Have you ever gone spelunking (cave exploring)? I have. The light slowly fades as you walk down into the cavern. It’s pitch black. It’s fun at first. But then…. The realization hits you that the space is getting smaller and smaller. Your pace slows. Your steps forward and down the slope cautious and tentative. Finally the space is so small that you must crawl chest pressed against the ground, just mere inches separating your back from the roof. Your arms seem frozen. You. Are. Trapped. No one can see you. Everyone believes you’re safer there in the cave.
Hi. My name is Shayne and my pronouns are he/ they. But only a few know that. I am “in the closet” with one tentative arm bracing against the doorway to freedom.
Not being “out” or even being only partially out is excruciating.
I come from a conservative - republican - Baptist family. I was part of a small Baptist church in the rural United States beginning in infancy. Somehow, I still became the gender-nonconforming queer dude that I am.
I am trapped.
I am trapped in my family.
They are invested and vocal about their faith and morals. They judge any non-heterosexual or non-cisgendered identity as a sin and abomination. They turn the tv off when any of these “lifestyles” are represented.
What you have to know is - still - I love them.
How can I have to choose between “who I am, who I want to be, how I view the world, who I love”, and… my family?
Maybe you too struggle with your family. Maybe they say hurtful things to you or to others that make your environment uncomfortable or make it unsafe to be who you truly are. Maybe some have told you - “just tell them, just come out already”. But it isn’t safe for you to do so.
The walls close in.
I am trapped in my social sphere.
Community can be so healing and it can be so traumatizing. In my social sphere a constant barrage of opinions and racism and ableism and homophobia and transphobia assault me from every side. Those who say they love others spew hate and hurtful words at everyone who is different from them even in the smallest of ways. “Her hair shouldn’t be that color or that short.” “Why doesn’t she wear more dresses?” “How could she let those words/songs/shows/etc… be in her life”.
Maybe you too face hate around you. You face it with your friends. You face it in your church. You face it in your work environment. You face it with the law. You face it… Every day you get up knowing another headline, leader, or even friend will say or do something against another person because of their race, their dress, their disability, their sexual identity, their gender identity, their faith, for WHO THEY ARE.
The walls close in.
I am trapped by my body.
It betrays me. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t look the way I know it should look. It has the wrong parts. Every month the gender dysphoria. Every day trying to find the clothes that will feel right. Every day looking at myself in the mirror and wanting to cry because the body looking back at me isn’t mine.
Maybe you too deal with body dysphoria. Maybe since you were young you felt uncomfortable in your own skin. Maybe the clothes you are “supposed” to wear don’t represent you. Maybe the hair you want isn’t allowed. Maybe the name you were given grates on you when you see it or hear it.
The walls close in.
I am trapped in my shame. The faith, the morals, the judgment, the hate that looms over me is never ending. And the hate starts to become mine. I start to hate myself. My body. My brain. My thoughts. My feelings. My desires…. Myself.
Maybe you too are developing a hate for yourself. Maybe you hide yourself away and isolate from others. Maybe you do things that hurt because you feel disgusted. Maybe you have lashed out at others who don’t fit the mold because you don’t want to admit who you are.
The walls close in.
By now I imagine you’re thinking well great that’s a very uplifting and inspirational message - NOT.
But the truth is… I am approaching 30…And…. I’m still trapped and for now that’s how it must be.
I write all this so you know- YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I cannot say I know exactly how you feel. I cannot say I have been exactly where you are. I cannot say those things. But I hope this message will let you know that there are others who are hidden and suffering too.
So what can we do?
What can we who are in impossible situations and traumatizing environments do?
We CAN make our own community.
Gravitate in social situations to the people we can trust; the people we can be the most real AND safe with, the people who will help us on this journey.
We CAN dare to dream.
This is so important for me. To think about if I was completely free what would I want? To think about how I feel and who I really want to be? Allowing myself to dream. Dreaming of unconditional love instead of loneliness. Dream of someone who makes us feel safe and special.
We CAN comfort ourselves and remind ourselves that it’s okay to chose safety over identity disclosure for a time.
Reminding ourselves that this won’t last forever. We can work toward freedom. We can make a plan that will guide us toward the future we want.
We MUST remember that being in the closet doesn’t mean our feelings, our thoughts, our desires, our beliefs, our expression, our identity are any less valid or real.
I will say it again for everyone like me who has been accosted every moment of their days on this earth with the fact that they aren’t “right” and that they need “fixed” or hidden.
YOU ARE NOT IN ANY WAY ANY LESS VALID BECAUSE YOU ARE “PASSING” FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY AND SURVIVAL.
The time to climb out of the cave. The time to blink our eyes as we gaze at the most gorgeous most bright most bold sunrise. The time to let ourselves stretch. To feel our arms swing, our feet stomp, our lungs… breathe.
The time will come.
And until then, know this- YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
The time for - coming out - transitioning - publicly embracing all of who we are. The time will come for us.
Until then IF OR WHEN you’re ready to stand PROUD and declare I KNOW WHO I AM AND YOU CAN LOVE AND SUPPORT AND CELEBRATE ME OR YOU CAN JUST GO BECAUSE I WILL NOT BE DISRESPECTED, DEHUMANIZED, OR ABUSED. BY. ANYONE.
know that I will be cheering for you and celebrating your bravery and freedom.
And I dream that you will celebrate for me too when the time comes for me.
Don’t give up hope.
You may be trapped now….
But one day…
you and I will come into the light leaving fear and hiding behind and let our QUEERNESS shine.
Listen to the Coffee and Conversation Podcast release of this blog post here: https://www.recoveryadvocatenetwork.org/coffeeandconversationpodcast/episode/2d59b7e6/ep-017-trapped-by-shayne-with-recovery-advocate-network-a-between-the-lines-episode.