Although I grew up in a small beach town in Southern California, I have lived my young adult life solely in major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. It was never a choice I consciously made—I just understood that it was where gay guys go when they graduate from their small town high school, and I knew I wanted to be with my people instead of the closet cases in Ventura, California. Who could blame me, right? I was tired of hooking up with straight dudes. In a big city, I thought I wouldn’t have to encounter that issue ever again.
What I’ve discovered throughout the years, however, is that closeted gay men defy geography. They’re everywhere. They’re working in fashion in NYC, the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, doing…anything in San Francisco. When my friends and I meet someone who is so clearly a homosexual but claims to be straight, we’re always stunned. Because how could someone move to a city like New York and not be who they really are? That’s what living in this city is all about (at least that’s what the movies told us.) You move here to break away from your conservative upbringing and live your life exactly how you want.
If only being honest with yourself was so easily solved by purchasing a one-way ticket. My reaction to these closeted gay men is initially always confusion and judgement. I just want to scream, “WHHAAAAAT? I DON’T GET IT. You do fashion PR and you’re trying to convince me that you find Mila Kunis attractive? Okay, babe. Let’s try that.” Then I start to feel sad for this person and become genuinely curious about their decision to remain closeted. After all, why is this person still in the closet? What has made them brave enough to leave their hometown and move to a city full of homos but too scared to join them? You came all this way to get into the pool. Why aren’t you dipping your feet in?
The answer is simple yet complicated. To put it in the most digestible way, it’s hard for dudes to admit they like other dudes. It’s not so hard to admit that you find them attractive. However, it is difficult to see the same-sex as someone you would like to date and eventually get married to. I find it interesting how closeted gay men can have anonymous sex off the internet but when it comes to actually achieving real intimacy with a man, that’s when they freak out, that’s when they start to gush about Mila Kunis’ hot ass.
Maybe they had religious parents. Religion can always put a halt to being honest with yourself. Or maybe their parents were actually hippy dippy and way liberal. I’ve seen it happen both ways. I’ve known closeted dudes who come from the most liberal upbringing and still somehow reject their true self. They have everyone ready to welcome them with open arms and yet they still can’t come to terms with it. That’s because sexuality is so personal. Conservative parents, fear of disownment and religion definitely play a role in someone ‘s decision to remain in the closet. But at the end of the day, it’s all about whether or not that person can feel okay about loving another man. I’m not talking about random blowjobs, or putting your P in someone else’s A. For someone who’s in the closet, holding another guy’s hand and picking out furniture at Crate & Barrel is a far more intimate act than anal sex. Can they do that? Can the dude in fashion PR in NYC imagine himself doing that? No. That’s why he’s not out.
The next time I meet a closet case in NYC (it will probs be in the next 2.5 minutes. Seriously…), I have to remind myself how complicated and personal the relationship someone has with their sexuality can be. Instead of being a Judge Judy and wanting to push them out of the closet, I need to remember how scary it was to actually admit that I was gay. It’s not for us to understand why the guy in denim cutoffs who lives in Chelsea still wants us to believe he likes vagina. That’s his deal. Our job is just to nod and be like, “okaaaaayyyyy!”