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The Closet as a Means of Self Perservation

S. Yaeger's picture

I have been thinking about the problem of external categorization since our second class meeting, when we discussed “Living The Good Lie”.  I have been chewing on the idea that academia has a habit of categorizing behaviors, world views, and modes of operation from the outside, as though we are somehow rightful arbiters of others’ behavior.  I think this is a natural thing for us to do, especially since we are doing it within the context of a class which seeks to explore the issues of categorization and false binaries.  However, I wonder if we are not so entrenched in our ideas of what is “right” that we are unconsciously mapping our preferred MO’s onto others.

For instance, when we discussed the men in the Times article who were seeking to remain deeply closeted in order to not break away from their religious communities, we all seemed to react the same way, at least initially.  Many of us wondered why these men, who were born gay, would not just choose to find a new church. 

One of things that jumped out at me during our discussion of “Living The Good Lie” was that we were all pretty quick to assume that the subjects’ religious beliefs were not as much an inherent part of them as their sexuality.  One of the things that took me a good deal of time to really be able to name is that for these men, their religion is as much a part of who they are as their sexuality.  It is the lens through which they view the world and themselves.  For many people who are deeply religious, their church is the center of their lives, and to leave it would be to start over, without community or center or moral guidance, and build an entirely new life.  Just as Eli Clare discusses never being able to fully extricate his self from his background, I wonder what kind of crisis the men in the article would face if they were suddenly forced to leave their church.  We all seem to accept that homosexuality is something which is inherent to a person, and I agree with this idea wholly, however, I’m not sure if the same can’t be said for religion.  If religion is an inborn as sexuality, then these men may never be able to choose to leave.  And perhaps we are wrong to expect them to.  In other words, imagine if the arrows were going to the other way.  Imagine we were all discussing the idea that these men should choose a better sexuality- perhaps one that works more freely with their religion- I’m pretty certain that we all scoff at that idea.  Why, then, do we so quickly prescribe a change in world view, when such a thing could lead to one's selfdestruction?