August 17, 2009

I have never been “in the closet” except to pick out my clothes and such… but I have never been IN THE CLOSET. When I learned that what I was feeling had a name to it, I simply stated a fact: I am a lesbian. I choose at the tender age of fifteen (sixteen years ago) to let it be known. Whether my family, friends and others liked it or not, was entirely irrelevant to me. And much to my human nature, I decided that I wasn’t going to give those who claim to “love me no matter what” much of a choice. It was simply, “This is who I am.”

With this in mind throughout the span of the last sixteen years of my life I have met many a closeted people -including women I have been in relationships with. To some extent, I found it difficult to be in some of these relationships because in some instances, I had to quasi-jump in a closet or omit information or alter some facts because well, I was in love and I did what I had to. I have also experienced the closet from a friend’s perspective. I have heard all the reasons why people are in closets: “I am not ready,” I could loose my job,” “My family will disown me” and a myriad of responses and reasons that I have always respected but never fully understood.

I am not sure if I have ever fully understood the reasons because I never had to experience being in a closet. Perhaps that is the main and only reason. But aside from my desire to get all of those who live in these confined spaces (which I presume can get quite comfortable given some decoration, a bed and even a small window) out and about, I have wondered what it does to a spirit to live in silence.

A spirit that is not free cannot live as a spirit.

When I stated my truth the only door that closed was a door that was barely open -my mother’s. And while it was very difficult not to have her support, I went on about my life because I sought to be around those who did support me and the new beautiful spirits I have met along the way. I am fully aware that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been. I have heard horror stories that have included beatings and death. But what has been playing in my head for about eight months now is a question that goes beyond the rhetoric of “coming out,” it goes to a place that’s intangible: the spirit of a person.

I wonder what a spirit feels when it must remain silent (whether in a relationship or not).

Everywhere in the world you see signs of people in relationships through a family picture on a desk, a wedding band on a finger, a conversation about a vacation or a telephone call reminding someone to bring home milk and eggs. It is in these small details that I find myself frustrated with the idea that my closeted sisters and brothers feel that they must remain silent.

The individual who is not in a relationship must experience this two-fold because I believe that at least the one who is in a relationship (when the doors are closed and the curtains are drawn), can experience a free spirit within the confines of a bigger space than the closet.

Again, I do not know what it feels like to live in silence -shit, I came out of my mothers womb one-and-one-half-months early and screaming. My mother said then, that she knew I was going to be very expressive and forward. But since I do not know what it might feel like to live in silence I can do nothing but come up with what I would imagine myself to be experiencing if I had felt that I had no other choice but to remain silent. I try to put myself in the shoes of my closeted sisters and brothers.

My first thought is that the shoes are tight. You see I have long feet (actually, long toes). My second thought is that I would feel like a wilted spirit trying to grow with the little light that sneaks through the window in my closet. I feel suffocated. Claustrophobic. Ashamed. And my biggest fear… alone.


And I don’t even have my self.”

That’s what a young student told me at a presentation I made in October of 2008 at Rutgers University. She said she,”felt as though [she] didn’t even have [her] self to turn to.” That, “[her] spirit had somehow left [her] side.”

It was one of the few times I was left speechless. And my only response to her at that time was, “Your spirit has not left you. It’s just standing outside the closet door waiting for you… all in due time.” And she half-smiled.

In December of 2008 I received an email from her subject title: “knock, knock.” The email read, “I talk to my spirit from the inside of my closet. It feels a little better knowing I am not alone. It’s not time yet… but at least I breathe easier. Happy holidays!”

As I recall this conversation, this email and my thoughts these past months, I realize and learn two things:

(1) That as much as I try to put myself in those shoes, I could never fully express the feeling of silence because I cannot digest what I do not consume.

(2) That spirits live and survive in the most threatening environments because the spirit is transcendent.

NOTE TO THE READER: The word spirit comes from the Latin word spiritus, meaning breath.

~Sarahi Yajaira, 2009