Queer Visibility: Can there be power in the closet?

Jan 04, 2012 @ 12:43 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 3 Comments

There is no doubt that sexuality is on a continuum. Since 1948, we have been using the Kinsey scale and have empirical evidence that sexual orientation  is not black and white.With that said, it is safe to assert that sexual visibility is also on a continuum. Gay culture is blending more within mainstream heteronormative culture. This blend is being both legislated and happening organically on its own. With all the queer visibility we see in the United States in our celebrities, musicians, authors, poets, anchor men, congressmen, and in our television shows for some of us if we are not careful, we may assume that all gay persons are out. We may also come to believe that there is no need for the term or the practice of living in the closet in 2012. Lest we forget that homosexuality is still not accepted in hip-hop, many Black mega churches, the GOP or in many families/cultures etc. In today’s post I’m interviewing such a person. A woman who is living in the closet, but who is surely not withering away in the closet. Due to her privacy, I will refer to her as the “Black Irish,” which is indicative of her ancestry.

Black Irish is a very good friend of mine, who was more than happy to grant me this interview. Her and I speak extensively about queer visibility and if it is a luxury or necessity for every gay man and woman.Black Irish operates on a need-to-know basis in reference to her sexuality, if you need to know then you will know. This is the account of our conversation:

TFG: Why are you in the closet?

Black Irish: There are lots of reasons, the main one I’m afraid of how my family will react to it. I’m afraid that maybe, I will not have the type of relationship that I have with them now. It’s not just family in general, I don’t want to become a leper!

TFG:  Is visibility important in your life? Do you aspire to be visible one day?

Black Irish: It is an ideal. I don’t believe that I can be accepted 100% by the people, I want to be accepted by. It’s not that I want to be defined in any way by my sexual preference or orientation. I want that to be as okay, as if I had a weird toe or a bum knee. So I would like too, but I don’t want to go through that in between phase that initial mayhem. But I think eventually the person that I want to come out to the most will eventually get over it but, there’s so much between now and getting over it, that would take place. I’m not sure that I want that type of emotional stress and upheaval

TFG: Do you think there can be power in the closet?

Black Irish: I think it depends on who you are. There is power, but the power can crush you. How so?” More than anything else you have an immense control over what people know. You have the ability to filter very specific information. Because it’s not what you think it’s what you know. If you don’t validate someone’s thoughts then there’s some level of fluidity to it whereas, if you say yes this is true, it becomes concrete and you can’t undo it or change it. If you’re comfortable with compartmentalizing then I think the closet is the most powerful place, but if one day you just want to exhale and not be afraid of lives being crossed and letting story lines intermingle then there’s no power, it traps you.

TFG: How do you identify?

Black Irish: I don’t like being boxed in. This is my biggest pet peeve, which is why I have an issue with being in the closet. I don’t like for people to impose things on me, so I’d like to say whereas of recently, latent butch or stud. I’ve found comfort in stem because, I think it closely identifies, but even that is a title beyond what my name is, which I’d like to just be me. And if today, I feel like being the most notorious thug in my imagination that I ever could’ve conjured up then that’s cool, then tomorrow if I want to be a damsel in distress that should also be acceptable. So I am sexually attracted to both guys and girls, different kind of guy’s different kind of girls, but I am currently in a monogamous lesbian relationship that is my identity. Who is to say one day me and my boo might do something a little strange for a little piece of change (joke), but right now I’m comfortable with lesbian, for the purposes of the fact that I am in a female relationship, but even that feels limiting. Because one day, I’d like to have sex with a man just to see what it is, but does that take my lesbian card away, does that make me less attracted to women, does that negate me somehow?TFG: So most people might label that bisexuality do you think that is a more apt title for you? Deep sigh…I mean…it can be. I feel like my sexuality is amorphous. I think it depends a lot on who I’m around and what type of energy, I’m getting from a specific person. I feel like there needs to be… like… a more macro title like polyamorous. I feel like I’m a very loving person and that I find beauty in most situations that people can’t and in most people that people don’t. So I’m a people person and it just depends on the energy of the other individual and you know sometimes, I’m a sapiosexual, but for the most part though, I’d say polyamorous or something that allots for various identities.

TFG: Has being in the closet hampered your dating life at all?

Black Irish: It has and it hasn’t. Earlier on it did, because there was a very palpable fear of somehow being found “out,” but in the recent years, I went away to college and even the closetedness hampered me in some extent there, but I’ve found an area where I’m comfortable. So when I think about dating now, I’m like I don’t give a fuck who finds out about anything. I’m not going to waste my youth, waste the fun, and waste the exploration because I’m afraid. And so I’ve gone out with different folks none of them really hit, they did not do anything for me, but I still went. I still enjoyed what it was for what it was. So it did a lot, I felt super suppressed in my teenage years and my earlier 20’s, but since I’ve left college, I feel like I’ve gone through a personal revolution. I’m not going to not go towards the things, I’m going towards or the people I’m going towards. I’m going to do what I want to do and if at the end of the day, I’m “caught” or found “out,” then I’ll just deal with it that’s just a part of it. It doesn’t mean that the fear isn’t gone it just means, I’m much more willing to face what I feel is the inevitable, then I once was.

TFG:  The gay community as a whole has made many strides and gains in 2011. There is the repeal of DADT New York now allows gay marriage things that show that gay life and gay culture is being accepted into mainstream culture. There are lots of gay folks who are going to read this blog and they’re going to think that you are a coward and that you are riding on the coattails of those who are out and proud and who are being openly discriminated against, so that you can you find the “power in the closet.” What do you want to say in your closing remarks? What do you think is important for gays and non-gays to understand about the closet because the closet comes with lots of negative connotations that you’re not “real,” when you’re in the closet and that you’re not comfortable when your in the closet and that you’re trying to intellectualize your gay away. What do you want to share in that respect?

Black Irish: I think this notion of everyone needs to wave the flag or go to the fair or do anything and it needs to be visible in order to be part of a community is fraudulent. I think it’s fraudulent. I think everyone’s life has different circumstances and because we come from a certain place that may not have been the best upbringing, but yet you found a way to accept yourself then you want to march, then I think that’s awesome, that you feel that is what you need to do to be self-actualized. But everyone’s circumstances are different. Financial circumstances are different, social boundaries are different there are places where being out can get you killed and that’s not in some foreign land, that’s in the U.S. that’s in the forward thinking country. I don’t think that I am in any sort of imminent danger from my family, but I don’t think that you need to risk life and limb. I think that you need to find a situation that’s conducive to your coming out, if you so choose to do so. Whose to say that because the world doesn’t know that you’re gay you don’t have a rainbow flag on your front lawn that your life was truncated in anyway? Whose to say you haven’t lived a full life?I think that everyone needs to do what they feel in their own time and make sure that their situation is one that supports your loud and proud identity. I know people who are my age(25), younger, older who don’t wear anything on their sleeves. There’s one lady that I admire quite a bit, who has to be 58- 60 been in a long-term relationship with her partner for the last 30 years, raised a kid, and helped raise a grand-kid. No flag and she’s not necessarily in the closet, but she’s not marching anywhere, she doesn’t have a rainbow this or a rainbow that. She’s lived a whole life. I’m living my life the best way, I know how, and I’m living it for me. I’m not living it for the people who don’t approve of my situation or my choices whether or not they themselves are gay.

There is no one way to be a woman, man, Black, white, gay, straight or other. Labels are great on perishable items, but on people they serve no real purpose. Revolution is always first and foremost a personal endeavor.Not all gay men or women are vying for assimilation, some are fiercely fighting for personal liberation. If a gay man or woman is not denying their true sexual selves and have found a way to balance their life in such way that pleases them and brings them peace ,whose closet are they really in their’s or ours?

Can there be power in the closet? Weigh in below.

Categories: Mind Over Chatter

3 Responses to “ Queer Visibility: Can there be power in the closet? ”

  1. While the interviewee had a few points, I still don’t see any power in staying in the closet. Her constant references to “no flag” and rocking rainbows seems like a bit of self hatred is seeping out of her pores. Who said that you have to rock rainbows or have a gay flag in your yard in order to be proud and unashamed of who you are?

    The fact that she is still afraid of how her family and friends would treat her if she comes out just makes her seem like another scared new lesbian and it totally invalidates there being power “in the closet”.

  2. I think there absolutely is power in the closet when I person has made an intentional decision to be there, on his/her own terms. Black Irish’s statement about controlling person information resonates strongly with me. At the end of the day, no one can tell anyone else if a decision to divulge personal information is an act of self-hatred or self-love. No one. Only one person knows that for sure.

    Thanks for this post.

  3. There is power in the closet. However, it is also a burden.

    There is power because the choice to remain invisible supports the opportunity for advancement that might not otherwise happen if one is visible. It is also a luxury vs. “visible minorities” who can’t keep their being a female or being Black in the closet.

    You can go to a job interview and the interviewer not know you’re gay, but you can’t hide that you’re a woman, or Black, or Latino, etc. To be fair, this is an advantage.

    It is on this basis that we see people gain jobs, promotions, stability, earning power, position and authority…and THEN come out.

    The burden is, staying in the closet is living half a life, since one can’t live fully in the open, and be one’s self with family, friends, etc. As a heterosexual person, I am sympathetic to that – it most assuredly is a burden.

    I’m working on an article that explores this idea further – there is a reason why it’s difficult to accept the struggle for gay rights as “the same” as the struggle for the rights of visible minorities.

    Of course, the goal is absolutely the same, for sure, and it’s right, but part of the visible minority struggle is the fact that they have no choice in presenting who they are for the world to see and can’t hide it in order to gain access, position and power to which their differences prevent access in the first place.


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