Dear Metaphorical Closet,
Yeah, I know how inane that sounds since you are not an actual closet. I'm not addressing this letter to a door that I've been staring at my entire life. Or maybe I am, who knows.
To the people who misunderstand what I mean, this all sounds so silly. But to me, you were a shelter. I hid between your four walls, seeking safety until I was able to peer through the cracks to see if the coast was clear. There was always a light that shined through the grooves and cracks that surrounded my little shelter. A light that called to me, asking me to surrender to it and accept the world around me, even if the world wasn't ready to accept me. But it has been hard to actually do so.
To step outside the confines of my own warmth and safety. My little hideaway... The closet.
You knew all of my secrets. You knew more about me than I knew about myself. You were a home for me to run to when things got too scary and too Intimidating. I would stare at your walls and tell myself that someday, I'd be strong enough to leave them. But who wants to leave the place that makes them feel safe? As long as I was with you, nothing bad could ever happen. You kept the parts of me that I found shameful hidden until I no longer was ashamed, and you continue to do so every day.
You weathered the storms for me. Kept me warm and dry, safe, and sound. Because that is just what you do. For millions of people like me, the people of the LGBTQ+, you were our comfort zone. But nothing ever grows in the comfort zone. Starved of the sunlight that shines down on us without shelter, we don't grow.
I could only stay with you for so long. You were both my shelter and my training wheels. You were the place I could run to when testing the waters wasn't going as planned. When I would hear the harmful and hurtful things people had to say, you always accepted me back into your comfort. You encouraged me, you held me, you protected me. You told me the door would open when I was ready to come out.
But me leaving you feels like a bird leaving the nest. There are only so many times that I can run back to you and pretend that I'm not who I am. But even in those times, you took me back in with welcoming arms.
To me, you are an old friend. One whom I have known since the beginning of my time. I have left you many times but I have yet to shut the door for good. I guess I was afraid that if I closed it, you wouldn't welcome me back. I would be forced to feel alone in a scary world before I was truly ready to talk about who I am.
But as I grow, you don't grow with me. The walls become smaller as I grow taller.
Time passes and the walls cave in and I'm becoming claustrophobic. Life is moving faster and I can't keep up because now I am confined. I'm unable to grow and spread my wings if I stay here with you, in our little place away from the world.
I'll miss you, believe it or not. The late nights I spent staring at your walls while you convinced me to think of the 'what if's' because as long as I was with you, those 'what if's' couldn't hurt me. Some nights, you'd talk back to me. You would tell me that you'd keep me safe for as long as I needed. You'd never abandon me as long as I never abandoned you.
You helped me rehearse my speech in my head over and over, preparing for the day when I would finally step out and say the words that have been sitting on my chest— "I'm not straight."
You held my hand while I went on a journey to find my identity. I was afraid to leave you behind until I was certain of a fitting label for myself, but you reminded me that no label was needed. I am who I am, and you held me until I was okay with that. To this day, I'm still learning to be okay with that. I realized that if I were to wait until I was 100% proud and certain of myself, I would never leave you. But you and I both know that isn't a life to live. Instead of waiting for the right label, you reminded me that it's okay to just say that I'm 'not straight' and move on. Labels are overrated anyway. I am who I am, no matter who I like or don't like.
Because we also both know that even when you are warm and cozy, you can also be dark and lonely. To hear the sounds of laughter and carefree life on the other side of your walls, you and I both understand that I couldn't experience that if I was still spending all of my time with you. I couldn't live life while waiting for the right time to tell the people closest to me about who I am.
Even though saying farewell to you is difficult, I know that you'll always be around. I know that leaving you once is never the deal. I'll need to leave you over and over again because everyone assumes you don't even exist for me in the first place. Each time, I will brace myself for their reaction and prepare myself to run back to you.
My only hope is that I won't need to.
That the time I have spent with you was long enough for me to keep going no matter what is said to me or done to me, it will have been enough time that I can handle those things.
I fear judgment, and nobody knows that quite like you do. I fear rejection and disownment, I fear the millions of things that you have kept me safe from. I fear that because I am stepping away from you and owning my self, people will look at me differently. As if I am suddenly someone else in their eyes, even when I've always been the very person they have known through it all. Nothing changed, I didn't go through a phase, the truth about me was just sheltered from the people I care about. Your shelter left them blind to my identity, allowing their assumptions to sit with them soundly while they went about their lives.
Closet, I spoke to you about everything. The fear of being turned away from my Lord and my church even though God made me into who I am, including my orientation. I was afraid of being told that I was swimming in hypocrisy while I lived by the Bible and yet continued to accept my own identity. In some ways, their words got to me. I believed them, I thought maybe I was an abomination and that I deserved what the hateful people told me was coming for me. It's hard to listen to God telling me that I am his masterpiece while others are telling me that I am his greatest mistake.
But I know that God loves me because he tells me that every single day.
I have danced around the words spoken to my friends and family about who I am. I have told them in various different ways but never face to face. Speaking my truth to them made me feel as if I was burning your walls down. That your comfortable sanctuary would be gone for good. Even when they have accepted me and promised they still loved me, I still could barely speak about it. I bottled it up, tried to avoid any sort of conversation about who I am or who I love.
I want that to go away. I want to rip the bandaid off once and for all.
I want to fear things other than rejection upon my identity; or better yet, I want no fear at all. But for as long as I will want that, it will only come unless I leave you, my dear friend. I need to clear space in my head, cleanse myself of whatever is unnecessary and it is unnecessary to be stuck within your confines any longer. Oh, sweet closet, I will miss your warmth but I must move on. My bags have been packed for ages yet I haven't worked up the courage to leave. I can't be stuck anymore, not even with my oldest friend.
I will be eternally grateful for all you have provided me. You've given me a safe place to look in the mirror and learn to understand the lines on my face and the stitches of my soul. You allowed me the peace and quiet I needed to dig deep within myself and find out just who I am beyond the surface. No longer do I need to be afraid though. Now, I am able to accept who I am without needing shelter. I can handle to heartbreak and the hateful words thrown at me. Sticks and stones may break my bones but their words will never change me. Their hatred will never evolve me into anything other than a more true form of who I am. I will not cower at the face of those telling me to burn for who I am. My skin is too thick to feel the heat of their detest. I owe that to you, closet, for you have protected me from the flame.
In some words or others I am not coming out, but I am coming home. A new home, one that is hosted by the world rather than my own fear of myself.
A home built on the solid foundation of knowing who I am and choosing not to turn it away from everyone in the fear that they will see me. To see my true self, one without hiding by the guise of social acceptance. I need to be me. My authentic, whole, and honest self.
Dear closet, I'm coming out.