It’s Lonely Inside The Closet Where People Go To Hide

By: Christopher Donaldson

Caught between a secret and a closet door? Well, don’t entertain suspicion to the point of exhaustion. Instead, come stand proud with the rest of us for National Coming Out Day — October 11, 2012 — and show the world, once and for all, that you’re worth seeing.

National Coming Out Day was first established in 1988 by  Psychologist Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary, (a former nun), to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the March on Washington--the “largest gay and lesbian gathering of its time"--which saw between 200,000 to 600,000 protestors stand up against anti-gay discrimination and the federal government’s weak response to the 1980s AIDS crisis.

25 years later, the list of openly gay men and women is long, but there’re a lot more of you out there worth mentioning. Even U.S. Representative Barney Frank knows that. Here, he remembers when he became the first congressman to come out on his own (The Advocate, November 2002):

"Reaction to my coming-out helped me grasp two important points. First, most Americans aren't homophobic; they just think they're supposed to be. Second, concealing our sexual orientation helps keep straight people ignorant of the personal and social costs of homophobia.

As word began to circulate early in 1987 that I was thinking about finally telling people the truth about my sexuality, many of the most liberal members of Congress tried to dissuade me. They were convinced that it would diminish my effectiveness. I did not disagree, but I explained that I could no longer live the semi-crazed, semi-secret life of the closet.

Fortunately, that pessimism was wrong. Neither my colleagues nor my constituents cared much more about my sexuality than I did about theirs. The point was confirmed to me in a poll. When asked if they thought I would suffer political damage because I had been honest about my sexuality, 44% of the people in my district said yes. But to the next question--Would you personally be less likely to vote for him now that you know this?--only 22% agreed. This confirmed what many of us learned in coming out to people who assured us that they didn't care but warned us that others would. Many straight people who were not homophobic thought that most others were. Our coming-out helped inform them.

Two and a half years after I voluntarily acknowledged being gay, a hustler with whom I had been involved tried to become rich, not only by publicizing our relationship but by luridly fictionalizing it. I was able to deal with the fictional parts by refuting them in front of the House Ethics Committee. As to what I had done wrong--paying him for sex--I noted that trying to live a closeted life while being publicly prominent proved to be emotionally, physically, and in every other way more difficult than I had anticipated, resulting in extreme emotional stupidity.

To my pleasant surprise, this not only led people to be more forgiving, it helped them understand why I felt the need to come out. Thus I found that my explaining--not justifying--my involvement with a hustler by confessing how screwed up I had made myself by staying in the closet was, for many straight people, a good argument for truth in sexuality."