It is two in the morning and still I am awake. My husband and I watched the movie The Trip this evening. It is a powerful movie. Like the equally excellent Longtime Companion, it is a tale spread over many years. And perhaps this is where I am caught. There is a nexus here in the passage of time and the prison of the closet experience. The Closet in this context refers to an experience of shutting away who you are and hiding from others to protect yourself or your loved ones. It is very damaging.
There is so much loss involved. And pain. Perhaps this is what resonates with me from The Trip. The protagonist struggles with a strong closet experience that contributes to the loss and the tragic line of the story. How much have we lost over the years in an effort to maintain the closet walls? How deep is the fear we breathe in from our society? Consider the story of Ennis in Brokeback Mountain. When you think about the society that would produce a father who specifically brings his young boys to see a murdered and genitally mutilated body…
It is extreme, but do not consider it extreme based on your own life experience. It is not unrealistic. Consider the children rejected by their parents. Consider the bashings and violence that continue to this day.
The reasons for living in a closet are real. Hiding is often an effective option. It exacts a price, however. Hiding crushes love. Hiding limits opportunities. Hiding impoverishes lives. All our lives. Consider the way the twisting can damage people. Consider Roy Cohen or Jim West. These men hurt others in their effort to hide. In the case of Mr. Cohen, many others.
What do we do? How do we improve our society? How do we help our children? Educate yourself. Read about Bayard Rustin and many other famous men and women who have lived productive and happy lives. Speak of this with all our children. Tell the history of the Stonewall riots and the life of Harvey Milk. You don’t have to be focused on someone you suspect might be gay (a bad guessing game). Tell all your children. Tell all your colleagues. This will make the world a better place and in that safe space, the hiding will stop. People will be who they are and we will all be stronger for it.
This article originally published 6 February 2006 on Existential Ramble.Recovered thanks to the Way Back Machine.