Love from outside the closet

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Coming out is a uniquely queer phenomenon. We live in a society where being straight is the norm and those of us who lie outside are expected to make a grand gesture of announcing our identity to the world (I accidentally came out via a horribly unfunny Facebook meme). I am very fortunate that coming out was only initially emotionally strenuous for me — I was a depressed, overworked teenager living with (what I thought was) a huge secret. I feared retaliation from family and friends — I had made plans to stay with a friend if I were to be kicked out — but the fear I had was born from assumptions I had made about the world around me that turned out to be so deeply false.

As many know, not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Some people remain ‘closeted’ until external circumstances force them out, like Cal Jacobs from Euphoria. There is an assumption that these people cannot live whole, fulfilling lives, and, to an extent, it’s true. Yet again, it’s not the same for everyone. Closeted people can find love and be happy. It doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with the duality of identity that frequently forms, but they do find genuine moments of happiness. 

Closeted people can find love and be happy

Queer relationships formed whilst one party is in the closet are always depicted as strenuous, or as more difficult than relationships where both parties are ‘out’. This is one of the earlier themes in ’s Heartstopper. Whilst the tension caused in a relationship where one is living ‘openly’ and the other isn’t, is understandable, it creates a narrative that all relationships of this variety will inevitably fail because the ‘closet case’ gradually inhibits the ‘liberated’ person’s freedom. This narrative pushed me in my younger years to exclaim, “I’ll never date a guy in the closet! I love myself and worked too hard to get to this point to sacrifice it for another person!” It’s hilarious how ironic life can be!

My partner and I met for the first time in 2019, though we didn’t start dating until the second lockdown. I knew from the get-go that he hadn’t disclosed his identity to his family. He was in a precarious situation where a negative reaction to his identity would drastically change his future. His friends knew, but telling his parents just wasn’t worth the severe potential risk. Considering how opposed to dating people in the closet I previously was, I couldn’t help my desire to spend time with him. I brushed it off with “it’s just a fling! Nothing will come of it. You’ll be abroad next year and long-distance never works out!” And, yet again, I was very, very wrong. 

What’s happening right now is a relationship that brings me insurmountable joy

We’ve been together for almost 18 months now, and I have never felt as happy in a relationship as I do currently. We love each other dearly and we’ve helped each other become far better versions of ourselves than we previously were. We’ve developed a shared hobby of Magic: The Gathering, we speak every day despite being long-distance for half of our relationship (life’s irony, once again), and he’s met my family, who all (thankfully) love him too. Our relationship functions like any other and is more than what ‘closeted’ 15-year-old me thought that I could ever deserve. 

The only time his position as a ‘closeted’ person comes up is when we talk about our lives ten years in the future, but if we hyper-fixate on what could happen, we miss out on what is happening. And, what’s happening right now is a relationship that brings me insurmountable joy. If I gave this up because I was scared of the future, I would lose the one who matters most to me. To me, a future without him is a precarious future that isn’t worth the risk. 

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