I’ve been wondering lately about when I went back into the closet.
Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not actually in any closet. I’ve been out and loud and proud for 20 years.
Last May I stood on the streets of my home town in a high-visibility orange vest with ‘YES EQUALITY’ emblazoned on it, and knocked on people’s doors in the evening, to campaign for a yes vote in the marriage referendum.
I came out at work in the mid 90’s when I did not know a single other gay person in my place of employment.
I went on a gay pride parade in Dublin in 1996. I was one of a thousand participants that year (last year estimates put the participant numbers at 50,000 people). I suppose you could say that I was screaming. I was here, I was queer, get used to it.
As it were.
These days while I suppose I would be less flamboyant, it’s not like I am a big walking bag of butch. The whiff of heterosexual swagger does not emanate from my every pore. I was loud and quite probably very obnoxious when I was 21. True enough back then I was completely lacking in any sort of confidence, and being a gay teenager in a time of criminality (homosexuality was decriminalised when I was 19 years old in 1993) was hardly going to do wonders for your self-esteem. So when I did come out, I sort of exploded out in a riot of drama and camp and hysteria. And it was great fun, while simultaneously being terrifying.
In the 20 years since those initial baby steps, I guess you could say I have matured slightly. As my confidence and maturity grew, my hair whitened and thinned. You win certain things while you lose others.
I have lived abroad, and worked in several companies. I have never been in the closet in any of them. But it’s certainly true to say that as I have gotten older I have shared a lot less of my life with colleagues. I suppose it is the growing realisation as you get older that while you may spend more time with your workmates than anyone else in your life, and that while it’s possibly and beneficial to have good relations with them, that these are not necessarily friendships built on any common interest other than your employer. That were it not for work then these are not necessarily the people you would choose to spend your time with.
There are exceptions of course. And it’s always worthwhile to remain respectful and polite to your co-workers, regardless of your opinion of them.
But as I grind into my early forties I find myself disassociating my work life and my personal life more than I used to.
I find myself on Monday morning giving an answer like ‘Oh nothing much, I had a quiet one, just watched some telly’ when I have been asked what I got up to over the weekend. Even if I spent the weekend floating in a swimming pool of champagne with international rock stars – not that I know any of those. But you get my drift. Keep it bland. Keep it non-committal. Keep it professional.
As a result people at my latest job are beginning to ask if I have a wife. Where they get that idea I have no idea.
I feel like correcting them. It seems I am betraying my gay bones by saying nothing. But I remain silent.
Not out of any sense of shame. Flying under the radar is more my style these days.
And I wonder why?