Posts tagged ‘closets’

October 11, 2011

Closet Imperialism

I was reading about Sean Maher’s coming out today, which I think is super awesome because it appears to mean a great deal to him and pop culture homos are necessary (role models, etc.).

I was, again, irritated at the framing of the discussion. Mainly that he wanted to come out of the closet because he felt dishonest and didn’t want his children to learn shame. I always find it interesting the difference I hear in these narratives between people of colour and white people. White people always talk about coming out in this way. It is always about letting their families know who they really are (whatever that means). It is always about being honest. Being true to yourself. That being closeted is an expression of shame. Whereas queers of colour will tell me that they don’t want to distress their family with unnecessary details about their personal life. Right or wrong, they are privilege their family’s unity and peace over their own needs. It is the kind of filial collectivism that flies in the face of Western, ‘fuck everyone else’ notions of individualism.


Few people seem to realize that this is a white, Western narrative. That the framing of this issue is imperialist and might be rejected by someone like me, a queer of colour. I agree with the basic premise that no person should live with shame. Except so many people shame people in the closet for being dishonest. Everyone has the right to negotiate the world in their own way, at their own level of safety and comfort.

This shaming and closet imperialism is especially damaging to people of colour, who must navigate multiple sites of oppression and are disproportionately impacted by homo-hating. I’ve talked to a few comrades who’ve talked about the agony the *pressure* to come out gives them: they feel as if they must to satisfy some arbitrary (and American) notion of honesty and pride. They get told this by a community that continually demeans their communities (look at gay criticisms of Black people and Black churches during the Prop 8 fiasco).

For those people who do not exist in the American cultural sphere: you do not have to accept this narrative of the closet. You do not have to understand your life in this way.

I reject this imperialist notion of that it means to be queer. I reject the white dichotomy of being in/out of the closet. This is not (and was not) my lived experience. I reject the normative, ethical valuations of whether or not I disclose my sexuality or gender to the people in my life. Basically, I reject any and all attempts of white people to colonize my mind, my sexuality, my gender, and my sense of self.

(note: if, at the end of this all, you are wondering whether or not I’m out, you’ve missed the point. I was never *in* a closet, thus I never had to come *out* of one. I also want to make it clear that the sort of thing I’m talking about is not a license for those guys who want the straight lifestyle but the gay sex without the knowledge and consent of their partners — I’m looking at all the middle-aged white guys who tried to get me to be their little Asian ladyboy on the side. The point of what I’ve been trying to say is that living with honesty and integrity is *not* wedded to the notion of being out. They are not the same thing.)

** This post was scheduled for later, but it turns out that today is national coming out day, so here it is! **