By Jessie McAskill
When I began thinking about how I actually ended up “coming out” I realized that term just doesn’t apply to me. I feel more like I was playing hide and seek, waiting quietly for someone to find me in my dads closet while I played with his ties. Sure, I would crack the door open to let a little light in but just when my eyes started to adjust, I would slam it shut again and continue to wait with that nervous excited feeling that makes you feel like your breathing really loud.I remember in middle school at one point thinking about the possibility that the feelings I had toward some women were not entirely platonic, but true to form I rebuked myself and slammed that door shut again in a way that I’m sure made a loud enough noise to give me away. My justification for the feelings I had was that I wanted to emulate them, to be their best friend, to incorporate them somehow into my existence. Why this led me to further believe that I was not gay remains questionable.
When I was a sophomore in high school I transferred out of the school system I had been in for nine years and went to a small Catholic school outside of town. I entered high school and for the first time I was a new kid. I forced myself to make friends and about two months in I met the person who would finally catch me peeking out of the crack in the door. By spring of that year I was in a situation with another girl. I use the word “situation” because “relationship” seems as though it should be reserved for legitimate entities. We snuck around in private, we fought, we made up, we made out, and we were in love. Yet, instead of being the person who I thought would pull me out of the closet, she climbed in with me and leached off my hiding spot. There we were together. Waiting.
What I didn’t know at the time was that in that space we were digging ourselves deeper into a completely unnecessary shame. For three years we did this. I felt tortured and lonely and guilt- wracked. There was no escape. While we had been doing all the things that couples do for a very long time, neither of us could fully admit to others or ourselves that we were not straight. At this point, we had built a fort in the closet and locked ourselves in.
We eventually went our separate ways to separate colleges but remain friends. Individually we each began exploring our options. Much to surprise (and I must admit, dismay) she had a new girl in her life within a month of being at school that she went on to have a proud and open relationship with. I had a harder time, but I learned how to have those awkward conversations that I had been so eager to avoid. I told my parents who were not surprised and really not all that concerned. I stumbled around my first couple years and eventually figured out that yes, I am gay and I owed it to my friends and family to prove me wrong about how they would react. They all did. All the shame that I built my fortress out of leaked from under the crack of the door and when I finally took hold of the handle myself and opened it I found that I had been shutting out my happiness, the people who I love, and any chance at all of getting laid. I had become a stranger to myself, living in darkness, wanting someone else to force me to do what only I could do.
After going through that experience I find that it’s time for me to pick myself up and fight for the ones who can’t crack the door open. GLBT inequality leads to shame and fear, which leads to violence and self-harm. I’m speaking up with the hope that my muffled voice might penetrate the ears of those who find themselves buried in dark spaces afraid of the light. I’m speaking up in order to sway the minds of those who would wish to turn out that light of hope forever. All of us on this side of the door bear that responsibility to the ones who aren’t.