degrees and manifesting in a variety of ways. Many closeted men develop coping mechanisms such as addictive behaviors of all sorts whether they are alcoholism, prescription or non prescription drug abuse. They may develop addictions to pornography, sexual addiction or other self-destructive ways of acting out. Once again unfortunately the longer one stays in the closet there will then also generally be more victims because of their closeted lifestyle choice. This is the only place where the word choice can be used correctly within the context of this subject. They can either “choose” to live in the closet or “choose” to live out their truth of who they really are. The victims may be their wives and children, their friends, parents and siblings. All feeling like they have been betrayed and deceived when the closeted individuals true nature is discovered as it was for ex-governor of New Jersey, Mr. McGreevy, ex-congressmen Foley and now the president of the Evangelicals, to name just a few of the staggering number of men that have also been hiding their true selves. I feel very sad for the victims as well as I very much understand the humiliation, despair, and profound depression that the closeted individual feels that soon follows once that door to the closet is flung open. For some, the shame and fear is just too unbearable and suicide seems like the only alternative to ending their unbearable pain and shame.
Society needs to take some responsibility with this matter of the closet by being more accepting of alternative lifestyles. Without the closet, try and imagine how much less pain many people and families would have to endure. Not only the ones that feel that living in the closet is their only alternative, but for the victims that find themselves feeling betrayed and the breaking up of families that soon follows. We as a culture have some soul searching to do on this matter and not be so self-righteous. There are a variety of ways of loving and living. We need to accept the fact, that which seems to be normal for some is not necessarily normal for all. However, as I said the closet can cause deep and very troubling emotional problems that can eventually manifest in abhorrent behaviors. Unfortunately homosexuality is still frowned upon by many in American culture, which in turn renders same sex marriage completely out of the realm of possibilities for especially the conservative religious right.
For gays that feel the need to come to terms with their same sex attractions, I generally do not recommend discussing these issues with clergy. The reason I feel this way is because it can cause further damage due to their religious agendas which can deepen one's guilt, shame and depression. This is a very complicated issue that society has to become more compassionate about. If we do not, we will continue to shame many people with same sex attractions enough that will perpetuate their confusion. It will also inhibit many from being true to themselves from the beginning and also prevent them from seeking the appropriate help for any specific personal issues in which they may be struggling with.