I was planning to put together a post today discussing the formation of a coalition. I actually have about a third of it put together already, but I'd hoped to finish it later tonight. Then someone told me that I should go back into the closet.
It doesn't matter who it was. It doesn't matter that they probably meant it as honest advice with no actual malice. If anything that makes it worse. Quite honestly it also doesn't matter that they eventually tried to apologize. It happened.
I am a Polyamorous, Pagan Queer. I am a man and I wear skirts. I march at rallies, I vote, I speak, I protest. I have strong feelings about the society that allows homelessness and foreclosures to exist in the same nation and I'm vocal about them. I am also white, fairly well off financially except for my crushing debt burden, and fairly young with no dependents. I have more of an opportunity to be out than most people in the oppressed categories I'm in, but I still face all the prejudices and oppressions that coming out brings. I walk my campus in femme cut clothing along with masculine. I wear things associated with women: makeup, nail polish, skirts and leggings. Pictures of this are already online and there's not much chance of getting them off now, not that I'd want to. I've peppered the internet with essays, blogs, posts, and for several glorious seconds I've even appeared in Daily Show footage for speaking at a rally. I am out.
To be out to me means to be free. To have cast off my closets and my broom closets and my men's section clothing racks and women's section clothing racks. To have sat across from my parents and said "I love both of these women, and they love me. This is because of who I am" even knowing we wouldn't last beyond college and even knowing they might not understand. To have stood in front of hundreds of people, sat on panels, stood before classes, and told them I'm Queer. To have stood up before professors and said "I'm Queer and I am NOT okay with what you said."
To me being out means to be watched. To know that only one police officer needs to be the wrong one to come across me walking at night in a skirt and make an assumption, and so to fear all of them at least a bit. To know that my employment and my housing are always in a tenuous state because of a lack of legal protections, and no will to back up those that exist. To know that a gendered bathroom is never an entirely safe space for me.
For someone that has never had my experience, someone apathetic to activism, to tell me that because it might be safer for me in the short run I should go back in the closet is an absolutely heinous act. Closeting someone is an act which dismisses all of their identities as being secondary to the ones they are expected to have. It is an act of intense violence, stripping someone of their autonomy and acting as an apologist to their oppressors. Pushing someone back into the closet is no less than a dismissal of the entire movement that spawned a response to the AIDS epidemic. If someone wants to be closeted, or needs to be closeted out of concern for their own well being, they should never be condemned, but to tell someone that is free of the closet that they would do better to go back embodies the force of all subtle oppressions, microaggressions, and assumptions into a phrase. "This world is better than you. Your place is where it put you. It's better if you just see that."
If I lose my home, if I cannot be employed because I raised my voice for the thousands of people that cannot raise theirs, I would rather live on the streets like Sylvia Rivera than to allow myself to be silenced. If I am subject to violence I will face it as has every activist before me that refused to be moved, to be pushed away, to be quieted, to be closeted. Let my name be sung in a hall somewhere like a hero, shouted out like a demand that violence be addressed, that suffering be addressed, that oppression be addressed, and that the apathetic not sit idly by because I went out with my head up and out.
I refuse. I reject. I deny. Unequivocally, without exception and in no uncertain terms: The Closet. I am burning my closet down, right here, and right now. Here I stand for all the internet to see.