Bruce Jenner came out of the closet. At sixty-five, he’d been there for a long, long time. (I’m using the pronoun “he” because, although he identifies as a woman, he told Diane Sawyer to continue referring to “him” as “he”. I assume “he” will become a “she” after the upcoming documentary.
Cristela Alonzo came out today on The View. She came out as having grown up as a poor child.
What does a “closet” hold? A lot of baggage. Stuff we don’t want anyone to know. Stuff we are ashamed of. What’s wrong with being poor? Why would anyone have to hide that? Why would a child feel shame that their parents don’t have money, you might ask? It’s not the child’s responsibility to earn a living. To provide for their family. But put yourself in that child’s shoes. Literally. Imagine for a moment how the “poor” child feels looking down at their own hand-me-down shoes with the worn-out soles glancing down at the new Converse/Vans/Sperry-clad feet of her classmates. I said classmates, not friends, because the cool kids are friends with other kids in their same socio-economic-sports-click class. Yes, kids, like adults, are snobs.
Our closets are chock full of shit.
OK, my closet it chock full of shit. My issues that I had to deal with myself as well as others issues, have been locked away, in my closet.
Relating closely to Bruce Jenner is my newest. No, I am not transgender. At least I don’t feel I am even though most of my thought processes are what society deems as male. I’m good at math. If you tell me a problem, I want to find a solution, not just offer comfort. And if asked what I see myself in, I most likely would tell you about a cool car rather than a fancy dress or piece of jewelry.
Society is weird. If Bruce Jenner wears a dress, he must be trans/gay/cross-dressing. If I wear pants, I’m comfortable. But I digress.
Coming out of the closet means you are ready to tell someone something they don’t know about you. Something you feel they might judge you about. Something that might make them not like you. Something you fear will change your life.
In the past I came out as a binge eater. Embarrassed to eat my favorite foods in front of others, I literally hid food in my closet, my drawers, to eat while alone. So no one would know. I found comfort in Weight Watchers where there were other people like me. Others who could relate to my problem. Others who would not judge me, but accept me as I was; a person struggling day-to-day with an eating disorder. In turn, I spent years counseling others with their food addictions. Helping others helped me. I still have an eating disorder, but it no longer controls my life. I can accept that I have good days and bad days. Coming out of the closet made a tremendous difference in my life.
Sometimes your closet is full of other people’s issues. What is, or should our role be in coming out for someone else? Bruce Jenner felt tremendous relief coming out as transgender. No longer having to hide, he is now able to live his life as a woman. Dressing as a woman. Wearing makeup. More importantly, not having to hide from his family and the public. But what about his family? They must be relieved as well. The whole world suspected Bruce was transitioning. We saw the changes in facial features. The long hair. The nails. We speculated. So did his family. But it wasn’t their story to tell. They had to keep quiet. They had to keep his secret. Now they don’t. I imagine that would give them a tremendous sense of relief.
I don’t just imagine this. I know it.
For years I kept secrets that tore me up every day. Married to an alcoholic, I didn’t want anyone to know about the dui’s, the job losses, the car accidents. I couldn’t tell the few friends I had for fear I’d lose their friendship. And I definitely couldn’t tell my parents. They would have insisted I leave him. Since I was confident I could fix him, I led a secret life, struggling in the background, hiding money and emptying bottles. His addiction was not my story to tell. Until Al-Anon. There I could open up. There I could be myself. Share my struggles. Get advice from people who understood my problem. People who had been-there/done-that. Al-Anon members told me it wasn’t my job to fix the alcoholic. That I couldn’t even if I wanted to. They helped me break free. Eventually I realized that I could no longer subject my children to the life of living with an active alcoholic, so I ended the marriage. I was finally free to rid my closet of another large piece of baggage.
However, LGBT is different. So many people are still in the closet because of fear they will be judged. Bruce Jenner hopes his coming out will make a difference. I pray Bruce Jenner’s coming out will make a difference.
Being gay, identifying as a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth, is not a choice. It is who you are. The way you were born. There should be no more shame in being gay than there is in having blue eyes or red hair. Or yes, being chubbier than the Hollywood ideal.
The statistic that forty-one percent of transgender people attempt suicide is a percentage I can’t wrap my brain around. That figure is “attempting” suicide. Not “thinking” about suicide. This has got to change!
Why is gender so important in this society? We are all people. We are part of the human race. Get over it. People are people. Accept it.
You don’t have to be LGBT yourself to come out. When someone in your life announces they are part of the LGBT community, you wind up being part of their story. For instance, if your brother has a boyfriend, when talking about your brother’s boyfriend, you are essentially telling the world your brother is gay. The way you present that information, the way you convey someone else’s “story” tells a lot about you. Not about them. Be proud. Just as you would telling about a girlfriend your brother might have. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, others won’t. (This is positive thinking. I’m not naïve enough to believe everyone will be accepting. But I can hope.)
As I said, I am not Lesbian or transgender. However, I now feel I am part of the LGBT community. I used to have to most beautiful, talented, intelligent granddaughter in the world. Now, after a lot of reading, and with the help of outspoken celebrities like Laverne Cox and Bruce Jenner, I’m now starting to understand a little more about what it feels like to be transgender. To identify as a different gender than the one in which you were assigned at birth. It’s not my position to “out” anyone. I just want to share that I am now the proud grandmother of the most handsome, talented, intelligent grandson in the world. And he identifies as transgender.
If you or a loved one has issues that are stuck in a closet, find help. There are many support groups online and in person that are there for you. Reach out.