Reasons to stay in the closet

  • by Allen Jones
  • Wednesday April 10, 2013
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At age 56 and only recently satisfied with revealing my sexuality, I believe it is best that young LGBTs stay in the closet – at least until a more mature society emerges from both sides of the debate for the rights of LGBTs.

"In the closet" is a browbeating remark that was most likely created by a jealous homosexual upset with another homosexual for keeping his or her sexuality a secret. However, it is no secret that feeling free and safe about one's sexuality remains illusive.

Philosophically, I now joke, "I'm not coming out of the closet until I'm finished having sex in the closet" – meaning, mind your own business. Nevertheless, I feel it is my business to caution against a one-size-fits-all approach toward coming out, based on personal experience and the knowledge that I am not alone in my feelings.

LGBTs can't help but feel excited about recent victories in the fight for equal rights. But many voyeurs and busybodies have joined up or hijacked well-intentioned gay groups, giving these groups more political clout. Sadly, this has clouded the message of acceptance in a world so divided, due to a one-size-fits-all perception on coming out.

I cannot deny that some of the tactics by these political forces have forced much needed change. However, voyeurs, busybodies, and even politicians have taken the lead from gay groups. Based on a large number of email solicitations sent to me, an effort to cause young and often confused LGBTs to become beholden to the leaders of the gay rights movement is occurring. Coming out should be a time of standing tall and sometimes alone.

Many years ago, the well-respected Barbara Walters asked singer Ricky Martin if he was gay. A fearful Martin denied it at the time, only coming out years later. More recently, ABC TV personality Katie Couric asked promising college football player Manti T'eo if he was gay (she was interviewing him over the embarrassing fake girlfriend story). T'eo denied it but caused me great shame.

My shame was of the nerve of this so-called journalist, who, despite being uncomfortable, proceeded to put this young man on the spot about his sexuality. Where is empathy?

Some NFL team representatives in fear of selecting a player who might be homosexual, reportedly asked inappropriate questions at this year's NFL Combine. Players were blindsided by intrusive questions on their sexual preference. This alone suggests to me that professional athletes need to hold the phone on coming out. The NFL commissioner's office recently ruled nothing improper occurred after investigating the matter. Only a damn fool would be satisfied with this outcome.

The Last Closet, an organization dedicated to the goal of having owners of professional sports teams encourage their employees (players) to come out, is on a mission. The group strongly feels that if a pro athlete came out while still playing his or her sport, it would help young LGBTs. Again, only a damn fool would have faith in the outcome.

The Last Closet might get its wish. According to recent reports, an NFL player is considering coming out in "a few months." The player is reportedly not worried about the reactions from his teammates or other players in the league. His main worry concerns fans, who have no shame in expressing their interpretation of freedom of speech.

I believe this unidentified player is right to fear fans of his sport. Fans, famous or infamous for having conniptions over the wrong play call or a key dropped ball in the game, are not the type of people I trust to properly handle my coming out. Sure, I can picture a standing ovation of support in the beginning. But that could quickly change.

If the player in question had the job of catching the football and drops one at a key point, look out. An embarrassing display of condom, cock rings, or even a dildo will be thrown his way. Followed by mocking of "I bet you can catch this!"

I attended a San Francisco Giants game when a fan, upset with a player, grabbed his own crotch and yelled, "Suck this," with no respect for a family nearby, and who did not pay to see overly emotional fans.

In 2010, I came across the story of Oliver Sipple. On September 22, 1975 Sipple saved the life of President Gerald R. Ford when he was trying to get a glimpse of the president outside a San Francisco hotel. Sipple saw and grabbed the arm of the would-be assassin, Sarah Jane Moore, as her gun discharged.

At the time of his heroics, Sipple's parents did not know their son was a homosexual. And when the San Francisco Chronicle – thanks to Harvey Milk – told the world (against Sipple's wishes) that a homosexual had saved the life of the president, his parents stopped speaking to him. Later asked if he had the chance to do it all over again would he? He said "No."

Sipple knew that his parents were not ready to handle his sexuality. But because someone else could not understand that, Sipple suffered greatly. Those who feel that it is the right thing to do, to just come out, are either thinking of themselves or believe one size fits all situations.

My decades of shame began to dissolve when I discovered not only the story of Sipple, but the treatment of Alan Turing and Bayard Rustin. Sipple, Rustin, and Turing all were heroes, denied honor for simply being homosexual. However, their stories gave me courage to stand tall and alone without beholden to anyone.

Rustin organized the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a Dream" speech. Turing saved Britain in WWII and was later chemically castrated by the British government for being a homosexual. He is also the father of the computer. Astronaut Sally Ride, who died last year, didn't publicly come out until her obituary was published. Sipple, Turing, Rustin, and Ride are hardly, if ever, mentioned when today's gay leaders are encouraging young LGBTs to come out.

Instead of trying to get an NFL player or anyone else to come out of the closet with hollow promises of acceptance, we should do a better job of educating people about the heroics of normal people who just happened to be LGBT.

No one told me that coming out does not mean I would automatically be relieved of shame. Mine lasted for 30 years. However, I would rather live in the closet another 30 years than to come out to please an immature society led by gay leaders who I would question.

Until society, led by gay groups, learns of the importance of the contributions of many LGBTs, as well as respect for the privacy of all, I suggest young LGBTs remain in the closet. Or until the coast is clear. Otherwise their coming out might lead them right into the waiting arms of voyeurs, busybodies, and haters.


Allen Jones is a San Francisco resident.