Soapbox - 13

For some reason, I'm not out with my flatmates. Even after four and a half months of living with them, I haven't told them that I'm gay. I'm out with nearly everyone else I know, but I haven't told the people I live with. Why?

To almost everyone I know, I identify as gay. Proudly. I'm proud to be a queer. I even recently bought a flag, I'm so gosh darn proud. I openly play a role in queer politics and in organising queer events. I try to strive to let everyone know that we're not a threat and I strive to ensure that there are spaces that all us ‘non-heteronormatives’ can feel safe. But all of that disappears when I come home. Although there is absolutely nothing that my flatmates have said or done that justify it in any way, I fear them finding out. My own home doesn't feel truly safe to me.
Usually, it doesn't matter. We're more worried about what's for dinner or playing Xbox to really care, but at least once a day, something happens that makes me want to hide from them. Be it something simple like a shot of a hot girl in an advertisement or when I'm running out the door and someone asks me where I'm going – to my shame, I can't admit I'm visiting my partner. I try to plan what I'm going to say when they find out. I'll be all like, “Oh, well, you never asked, so I didn't think it was an issue. I'm gay. So what?” But anyone who's been in the closet can tell you that that is sadly almost never the case. Obviously it is an issue; otherwise I wouldn't be sitting here writing.
So, if I'm so proud about my sexuality and I'm so ‘out’ everywhere else, why can I not be out with my flatmates? What makes me put myself back in the closet every time I walk through the door? I think I know.
When I first came to look at the flat, and meet some of the randoms I'd be living with, my old flatmate said something to me. “Don't tell them you're gay,” she said. Why not? “Wait until you know them,” is what I think she meant to imply, but that's not what I heard. I dismissed her ‘advice’ as I left to meet them – I told myself, I need to live in a flat where I know the people are going to be okay with me being gay. The easiest way to test that is to tell them from the start. But her words kept playing over in my mind, and as I went to meet with them it all came flooding back. All of the fear, the apprehension, the self-loathing; it all came back. Suddenly there I was again: a meek teenager, closeted, trying desperately to fit in while feeling something that is fundamentally wrong with me. I never told them, and now I feel like I'm living a lie all over again. For the last four months, it feels like I've been kidding along that I'm ‘just one of the guys’, whatever the fuck that means. The longer I don't tell them, the harder it seems to get to just drop it into conversation. The longer I don't tell them, the harder it seems to exist as myself in my own flat.
I have a space that's supposed to be mine that I don't really feel is mine, because someone told me not to tell my future flatmates that I'm gay. I like to encourage people to speak out against all forms of homophobia and queerphobia. We don't have as much overt homophobia here as the rest of the world, but it's still there. Whether it's people saying that a TV programme or whatever they don't like is ‘gay’, or my old flatmate's poorly-worded attempt at protecting me from my new flatmates. My reasons for not being out are the remnants of on old fear resurfacing momentarily to take hold again, but for many that fear is still legitimate. Please, don't give them a reason to be afraid.

Posted 8:39pm Sunday 11th July 2010 by Critic.