Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Closet or Old Habits Die Hard

As you may know, I am "officially" all the way out of the closet, to both my family and my church.
You may not know, however, that this is rather more complicated than it sounds.

Anyone can tell you that after keeping something secret from people, or even just certain people, beginning to reveal that secret hardly "rolls off the tongue" no matter how much you would prefer otherwise. The well-ingrained instinct to smile and nod, make non-committal noises, or even outright lies leaps first to both our thoughts and actions. Before the conscious mind ever gets to interject, the habitual behaviors have already occurred, the old lie continued, the truth concealed once more, the friend deceived unnecessarily.

It's easier when you know it's coming, and it's easier one-on-one, but today was neither. While the choir was waiting to process into church, we often whisper to each other about our past week's activities while the children get their time with the priest before the service starts and they head off to Sunday school. After I mentioned being the only male in a certain group of friends in a different circle of my life, an older soprano (and a wonderful person I'm proud to call "friend") said "Ah! Well, that's not so bad, right?" conspiratorially laughing at the otherwise normal suggestion of my good fortune to be surrounded by women.

Full Stop.

So why's this so important? So she thinks I'm straight, and has every reason to think so: big deal. My sexuality doesn't effect her, right? Even if it did matter, I can always bring it up some other time, right?

Well, yes... and yet... still no. The problem isn't so much the information, it's the omission of it. She's a great person, and I'm sure would have no problem with my orientation in any way. By not having told her, and the others in my church, I have lied to them. True, it may be in a small way in the grand scheme of things, but it's still there. I have lied through omission, not correcting people when they assume my straightness, permitting them to misunderstand me when one word would have brought them into closer relationship with me. I really do not care one rat's ass whisker if some random schmo on the street knows that I like guys, but these are my friends. These are people with whom I sing and worship at least twice a week. These are people that I care about, and they care about me, people I've been trying very hard to build community with. And in that kind of community, there aren't secrets. Ok there are secrets, and plenty of them, and plenty more things that just don't matter... but this does matter. It matters to me to be understood correctly, to feel that the person I am being in this community is the real me. It matters to them, as sexual orientation is a major issue in the greater church today. And that moves it out from the category with "how often my sister and I fought as kids" or "my favorite color" or "how messy my apartment is" and into the category of "things you ought to know about me, because they effect large portions of my life, and my life and yours are connected in this community".

And so, when I don't say something, when I don't correct someone when the opportunity presents itself, I am putting up a barrier between us: I am saying "I am ashamed of this", I am saying "I don't want to be known by you", I am saying "we are not in full community". And that is sin, against myself, and against them, and against God who said we should be in community with one another in love.

And so coming out to my fellow Christians has been with the intent of finally bringing down that wall between us. A wall that only the most perceptive of them might ever even know is there, but is there nonetheless. A wall that I build higher and stronger every time I let it remain, brick by brick, increasing the likelihood of injury when it does come down.

When I responded to that soprano, that's exactly what I did. I smiled and nodded, laughing accordingly, letting her believe her sentiment had meaning for me. And I couldn't take it back. By the time I realized that there had been my chance to grow in relationship with her and the few others within earshot, it was gone and I had lied again, when I had promised myself not to do that anymore. *thwip, splat* the bricklayer places another brick... *thwip, splat*... *thwip, splat*
I couln't then pipe up, the moment was gone and speaking up then would have made it so awkward and have accomplished less than it ought to. *thwip, splat*

But it's ok, I suppose, because I will be given another chance, soon I hope.

*thwip, splat*

In Christ,

1 comment:

Deven said...

I know the feeling of missed opportunities all too well. Your use of automatopia really drove the point home. As I often informally say to friends "Sound effects make everything better!" :) I am proud of your diligence in committing to be as openly gay as you are devout.

I myself have had a tumultuous battle with faith since the time I first lusted, and have just a few years ago tried to reassert my relationship with Christ. I think I regret the time we lost together almost as much as Im sure he does; and Im glad I am able to turn things around while still in my youth.

Your words are true food for thought as I study to become a teacher and I worry about how my sexuality will affect my future career. Having very little familial influence I have been blessed in that I have been able to be comfortably well out of the closet. But now (as it has been insisted by some peers) I will need to step back a portion. I will have to on a daily basis add bricks between me and my colleagues and while this will weigh heavy on my heart I hope I can be forgiven for this purposeful sabotage of community so that I can enrich our youth and pay my bills.