Are Closeted Folks Fair Game Now?
People attack closeted LGBTQ individuals based on their own agendas.
Posted Mar 19, 2021 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
How times have changed for LGBTQ … or have they?
There is no doubt that we have seen an increase in acceptance of LGBTQ over the past two decades. I never thought in my lifetime that I would ever be accepted for being an out gay man nor be able to legally marry my husband of 28 years.
Of course, we still see people who are LGBTQ attacked by the culture at large for, of course, being LGBTQ. Hate crimes are on the rise nationally and according to the Human Rights Campaign, “Hate crimes based on sexual orientation represent 16.7% of hate crimes, the third-largest category after race and religion.”
While acceptance of us LGBTQ folks have risen, I’ve been surprised at how people who are perceived to be closeted gays are being attacked for being closeted!
I’ve been thinking about this ever since I filmed a video on TikTok, and expressed an unpopular view about how straight men can still enjoy sex with men.
I was surprised by all the comments I’m still getting from people who saw the video and assumed that I was either a closeted gay or bisexual man. In reality, as a sex therapist and educator, I was sharing one of the many things I’ve learned over my many years as a therapist, something that has been researched by well-established scholars on male sexual fluidity. Because of their discomfort and disagreement with what I shared about the ways in which men are sexual, they come after my own sexuality.
Here are some of the comments to me from those thinking I am a closeted man:
- “We can tell that you’re gay, Bruh. You can’t hide it!”
- “Those bitch gloves you’re wearing say it all.”
- “Your voice sounds gay. Have you listened to yourself?”
- “The way that you’re holding your iPhone [on which I was recording] says it all.”
- “Whenever you’re ready to come out of the closet, we’re here for you.”
These folks felt compelled to harass me and project motives onto me, thinking that I was not forthcoming about my sexuality. Of course, none of these commenters bothered to do their “homowork” by Googling my name and finding out that I’ve been out of the closet as a gay male since I was 14 years old, am a certified sex therapist, and have been for 36 years.
Shift in culture
Something has shifted in the culture so that not admitting to being LGBTQ rather than being LGBTQ became a bigger reason for harassment and scorn. I remember in the ’90s when the LGBTQ community knew that Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, and Sean Hayes (Jack from the NBC sitcom Will and Grace) were lesbian and gay but wouldn’t come out publicly and say so. If they did, the community reasoned, it would help to change the culture, and so they were angry about the silence. The same anger flared toward Clay Aiken in the 2nd season of American Idol. When Bruce Jenner was quietly beginning to show signs of transitioning to Caitlyn Jenner on Keeping Up with The Kardashians, there were lots of nasty comments. They were fair game for comedians, and I remember all of them being made fun of and mocked for being closeted.
I understood the frustration back then and even had some of my own toward them. They were in powerful positions and could do much good for all of us if they just revealed their sexual orientations. There were great risks for them—especially back in the ’90s and before when if you were out you could lose your entire career and livelihood.
But they are human and should be entitled to their own pace of coming out.
Is it okay to attack a closeted LGBT person?
I can understand the motivation behind outing, say, a politician or preacher who is passing laws or preaching against LGBTQ or same-sex marriage. It’s clear that these people do real harm to those in the LGBTQ community, thus the urge to out them. Outing them is an attempt to stop them in their tracks from continuing to do us harm.
But how has it become a thing to harass a regular person who may not be ready to come out of the closet? From my standpoint, it’s not about our time, it’s about their time. And as a therapist and a human, I understood they had their own time frame of when they were ready. You cannot push someone out of a closet. It can lead to mental health problems and sometimes suicidality—especially amongst teens.
Why do people attack perceived closeted LGBT people?
1. Harassers are haunted by their own insecurities and fears about not being accepted. When I hear someone say to me on my social media, “Bruh. It’s okay that you’re gay,” when they think the person is lying to themselves and judge that they need to come out, I hear sarcasm, not good intentions. To subject anyone to this kind of behavior is insensitive, rude, and lacking empathy and compassion.
2. It reminds LGBTQ people of their own dark days of being closeted. One commenter on social media wrote, “Some LGBTQ folks have forgotten what it is was like being closeted and all they remember is the huge weight that living authentically releases.” I am surprised by the amount of LGBTQs who are aggressively trying to pressure me to come out of my perceived closet. Often they disagree with my clinical findings and research, so they come after me about my sexuality.
3. Closeted LGBTQ are easy targets as they can’t fight back. If someone is not LGBTQ or not ready to come out, harassing them merely puts them in one of two positions: Either they can deny they’re LGBTQ, which only brings a response of “Methinks he doth protest too much,” or be driven further into the shadows.
4. It makes the accuser look nice and LGBTQ supportive. But they’re not. They are contributing to the homophobia by shunning a person who is dealing with their sexuality in their own time and deserves the space to do so.
5. People attack based on their own agendas. Some feel erased or challenged by watching someone who they perceive to be in the closet and want to promote their agenda onto the individual.
Either way, I think it is unethical and cruel behavior to try to force someone out of the closet or accuse them of being a closeted LGBTQ person without having any idea of who they really are.
In fact, many people never decide to “come out” for numerous reasons including religion, race, and culture. They are more likely to “invite people in” by choosing those they want to tell one at a time for their own emotional, psychological and physical safety.
We could use a lot more compassion and a lot less snark in our cyber world—and in the entire world—today. Mind your own closet, whether you are in or out of it.