What Does “Closeted” Mean?

The term “closeted,” much like the space it refers to, is filled with baggage. Unpacking this word is as much an act of introspection as it is a declaration. I believe it understandably belongs to the LGBT community — which is why I’m hesitant to use it in my own journey. Though I’m a straight woman, the process of coming out about my past has felt similar to the way many gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer friends have described. It seems the nervous anticipation, fear of judgement, and ultimate freedom is present in both cases.

So, what does closeted mean? In a word: complicated.


I think everyone has a closet of their own making. Whether it’s a shelter for their sexuality, a place to lock away bad memories, or simply a spot to toss inconvenient baggage, most people have at least one thing in their life they don’t put on display. That isn’t always a bad thing, either. As long as you are living a life which truly makes you happy and doesn’t harm you or others, I couldn’t care less about what kinds of skeletons you have lurking in there, social stigmas be damned.

Yet, as open-minded and hospitable as I am towards others, I can’t help but to feel like a hypocrite when I’m knowingly not as authentic as I could be. The decision to pull back the curtains on the childhood experiences that shaped my identity was one that has taken years. How can I expect such openness when it’s a challenge to acknowledge, nonetheless analyze, my own past? I’m still not entirely sure I have the answer. But I do what I’ve always done: adapt. Since most of my life was spent in “survival mode,” much of my current thinking habits follows the same trajectory. I shut out any thoughts about the future, focus on getting through this moment, and use whatever tools I have — mental or otherwise — to keep my head above water.

So, am I out? In a word: yes.

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