Coming out of the closet is difficult. You’re forced to examine aspects of yourself that you had tried to ignore, change, and otherwise pretend didn’t exist. You have to open up to the ones that you love and come to terms with the relationships that you had before coming out would be forever changed.
Do you know what’s harder than coming out of the closet? Having your boyfriend tell you to go back in it. No, not the proverbial closet — when he asks you to hide in his actual closet so his friends won’t see that he’s hooking up with a dude.
Before judging me for having about as much self-respect as Nikki from this seasons Bachelor, let me try and explain how I got to this low point.
I grew up in Idaho and was raised in a conservative Republican home to a Mormon (LDS) family. My sexuality was something I struggled with for most of my adolescence. Coming to college was an eye opening experience and was the first time I was exposed to many things — alcohol, no religious affiliation, college dorms filled with hormone crazed freshman, and boys that hooked up with boys.
I say boys that hooked up with boys because for many on my small campus that’s how they identified. They didn’t see themselves as gay or bisexual or didn’t want to be identified in that community. They were just dudes that enjoyed other dudes. As someone who had never hooked up with another guy until my sophomore year of college, I thought I was fine taking a bite out of the “forbidden fruit(cake)” and enjoyed this newfound world of hooking up with men who would deny outright having ever so much as flirted with another man.
Looking back on it, I’m disappointed by my lack of self-esteem and dignity — but honey, let me tell you: in that moment, I felt as strong and powerful as Beyoncé. I was single and ready to mingle and was planning on making up all of my lost time until I met my first boyfriend.
I’ll call him boyfriend because we were in a monogamous relationship and would regularly go on dates (off campus, of course) and hang out with each other’s friends. Sleepovers happened pretty regularly and thanks to a hickey half the size of my neck, everyone on campus (including nosey but well-intentioned professors) knew that something was up.
He was the first boy to make me feel special. He was the first boy that invited me to sleep over and didn’t ask me to leave first thing in the morning. He was the first boy that didn’t use alcohol as an excuse to cover up his attractions to me. All my gays know that these are MAJOR achievements in a newly out individual’s life. Sure, I may have been a bit of a delusional dater, but for the first time in my life, I felt comfortable. I was so happy, I could have shouted it from the rooftops – except he asked me not to.
I’m a firm believer that sexuality is a personal thing and that you should be free to identify as whatever your little heart desires. I’ve never been a supporter of outing someone against their wishes and actively try to respect individuals’ self-identification. As time went on with the boy, however, I began to ask him why he hadn’t come out since behind closed doors, he had admitted that he identified as gay.
Cue the incident.
During a rather interactive viewing of Easy A, we heard a knock on his door followed by a phone call from one of his friends. A dorm room is not an easy place to hide in thanks to its tiny size but it is somehow large enough to lose your clothes in and be unable to find them in a moment of need. His friend wasn’t leaving and I wasn’t about to climb through his window. So he did the thing that any gentleman would do – he begged me to hide in his closet.
After a rather heated exchange, which thanks again to the dorm’s tiny size and flimsy walls, his friend realized that someone was staying over and naturally refused to leave before seeing who this mysterious individual was. Long story short, his friend got into the room and there I was, loud and proud and most decidedly out of the closet.
Although my friends would ultimately prove to be right in their criticisms of him, he proved to be a major turning point in my life. After our “break-up,” I recognized that I wasn’t be comfortable hooking up or dating individuals who wouldn’t acknowledge me or the role that I played in their life. I didn’t want to be someone’s experiment or have to lie, out rightly or by omission, about them.
It honestly took being asked to once again hide everything that I had struggled the last decade to come to terms with to lesson about self-respect and self-worth.
My dating life is far from perfect and there still isn’t a fairy tale ending in sight for me. My love life currently consists of a Snapchat boyfriend and the Ben & Jerry’s I have in the freezer. While my biological clock isn’t too happy with my current dating status, I’m at a place where I feel fully comfortable with my sexuality and the men that I see. Things are looking up and will never again involve a closet.