Rainbow bags and flags. Shirts. Water bottles. Hoodies, hats, and shoes. Pride is everywhere this month, except in my home. Why? Because while I am a queer woman, I am a closeted queer woman. Very few people know my “truth.” And this makes June a tricky time for me. The month serves as a reminder of where I want to be but can’t, of who I should be but am not. And instead of being loud and proud, I am stunted, silenced, and ashamed.
Let me explain.
Growing up, I always knew something was different. I was different. I wasn’t intimate or passionate. I wasn’t a sexual being, like that of my peers. I didn’t idealize relationships. I hated rom-coms and couldn’t get into pop culture portrayals of love. I loathed shows like “Friends,” “90210,” and “Dawson’s Creek.” And while I had boyfriends and liked the notion of “romance” — when I was little, I wanted to be whisked away by Prince Charming, wowed and wooed and swept off my feet — I found very few boys attractive. Very few. I can count the number on a single hand. But I found love in one, and that boy became my husband. We married and, years later, started a family. We have two kids.
But something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was still (in many ways) unfulfilled. And last June I told my husband why.
“I think …” I said, “… I think I’m gay.”
Today, I identify as queer, but very few people know.
My husband does. We are in counseling, trying to find ways to navigate this new normal, to navigate my new life. My psychiatrist and therapist know; they knew before I did. And a few dear friends know. Friends whom I trust with my life. But that’s it. That’s where my openness ends, and it’s hard. Living in silence is a struggle.
You see, I want to embrace my sexuality and — more importantly — my authentic self. I want to tell others I’m here and queer, get used to it (or completely and totally fuck off). I want to celebrate in the streets, like millions of others, dancing and singing in the West Village, walking past historic landmarks like the Stonewall Inn. And I want to wear rainbow gear, which is strange and silly I know, but I want to be seen for who I am — for who I’ve always been. I also want to belong, in a place and space which feels safe. In a community of my peers.
But instead I hide in the shadows, voicing my support for the LGBTQ community as an outsider, and it sucks. It hurts. I feel like a liar, imposter, and sham. I feel invisible most days, but in a sea of rainbow swag I feel non-existent. Many days, I am angry with myself. I’ve turned to self-injury and self-harm. But I also know there are no rules or timeline for coming out. There is no right or wrong way to do it. And silence does not take away my identity.
I may not be “loud and proud,” but I’m still queer.
So this Pride month, instead of being angry and sad, I’m going to change my story. I’m going to flip the script, and I’m going to smile meekly, shyly when I see a rainbow flag, reminding myself this is my family. Closeted or not, the LGBTQ community is my home. I’m going to accept and love myself unconditionally, even where I’m at. Even if I’m still in “the closet.” I’m going to celebrate my identity. I don’t need banners to honor the woman I am. To acknowledge the kick-ass queer I have always been. I’m going to silence the angry voices — the ones full of shame, blame, and pain — and tell them they have no place here. I do, but they do not. And I’m going to use Pride to remind me of how far I’ve come. Of how far we’ve all come.
Because while I haven’t “come out” to my friends and family, while I’m not marching in the streets, I have come out to myself, and that is worth celebrating. Acknowledging my truth is half the battle.
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