I think at this point, everyone is familiar with what coming out of the closet means. It’s when a person tells someone, their family, friends, etc. that they’re gay. Or pansexual. Or transgender. Or asexual. Or genderqueer. Or aromantic. It can be any number of things, but generally, it means getting up the courage to tell someone you care about that you’re not who they thought you were, a cisgender heterosexual.

Coming out can be terrifying for a lot of reasons. Maybe whoever you’re coming out to is very conservative and they might reject you. Maybe they don’t know what to think and they might simply dismiss you. Maybe they’re incredibly loving and supportive and you know that, but there’s still a tiny chance they could react badly.

Leaving the closet is hard, and it takes a lot of courage. It only takes a few simple words, but they’re words that change how people perceive you, forever. They don’t change who you are, not really, but to some people, they will. It’s impossible to predict how someone is going to react to such a conversation.

This kind of fear is not reserved for people who are not cissexual or cisgender. Lots of people are in the closet. Lots of people are afraid to come out. Almost everyone has secrets or hidden parts of their identity, things only the people closest to you know, maybe something only you know.

Maybe you’re depressed or suicidal.
Maybe you are struggling with an addiction.
Maybe you’re a die-hard Trump supporter in a liberal family or a Bernie supporter in a conservative one.
Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with an illness.
Maybe you’re an atheist, a Muslim, an agnostic.
Maybe you have an eating disorder.
Maybe your dreams don’t align with other people’s plans for you.
Maybe you have an opinion you’re too afraid to voice.

Whatever it is, everyone has a closet and some sort of secret inside it. It’s alright to keep secrets from some people. It’s ok to not share personal things with everyone. There’s a difference between keeping a secret and keeping one that feels like telling a lie.

Because the longer you stay in the closet, the harder it becomes to keep that secret hidden from people you care about. It’s stressful. It requires constant monitoring of words and actions, even facial expressions because the smallest mistake could give you away. It’s difficult to be on guard all the time, every waking moment. If you can’t let that secret be known, it becomes a gigantic burden.

The longer you wait, the heavier it gets. The longer you wait, the harder it can become to come out, because it’s just easier to stay in the closet. You already know how people react to who they think you are. Once they know, there’s no going back. Do they really need to know?

That’s not a question I can answer.

I can tell you that you are not alone. No matter what it is that keeps you in the closet, there are others struggling with the exact same thing. There are people who know what you’re going through.

I can tell you that having a secret doesn’t change who you are. Just because someone doesn’t know every single thing about you doesn’t mean that they don’t know you enough to love and respect you.

I can tell you that remaining in the closet is not cowardly. Sure, it sometimes feels like it’s the easy way out, but there is no easy way out in these situations. Nobody can tell you that you shouldn’t be in the closet anymore, or that you should just get it over with. That’s your decision to make when you feel safe and ready to do so. If that happens, great. If not, that’s still your choice and no one gets to judge you for it.