I’d like to think that I’ve always known who I was way before anyone else thought that I did. I remember bits of potty training and wearing blue Pull ups at 2 and a half. I remember being upset that my socks didn’t match my suit for church at 3. And, at 5, I knew that I liked the third-grade boy that sat beside me on the bus on the Kindergarten. No Saturday morning cartoons, no Disney Princesses, no excess time with my mother or grandmothers brought that about or influenced me to think so, despite what my father thought. At the tinder age of 5 years old, I knew that I liked guys and I knew that everybody didn’t think highly of me because of it. As such, I worked to hide as much of me as I could for about 14 years too many after that.
I wore my glass closet door everywhere–to the basketball court, to homeroom, to the wooden pews, and to Saturday mornings in the barbershop. I lugged it around like my textbook-laden backpack and with each year of increasing homework, as the years went on, it hurt… until I could get home to take it off.
Home with leftovers, reruns of America’s Next Top Model & Oprah, Mariah Carey plowing through my boombox speakers, and Beyoncé as the inspiration to make it out and onto someone’s red carpet, those two hours saved me and held me over until graduation.
Fast-forward to freshman year of college, my glass door and I had survived senior year and the summer. 19, Away from home, door freshly cleaned, and someone catches my interest. Not the typical girls that liked my reserved yet comical company, but a guy. He made me laugh, he made me blush, he made me feel like I was sitting on the bus next to my 8-year-old crush again. Most importantly, he made realize something that I worked hard to keep to myself–that I still had that door on.
After slinging it off as soon as I could for so many years without even caring, I took a look at it. It was my battle shield. Heavy with dents and scuffs from hurled “f****ts” and “sissies” and “fruitcakes,” it was my barrier, but it was heavy. My back bent a bit, my voice fell an octave, my hands stopped moving when I talked, and my strut fell into this awkward, nervous shuffle and I denied every mention of the obvious from years of wear. I picked it everyday alongside my outfit every day. My safe place was behind that glass. But, like most glass things that show what’s behind them, it reflected just who was looking at it–me–and showed just how much of a toll that wearing it had taken.
At some point, we’re forced to decide whether to remove the things that hurt us from our lives or suck it up and deal with them. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but more often, it can really hurt. My grandparents suffered from arthritis from carrying heavy things when they were younger and I wanted no part in having poor posture. I’d lived my life carrying a door to my closet to hide behind for years and I was tired. On a weird October night around 5 years ago to the day, after fogging up one side with a few tears and Kleenex, I pushed it to the side.
It’s been 5 years since I’ve come out and left my closet door near its broken hinges. Understanding when was the right time for me to do so was definitely important. For those reading, know that there’s no rush. At 24, it’s taken me some time to straighten up when I walk, to put some confidence back in my stride, to use my hands more enthusiastically when I speak, and to let my voice ring as loudly and expressively as I want. But, every day is much less of a burden and every day is a day that I’m happy with me, wholly.