Closets need air, yet we don’t always make time to open them! And of course, sometimes we feel as if we can’t find the key to the door.
This is often the experience of lesbian, gay or bisexual people because of the way that heterosexuality dominates sexual identity in our culture. As a result, the majority of role models, positive images, and messages from the media and educators tend to have a heterosexual orientation. Individuals attracted to people of the same sex often have little support or affirmation in forming or consolidating their sexual identity.
People who are ‘in the closet’ or not ‘out’ often describe feeling that they are living a lie and masking their true identity. For example:
Imagine being a gay man in the lunchroom at work when co-workers are talking about all the fun they had during the weekend, and feeling that you cannot share what you did with your partner. You are likely to remain quiet and hope no one notices.
Keeping quiet about our sexual orientation can cause a great deal of stress and take up a lot of energy. For example:
A lesbian who is ‘in the closet’ may be asked if she is dating anyone and how her weekend date went. In reply, she may replace “she” with “he” in conversations so that no one will suspect that she is dating another woman.
Some ideas on coming out and other disclosures The hope for lesbian, gay and bisexual people is that ‘coming out’ frees them of considerable personal stress. Specifically, a healthy and positive gay/lesbian identity often ties in with better overall mental health and higher self-esteem:
- A closeted person may feel that they are drifting further and further apart from their family members or close friends because they are unable to share this important aspect of their lives.
- A person in the process of coming out usually finds that this is a way for them to narrow the ever-widening gaps in their relationships. They often say that their coming out helps them live with integrity and feel closer to the people around them. Also, coming out is a way of reducing anxiety and removing shame that is often closely tied to secrecy.
- Triangle Project