Thought Catalog

Why Gay Men Stay In The Closet

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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!” TC mark

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    • seriously

      …or they might actually be straight? I’m guessing it would be annoying and close-minded to assume their gay–equally so to assume they’re straight. As Seuss would say, “no one is you-er than you”, maybe take their word for it instead of deciding you know more about them then they do?

      • Ryan O'Connell

        I’m not going around assuming everyone is gay. TRUST. This article is written from the things I’ve experienced with actual closeted men in metropolitan cities. 

        • guesst

          hear hear

        • Anonymous

          And seriously, this ain’t government policy he’s writing about. It’s a silly TC article. Guess what, you don’t have to subscribe to everything you heard in liberal arts college queer studies class.

    • zoe

      as a heterosexual female, perhaps you are a better authority on who just must be gay and who must not be.  however, i can’t help but feel that just because a male is working in the entertainment/fashion/whatever industry in a big metropolitan area does not mean he must be gay–which the black and white nature of your piece kind of sort of implies.  i agree with “seriously”…maybe leave the whole determining his sexual orientation thing up to that individual?

      • zoe

        ***as a heterosexual female, perhaps you are a better authority on who just must be gay and who must not be than i.

    • eh

      You are totally right about the prevalence and pervasiveness of closet cases… I’m constantly shocked by how many there are.

      With that said, I wish this dug a little deeper–I was waiting for a deeper revelation than “male-male intimacy is challenging.” Um, duh it is.

    • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

      I spend a lot of time feeling that way about more than half of the self-proclaimed straight male population in NYC. If you think it’s hard being part of their team & watching them do that, imagine being the girl they try to flirt with. Nothing makes you feel like a less-than desirable woman like being hit on by a guy unwilling to take the leap that is hitting the C&B with his sometimes-boyfriend just yet.

      • rphl

        Ugh, exactly.

        What do you do when a man whose sexuality everyone is questioning is trying really hard to date you? Who wants to be that girl who wakes up one morning, years into the relationship, and has to hear that truth finally coming out? Or, worse, never hearing the truth come out but continuing to be with someone she doesn’t even know. It’s scary and if anyone has thoughts on this, please share.

        • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

          I can’t tell if this is one of those situations I’d hear from a girlfriend over coffee where she’d constantly be talking about “a friend” of hers with a similar issue when she was really talking about herself. Seems safe to assume you’re actively seeking advice, so here’s my two cents…

          Forget what anyone else feels/thinks/etc about your relationship; since when do most women pay attention to what their friends really think when it comes to dating, anyway? I think the only reason this ‘hypothetical’ female would be paying attention to their opinions is because she was already in doubt. And at that point, is there really anything he can do to convince her it’s not true?

      • http://twitter.com/fgg23 Francisco García

        If you’re that insecure about yourself, don’t blame the guy or your perception of HIS sexuality.

        • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

          See my response to the comment below this one. I have a pretty good handle on which dudes act like stereotypical gay men as opposed to which ones actually ARE. Appreciate your concern, though!

    • Sippycup

      Or maybe they’re just bisexual? But you’ll dismiss that possibility because we all know gays despise people who say they’re bi.

      • Wdeanis

        So whose stereotyping is more morally comfortable for you to deal with? Twat.

      • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

        Oh, the mythical beast known as the bisexual. When will you learn that’s the stuff of fairy tales?

        • http://twitter.com/lazypiratecat Capt. Jack Sparrow

          Um… as someone who enjoys sex and relationships with both men and women, I guess I have to admit to being the princess in that fairy tale. Now will someone bring me my Prince Charming or Cinderella? It really doesn’t matter which, kthnxbai.

        • Will

          Go do a bit of reading about the prevalence…no…dominance of bisexuality over homosexuality in all of our primate cousins and then come again and try and tell me that bisexuality is a ‘mythical beast’.  Idiot

    • http://twitter.com/atfreedom Andrew Freeman

      I definitely think this is one major factor. I’d known that I was sexually attracted to dudes for a long time before I reconciled that attraction with the formerly separate idealization of romance and love. Really, what did it for me was reading the now defunct blog Shades of Gray (http://shadesofgray.typepad.com/)… that dude really changed my life.

    • Jordan

      I liked this!  Much better than I expected.  I too thought ‘what if they’re not gay?’  But putting that thought aside, I think it’s a good point that actually embracing the real life, relationship aspects is hard.   Some straight people avoid it even without the added burden of homosexuality, so it must be much more difficult for gays to be open about it.

    • http://twitter.com/irinagonzalez Irina Gonzalez

      Although I’ve met my fair share of out & proud and closeted gay men, I’ve also met a fair amount of gay-seeming-straight-men. Just because a person embodies all of the traits of a gay male (say, works in a creative field, has only female friends, dresses well, is close with his mom, whatever else we all judge as “gay”- as two of my close friends “seem”) doesn’t actually mean he likes penis. Maybe he’s just metro or maybe he’s just naturally more feminine for whatever reason, but just as it’s unfair to assume why someone is closeted it’s also unfair to assume that someone is AUTOMATICALLY closeted because of XYZ outside factors. While I agree that maybe the guy could actually still not have accepted himself or just be bi (I’ve known some of these too), sexuality these days is a lot more open and a lot more complicated than gay vs straight or out vs closeted. We should give allowances for those that don’t fit into those boxes.

    • Stefan

      If “sexuality” is so personal, why are you writing an article claiming a voice of authority on the matter of Why Gay Men Stay In The Closet? Especially when your answer ultimately concludes with, and I paraphrase, “it’s none of our business!”
      The quickest path to accepting other people for how they are is to get over yourself.

    • Emily

      OR, Ryan, they might not be gay. By pigeonholing people into ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ by their job or the way they look, you are effectively saying that people cannot do what they want to do without being judged. Surely you should be just as supportive of those gay people remaining in the closet, as you are those who are out and proud – instead of chastising them?

    • Anikolas Ordorica

      I really don’t think you guys got the epigrammatic turn at the end, if you actually read the article you would not he was not being a prick! It is called rhetoric!

      • http://twitter.com/irinagonzalez Irina Gonzalez

        I think the fact that he doesn’t even consider that the guy in the denim cutoffs living in Chelsea may NOT be gay despite all appearances is what people have a problem with. Yes, coming out is difficult and being in a gay relationship is difficult, but being a straight man who dresses well and can never meet women because they always assume he’s gay is no piece of cake either. 

    • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

      Rye rye, you forgot to consider the men who were (like myself) raised in these major cities. To me, L.A. was not a place I was comfortable coming out in. I feared that people would always want to try and see WeHo in everything I did. As much as I love my WeHo brothers, that just isn’t me. Besides, as you mentioned, big cities like L.A. are places where one can literally become anything one would like to be. If someone wants to be a gay man fronting as a honkytonk heterosexual, why should we criticize  them and not the mother and daughter dou’s from Ohio who walk down The Grove dressed as their favorite Hollywood starlettes? Big cities are a huge fucking theatrical production. And I just want to play the role of Peter Pan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ivanavi Ivan Dutton

      you married her because she was the one person who knew you were gay all along.

      thats horrible. she’ll never know true love. Pure, genuine reciprocated love.

    • Andrew

      Ugh I wanted so much more from this. The stereotypes you so readily employ in your writing no doubt contribute to why men are afraid to leave the closet. I feel most sorry those who are masculine and unsuspected of being gay…

      • Greg

         You hit the nail on the head, Andrew.  No one ever talks about the stereotypes that the gay community itself perpetuates, or the outright hatred that is expressed between gay people because of difference in religious and political beliefs.  There are no doubt a lot of men like me who are conservative, masculine guys who are also attracted to other men.  But the most visible and outspoken representatives of the gay community, such as Dan Savage, routinely spit on the anything that even smacks of conservative beliefs or values.  And the gay masses  follow along like sheep.   I am not welcome in the gay community, because to hold conservative or religious views means I am full of “self-hate.”  Being married and living in the closet is thus often the best possible solution in a highly imperfect world.   I suspect this is true regardless of whether one lives in a small town or a major, gay-friendly city.   The attitudes of the gay community play as much a role in this phenomenon as the straight community.

    • http://twitter.com/fgg23 Francisco García

      This article is mean. I really don’t appreciate all the “he looks gay, so he obviously loves dick” prejudice. I mean, I think I get it. You were trying to be witty and funny. I’m sure it wasn’t your intention to sound all uppity and “pfft stupid closet cases, who understands them?!”, but you did. You say closet cases leave you all “oookaaaaayyy”, but that’s how this article left me. It wasn’t a nice read.

      Also, I don’t like the fact that you assume all closeted gays lie about it to people’s faces. Some people, myself included, just don’t see the point in discussing their sexuality with everyone. Some people say that’s being closeted, others just have different concepts of what their private life is. Unless you’re an unfortunate French man, “Gay” doesn’t have to be your middle name.

    • JW

      “You move here to break away from your conservative upbringing and live your life exactly how you want.”

      THIS. My next 3-4 years will be spent working towards this goal.

    • Mark

      I’m in the closet and it’s ruining my life. I find myself attracted to my straight friends and don’t like gay culture at all. So the result is I’m lonely and miserable.

      • Guest

        easy solution..get them drunk and do the deed.

    • Nospam

      Gays in the closet may be gay around everybody they know but just can’t come out to one guy. 

      That’s the one they love.

      • Dan

         That’s profound, and I think, true. Sad.

    • Erichf

      wish someone would help me come out of the closet

    • Nelbell40

      What can you do to help him be himself aand come out?

    • Big Red

      The Internet has been taken over by gays. You would think 60% of America is queer, going by the amount of gay Websites and photos.

    • Zasha

      The truth is, we can never, ever know what is going on inside someones head, let alone answer the question “Who is Gay?” by looking. There re two types of closet gays, both of which express denial in complex ways. The first is someone who has known he is gay since youth, but has dated many women and eventually marries. He usually has male companions or even long term relationships on the side. Since he compartmentalizes his life in such a way, he can dissassociate one from the other. This usually works until he is middle aged and realizes he is miserable, has a long term addiction, and finally comes out, destroying the careful straight life he has constructed. Men like these often have a strong social image they need to protect, although not necesarily religious. The ability to compartmentalize and deny allows gay men to remain closeted in marriage, even those who serve in religious clergy. its about outward appearence, since its easier to pass as straight. Then second type simply does not know he is gay. He may not be able to understand his own feelings about sexuality and articulate them. this type may be slow to come around but it does happen. Being gay isnt really about moving to a big city and being real. Its a painful process for many people to shatter carefully constructed lives, peoples opinions, family expectations.

    • Guest

      IM IN THE CLOSET, I WANT TO COME OUT TO VENTURE, LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO SHOW ME THE ROPES.
      Josh Norton joshrocks2000@hotmail.com

    • http://spinningmarbles.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/3/ Spinning Marbles

      […] to know her even better, hold her hand and kiss her. Despite all of these, I am still hiding in the closet. Only those who I had illicit encounters know who I really I am. Confessions to any member of my […]

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