Please Let Me Out of the Closet
by Lucas Garcia (guest author) | University of Notre Dame
I promised myself, after a whole year of being unabashedly homosexual, that I would finally come out to my parents; after all, my brother knew, and I respect my parents’ intelligence enough to assume that they were just waiting for me to say the words.
True to form, I procrastinated, found reasons not to, and justified dragging my feet by telling myself that I wasn’t making a conscious effort to hide it, other than not mentioning it at all. My parents were used to me not talking about my love life, and whenever my uncle asked if I had a girlfriend I responded with a firm shake of the head and rather loud “Nope!” as if daring them to ask me whether or not I had a boyfriend, which I would have responded to with a quieter, more dejected “Nope…”. I suppose that’s where this nagging feeling of frustration at having to go through with it all started.
Needless to say, it had been a quietly malignant splinter, the type that only pokes when you move a certain way, all summer until Anderson Cooper chose to confirm America’s suspicion that he was gay. Among the many legitimate questions as to who would be man enough to catch CNN’s silver fox came the question: why should Cooper, or anyone else, feel compelled to come out?
We currently live in a society where a non-heterosexual relationship or lifestyle is still considered “alternative,” where LGBTQ people do not have the right to marriage equality, and where LGBTQ people feel compelled to “come out.” I believe that these cultural norms, and more importantly, the institution of the closet, are detrimental to the fight for equality for LGBTQ people.
The closet is something that is forced upon a non-heterosexual person, a societal construct that indicates that the heterosexual majority still does not have full acceptance of LGBTQ persons and lifestyles. The closet is not the manifestation of denial or fear on the part of an LGBTQ person, but rather the response to the treatment of LGBTQ people at the hands of the heterosexual majority.
I was not afraid to admit to myself that I was queer because I inherently felt that there was something wrong with me; I had been cultured and raised, not necessarily by my parents mind you, to think that femininity and homosexuality were things to be afraid of, things that were wrong, things that would cause me to be ostracized. I have grown up in a world that has told me all my life that I am different, and that I’m not part of the majority. I’m sick of it, really.
Rewind three months; the University of Notre Dame once again defers the decision on the official recognition of ND’s Gay-Straight alliance, Alliance ND, and this only a short time after its announcement that it will not add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination clause. My coming out and these official positions are connected, however dubiously, by the concept of the closet.
The closet at Notre Dame functions much like it does elsewhere, in that it allows the University, and its student body, to keep the LGBTQ members of its family at arm’s length. The campus isn’t as blatantly hostile as it used to be, but still the closet is institutionalized. Legitimacy is the first step towards equality and acceptance, and the University has not provided legitimacy to its LGBTQ students. Oftentimes, students made aware of the problems at the university confess that they didn’t think there would be an LGBTQ population at Notre Dame.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love ND, and I am proud to be part of the Fighting Irish. I do feel, however, as part of the ND family and all, that I and other LGBTQ students have a certain right to question and criticize the injustice that still occurs at the University. I’m not expecting a massive cultural shift to occur overnight. I believe that if institutions like Notre Dame affirm the identity of its LGBTQ students, then they will not only become part of the movement towards human equality, but will also help to end the prevalence and acceptance of the closet as a societal norm.
The truth is, I shouldn’t have to come out, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not going to. The way I reason, I’m not in denial anymore, but I’m willing to bet that my parents might be. Not once have they ever asked me, “do you have a boyfriend? Have you met a guy at school?” Granted, parents are taught not to push the subject, but that time is passing.
It is time for the closet culture to end and for full acceptance to take its place. I am not advocating for LGBTQ youth to stay in the throes of denial; rather, I am advocating for parents, teachers, administrators and politicians to stop proliferating a culture in which LGBTQ youth feel they must deny themselves. In other words, it’d be great if everyone would please not shove us in the closet.