Why the World Needs Closet Monsters

Why the World Needs Closet Monsters

[September 3 2017]

During my early adolescence I was a quiet, artsy loner who wanted desperately to be noticed. I lived a lot in my head during those years, often fantasizing about what it would be like to be one of the popular kids. In reality, I had nothing in common with those kids that I blindly admired, but in my eyes their existence seemed far more charmed then mine.

In Grade 8 I finally got noticed but not in the way that I hoped. Some boys in my school decided that I was gay and the hate that they chose to shower down on me became truly unbearable. Now, at the time, I didn't identify as being gay, and hardly new what the term “fag” meant. All that I knew for sure was that if people hated “fags” so much, I would do everything in my power to be straight. As a result of being bullied, I became very homophobic. When my circumstances changed -around Grade 11- and I found my own supportive friends, I took every chance I could to distance myself from any and all things supposedly “gay”. You would think I would have remembered what it felt like to be marginalized, but I suppressed everything. With the zeal to become a new person, I turned my hatred for being called gay into a hatred for gay people and had no problem voicing that ignorant opinion. I am not proud of the person I was in high school.

It wasn’t until after university that I displaced my internalized homophobia and allowed myself to explore my sexuality. At first I felt like a hypocrite - which of course I was - but in order to heal and begin my journey to self-acceptance I had to forgive myself. I am truly sorry for the people that I have hurt and I pray that they in their own journey have forgiven me just as I have striven to forgive the people that once bullied me.

Needless to say, I had a lot of baggage to sort through before I could be honest with myself, and I wish I had had my own Closet Monster to help guide me through it all. Like so many gay people before me, I took the first step of my journey out of the closet by myself. And I went looking for other people like me. I went to gay-themed movies, bought gay lifestyle and erotica magazines, went to gay nightclubs, and had my first gay sexual experience. Through it all I could have used someone to talk with, someone to tell me it was going to work out. Instead, I waffled back and forth, one day accepting who I was only to deny it all the very next day. One of my familiar patterns was to hook up with some guy that I had met at a club on Friday and then spend the rest of the weekend, and most of the following week, hating myself for what I had done only to repeat the pattern a couple of weeks later. Although what I was doing was, in fact, no different at all from the tens of thousands of straight folks in Toronto living it up in their 20s, I had no one to tell me I had no reason to hate myself; no one to tell me it was okay to be gay and, sadly, no one to tell me to be safe.

Luckily, I made it through those years, and I thank God that everyday in my desperation to connect with someone, I didn’t go home with the wrong guy. Suppressing your sexuality for so long affects your judgment, and you don’t always make the best decisions once you have given yourself permission to acknowledge your true desires. It is hard to get the Genie back in the bottle once you have rubbed the lamp.

Being in the closet is a very lonely place to be and living as a “Friday night gay” is a horrible way to live. What I really longed for -back then- was a real connection but the shame I felt for being gay kept me from being with anyone for more than one night. I needed a Closet Monster to tell me that I was being stupid. I needed a Closet Monster to tell me that who I loved didn’t matter; all that mattered was that I loved.

Eventually, I couldn’t bear to live a lie anymore and, late one night on the phone with a friend, I decided to start living my life in truth. It took everything I had in me to say the words, but that night I told my friend that I was gay. Hearing the words come out of my mouth made it real and I realize now that I was coming out to myself as much as I was coming out to my friend.

After that night, one by one I told my other friends and, one by one, I began to build the support system I needed to live my life out and proud. Now most of my friends would probably tell you that I must be the inspiration for the central Closet Monster in my book, and, though there are parts of me in there, I confess to you now that he is an amalgamation of many people. The Closet Monster in my story is made up of all the friends that I told my secret to first; the ones that pushed me to be my true self, and it is my sincerest hope that they are flattered when they recognize themselves in him. I just wish I had the courage to have told them all sooner, recognizing their unconditional love early on would have made everything so much easier.

I want you all to know that I created the Closet Monster for those of you that are alone and struggling with your sexuality. I remember sitting on a park bench, on my way home from seeing a gay-themed movie one night and crying because I thought I would never come out like the characters I just saw on the screen. I remember what it is like to feel truly alone but I began a search that night for someone in my life that I could tell. My advice to you is to look for that one person in your life you can confide in, your Closet Monster, talking to that person will help clear the way to the life that you deserve.

Thank you to all of the real Closet Monsters in my life: Toni, Dave, Glen, Lisa, and Scottie. Without your support during those early years I would have never had the courage to become the man that I am today.

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