To be in or out of the closet

C o n n e x I o n s    C o l u m n

Based on experience in his therapy practice, Riaan Swiegelaar gives us a clear understanding of relationship dynamics in our romantic, family & professional connections. This is his regular relationship feature…


to be In or Out of the closet …

The institution of the closet is one of fear — one where people would rather be ignored than noticed, because they fear the negative repercussions of being known to be gay. Today the risk of being ignored is bigger in the other direction: if the world can’t see gay men and women in all their true diversity, if the only homosexuals they know of are the flamboyant ones on TV or as represented by other media, then that only serves toperpetuate stereotypes…


If someone stays “in the closet,” that means the person doesn’t fully reveal his or her sexual identity as homosexual. Closeted homosexuals hide their sexual identity and behave in particular ways so they can blend in with their chosen community. Choosing to be closeted depends on the person involved. After all, sexual orientation goes beyond just engaging in sexual acts, and people attach a certain weight to the concept of “gay.” Saying that someone is in the closet has a range of meanings. Some people who get married, have children, and spend an entire lifetime living with and regularly having sex with a member of the opposite sex are really not straight at all. To get sexually aroused, these people have to fantasize about having sex with a member of their own sex.


People who appear to be openly heterosexual may actually lead closeted gay sex lives in several different ways: Some people visit gay bars when the opportunity presents itself or go to areas where gay prostitutes are known to hang out. Some people lead a gay lifestyle only when in the presence of other gays, but put on a front of being heterosexual in other settings, such as at work or school. Some people may never actually engage in any form of gay sex, but, nevertheless, deep down inside, are gay. Many of these people, especially in today’s more open culture, do end up “coming out of the closet” at some point in their lives. Others box themselves in so tightly that they just don’t feel that they can survive the revelation, and so they hide their homosexuality for their entire lives.


Come out; come out wherever you are!


Coming out of the closet can be daunting, even for adults. Most gay adults come out to a potential sex partner first, which can be very scary. What if that person turns out to be straight? Rejection is always traumatic, but especially if the other person is actually repulsed by the offer, as a straight person approached sexually by someone of their own sex often is. Eventually, most gay people meet others who share their lifestyle, and the support that they get from others helps them to then declare their sexual orientation to their families and friends.


Coming out in your profession or on the job can be much more risky. Openness about one’s sexual orientation doesn’t always translate well in the business world. Because of this, many gay people who don’t hide their status at home are very careful about whom they tell at the office. Even though this discrimination is often illegal, it doesn’t stop it from occurring, no matter how abhorrent.


The closet really isn’t a nice play to stay in for the rest of your life. Just what exactly will you get from coming into the light?


Telling the truth may stir some negative reactions, but don’t let it bring down the way you regard yourself. In fact, coming out will tremendously boost your self-esteem, as you have been honest to everyone about it. And most especially being honest to yourself.


Coming out of the closet is like being born into the world once more. But this time, without the strain and terror of keeping something huge a secret to yourself. There’s nothing fun about leading a secret identity. Soon enough it’s bound to negatively affect your daily life.


Maybe someone else in your family or friends is hiding in the closet. And maybe too he’s been wanting to come out a long time ago, but is afraid. If you finally decide to reveal your true identity, it will give him the courage to do the same.


While your family and friends may be startled in the beginning, it shall pass. Of course you need to give them some time to assimilate and accept what you have just revealed. But when everything settles down, things will begin to get better. Everyone will surely appreciate the honesty on your part, and will learn to accept you.


Still, the decision lies in your own hands. Nothing or no one else in the world should prompt you to come out more than you yourself. You do it in your own time and place, when you’re really comfortable to admit it.


Because a gay person can never know exactly what the outcome of his or her coming out will be, the decision is always a heavy burden. If everything goes right, gay men and women may feel as though a tremendous weight has been lifted from their shoulders because they no longer have to lead dual lives. On the other hand, if they end up losing contact with certain family members and friends or losing their job, many people may find the loss a heavy price to pay for admitting their true identity. In these cases, it’s important to find a support network and/or a counselor.


In the next issue: Business Partnerships


Riaan Swiegelaar is a Relationship Coach, Transformational Therapist and a Intuitive Healer. He runs a practice at the Far Hills Hotel. He can be contacted on 082 844 6588, or

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