Open Closet

by Demond Washington

As a gay man, feelings of cognitive dissonance have long been apart of my life. For those of you that are not psych majors, this means I become conflicted between my beliefs and how I should act in given situations.Β  This internal tension arises when deciding whether or not to open up or stay private. It’s a constant struggle having to figure out how open I can be depending on my social environment; although I’m actually out of the closet. At times, being out feels like an entirely new closet. A much bigger closet, but still a closet. I loathe having to continuously gauge the perception of straight people around me.

Openly expressing my homosexuality within my own family is an issue for me. Although they know that I’m gay, I’ve always taken care not to openly flaunt it in their faces. I’m an intensely private and introverted person, and yet I want to be able to bring a boyfriend home to meet them, without getting the weird side looks or silent judgement. I’m not at a place where I feel emotionally comfortable sharing with them. They are my family, but something keeps pulling me back.

When I came out five years ago, it was a shock to them. Regardless of the fact, I am not the only LGBTQ member of my family. I have a lesbian cousin who has been to family gatherings with her girlfriend, and my family doesn’t even bat an eye. I have an out and proud transgender cousin whose boldness and bravery in living her truth inspires me to no end. I wish I had her confidence. I’ve also had a bisexual cousin, and while he isn’t as explicitly open about his sexuality as the other two, he’s someone who has always been there for me when I needed someone to confide in. I’m very close with all of them, and I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without their guidance and support.

But it’s still frustrating to be the one LGBTQ member of my family who feels like they have to conceal being gay to be tolerated. I feel as though my introverted nature and general lack of openly expressing my sexuality was initially more of shock to my family than me being gay. My family seems to be accepting of me (the ones that are aware anyway), but how I express my homosexuality still feels like something that should be turned off or subdued for fear of seeming too effeminate.

I’ve just started revealing this side of myself to a group of newly acquainted gay and transgender friends in school. It’s exhilarating for me to be in this emotional space where I don’t feel my sexuality will be used against me or viewed as a weakness. I marched in the pride parade with UCF. I went out to a gay club. I’m involved with LGBTQ organizations on campus. In doing all of this, and trying to find my place within the gay community, I’ve slowly started to push towards feeling comfortable with myself about coming out to new friends and other family members in the future.

I am who I am.

I’m making no apologies for it. In sharing my story with all of you, I hope it helps shatter the closet doors and stand up to the toughest resistance.