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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The self-destruction that accompanies closet life

Part 6 of The Harmful Effects of the Closet

Preamble to each post: There is no doubt that "the closet" is the most harmful result of continuing to deny LGBTs a legitimate and equal place in society. By not acknowledging them, heterosexuals force them into hiding. The results are often catastrophic. What is also not in doubt is that the closet is of heterosexual making. Rather than wag our fingers and preach our condemning sermons, we should be doing all we can to eliminate this despicable situation. For a simple fact remains: if we eliminate the closet, we eliminate all those things that we negatively associate with gayness. Even better, LGBTs are freed from the inhumanity of closet life. 

"The degree and kind of a man's sexuality reach up into the ultimate pinnacle of his spirit."   ~  Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

According to the gay bloggers at Revel & Riot
A closeted person is someone who has gay relationships, but hides that fact from everyone that they know and love. In Beyond the Closet; The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life, being in the closet is described as a “life-shaping pattern of concealment.” Being closeted is linked with high-anxiety, low self-esteem, increased risk for suicide and general lack of fulfillment (though closeted people rarely admit to not being fulfilled while they’re in there, though they always remark about it when they finally come out!)
David Van Leer characterized it as, "The Beast of the Closet,"  (Critical Inquiry 15 (1989) and you don't want to be confined in a small space with a beast.

I don't mean to be judgmental, but in stark terms to live in the closet is to live a lie.  It is to live deceitfully.  It is to be forced to deny one's true self, and to deny oneself the integrity that only comes from living in the open.  Readers of this blog know that I do not place the blame on those who feel the closet is their only option.  Rather, the blame is squarely on those who make life so miserable for some that they are convinced that life in the open is too risky, even life threatening.

Dr. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute think tank at UCLA, describes the closet this way: "My personal definition of the closet is... pathological, as it is associated with discordance in people’s lives between they behave or how they feel. In this case, the closet is not the discordance, per se, but rather the pathology that the discordance creates."  Gates is no homophobe; he lives an out gay life.  His concern is for those caught up in the pathology that the closet creates and what to do about it. 

In its extreme form, pathology results from years of what Dr. Jack Dresher calls dissociation. This is the result of a perceived lack of "[T]ransparency, invisibility, losing one’s voice, being an outsider, etc., are some of the terms used to describe the subjective experience of dissociative detachment." (Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man)  In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict. This leads to LGBTs inability to be themselves, and their true selves disappear into a public facade. Feelings of insignificance caused by their inability to express their true feelings, leads to very low self-esteem. This may culminate in deep depression that can lead to suicide in the most severe cases.

Did you know that there is such a thing as a "self-loathing gay"?  No wonder.  If your world was filled with messages of inferiority, threats, degrading insults, religious denunciations, and the like, you might not have a very high opinion of yourself, either.  And recent studies show that often homophobics are actually closeted gays.  Through the coping mechanism of projection, a person subconsciously denies his or her own negative attributes and ascribes them to others.  

Jesus' insistence that we love our neighbors as ourselves must mean that straight Christians cannot tolerate the existence of the closet.  No one in the closet has a chance to love themselves in a healthy way.  Even if self-protection is a form of self-care, it falls very short of ultimate self-respect and full human dignity.  Even so, as a straight man I have no standing to say that all LGBTs must come out.  I can only urge you, for your sake and for all our sakes, to give coming out serious consideration.

This ends the series on The Harmful Effects of the Closet

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