Today I talk about the power of speaking your truth. The metaphor of coming out is universal. Identifying our closet areas is an important first step to take before we can overcome the fear of stepping out of those closets.
In this episode, I explain how to identify the closets that have been created for us and how we can free ourselves from them.
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- How to identify your Closet Areas
- Tips for overcoming the fear of stepping out of the closet
- Why it pays to speak your truth
- Michael’s coming out story
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- Join the Coaching and Mentorship Intensive with Ken Page
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Coming out is a universal experience. All of us have closets that we are afraid to open the door to and show the world. That act of identifying and naming our closets, opening the door, and sharing what’s in there with ourselves and the world is an act of profound bravery, and it’s one of the central acts of conscious intimacy.
In this episode, you’ll discover what some of your closets are and you’ll learn a beautiful, beautiful practice for beginning to free yourself from those closets. So stay tuned to this episode of The Deeper Dating® Podcast.
All of us have closets that we are afraid to open the door to. Click To Tweet
Hello and welcome to The Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page, and I’m a psychotherapist, author of the book, Deeper Dating, host of this podcast, and the creator of The Deeper Dating® Intensive.
And today, I’m going to be talking about the universal metaphor of coming out and how we can all identify the closets that have been created for us, co-created for us, and that we’ve created for ourselves, and how we can free ourselves from them and what that’s going to mean for our lives and our relationships. Of course, this is way more universal than just being LGBTQ. It’s a universal challenge.
So in this and every episode, my commitment is to share the greatest tools and insights that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are the deep skills of love, and the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy and meaningful life.
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So the experience of coming out is this very universal experience. It’s the experience of having a part of ourselves that we are afraid of, that we feel other people will judge, that we are hesitant to reveal, that we’re hesitant to give full life and full expression.
And in that, we become reduced. We give up parts of ourselves. Then there’s this process, this brave, brave act of choosing to say, “This is what I’m feeling. This is who I am. This is the shape and the language of the ways that I love.” It’s an incredibly brave and life-changing thing.
And it’s not only queer people that get to do it, we all get to do it. It’s like an initiation where you enter into something that feels too big and too scary, and then you move through it and you come out on the other end more of who you’re meant to be.
In this episode, you’re going to be able to work with me in identifying your closet areas. For every one of us, our closet areas are gold, they’re nuclear, they’re powerful, and they’re life-changing, and they’re central. Even naming them is an act of liberation.
All of us wrestle with this struggle between fear and authenticity. Coming out is an act of heroism that all of us are called to, and you do not have to be gay to join this party. So in this episode, I’m going to teach you a simple exercise, and we’re going to live through it together, for naming your personal closets and gently beginning to liberate or continue to liberate them from their hold.
It’s this kind of amazing irony to how we are created that I talk about in all of my work, that the parts of ourselves we’re most timid about embracing are the very parts that can lead us to our greatest potential in life and in love. But courage alone is almost never enough to free us from the thrall of fear and shame that holds us back from embracing these parts. For that, almost always, we need support.
The universal experience of coming out:
I’ve talked about my dear friend Michael Clemente, who passed away with AIDS in 1991, how he changed my life, and all that he taught me. Well, I met him in college, and with one sentence, one sentence, he opened up my world.
So at the time, I was reading Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road, which was total required reading for every post-hippie college student. And so I brought this up to Michael because I was excited and proud that I was reading it.
So Michael told me that he read it as well, and he said, “But I didn’t like it because all the characters were unkind to each other.”
Coming out is an act of heroism that all of us are called to. Click To Tweet
I was completely stunned. I had already been out of the closet since high school, but I did not know that guys were actually even allowed to say things like that. I had never encountered a man so unashamed of his gentleness.
So he blew me away with his freedom. And through that freedom, he gave me my North Star. For the first time, I could envision dismantling this lifelong wall that I had constructed against myself. I have tried to follow that revelation ever since I met Michael, and doing so has led me to a lot more love and helped me get through a lot more blocks and walls.
So Dr. Evelyn Hooker who did groundbreaking research that led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness used to quote the novelist Finn Carling.
And this is what he said, “I’m not only studying homosexuals, I’m studying refugees because they teach me the meaning of movement. I’m studying the blind because they will teach me the meaning of sight and vision. I am studying…” This was a long time ago when they used the word homosexuals. “I am studying homosexuals because they will teach me the meaning of love.”
Because when we’re denied love, our battle to reclaim it teaches everyone what love really means. And virtually every LGBTQ person is forced to make a choice. We have to choose. I mean, I think it’s like much less so now than it was for me growing up, but depending on the person, it still is really, really big.
Self-acceptance or self-loathing:
We have to choose between self-acceptance and self-loathing, truth and safety. And that choice is universal. It’s bigger than orientation. It’s bigger than gender identity. It’s everyone’s challenge.
Being the first to say, “I love you,” in a relationship, or expressing a part of ourselves that we’ve hidden from everyone, or standing up for an unpopular idea, or saying no to our own guilt and shame so that we can move ahead with what really matters to us, there are countless ways to come out, micro and macro, not that it’s easy.
Because when we choose self-acceptance over conformity, we cross over these high-voltage tripwires of fear and shame and the risk of disapproval and rejection and even physical violence. Until we take that scary, scary leap, we won’t know how the world will receive us.
If we’re in a new relationship and we have parts that we’re so afraid to share, it’s really scary to share them for the first time. It is true, authentic, existential fear. If we’re met with derision or worse, we will be wounded, maybe terribly wounded.
When we’re met with acceptance and even delight, it’s freedom. There’s this feeling of self-validation and a feeling like I can be part of the world at the deepest levels, and it’s as though we’re finally given license to meet the world skin-to-skin.
That is when we glimpse our capacity for amazingness, for life-changing intimacy and love. Gandhi said it so beautifully, he said, and I’ve quoted him before, “This love is the prerogative of the brave.”
We have to choose between self-acceptance and self-loathing; truth or safety. And that choice is universal. Click To Tweet
So there’s a small but tremendously potent question that you can ask yourself to discover your own personal closets. And then there’s a mindfulness practice I’m going to teach you to overcome – fear of stepping out of that closet.
I actually encourage you to try it right now if you’re walking, if you’re sitting, whatever you’re doing, as long as it’s not going to put you in danger because you’ll be too distracted. It’s pretty quick and I think you’ll love it.
So right now, just take a moment to reflect: in your life now, what’s your closet? Is there an action that you’re afraid to take? Is there a piece of yourself you’re afraid to embrace? Is there a truth that you’ve been afraid to reveal or speak? Is there an emotion that it’s been hard to share with a loved one? Is there an ask? Is there a need? Or maybe it’s a creative pursuit or an adventure that you’re afraid to try or a scary step that you ache to take, but it’s too scary.
Just take a minute and let yourself think of one thing. Of course, you could do this exercise so many times and that is a beautiful thing to do, but just see what comes up now. So whatever it is, recognize it, like put a name on it, but don’t try to push through it.
Don’t try to push through it. Just simply hold the desire to break through along with the fear of what that would entail. Just hold them both. Hold them both. That aspect, that exercise of holding both almost like it’s two children of yours that are so different from each other, and they’re going to have such different life paths and such different challenges.
And you look at them and you can kind of see big pieces of their future, potentially, ahead of them. Just imagine that each one is sitting on one of your knees and your arms are around them, and you’re equally loving them both in their profoundly different places in life.
Just try to feel the humanity in both parts, these two hurt and beautiful children that you love, one on each knee, and rest for a moment with both of them.
It’s an amazing process, the fear, and the desire. Hold them both. Just hold them both. Just rest with them and feel the beating heart of your own humanity and their humanity in this struggle.
Just by that tiny exercise, you will move closer to freeing yourself from your closet. Just by holding both, you will deepen your humanity. You will increase your personal depth. You’ll increase your compassion. And those help amazingly to take the next step.
Of course, the other next step is to think, “Who gets this desire of mine? Who gets it? Who gets a kick out of it? Who treasures it? Who would tell me, ‘Do it. Go for it. Do it.'” Those people are the people that you should be sharing this with, and that will make such a profound, profound difference.
Many, many, many years ago, my mom, a Holocaust survivor, and an amazing artist, taught art classes, did portraits of people. It was kind of, she loved doing all of those things, but it was not her dream.
One day she decided that she wanted to paint the Lower East Side. She wanted to actually paint street scenes. She wanted to plop her butt down in the street on Orchard Street and do these big paintings. She said to my sister, she said, “I really don’t feel like I could do that. A European-born, older woman doesn’t sit on a street corner and paint.”
My sister said, “Why the hell not?” And kind of rallied the forces of the family around her. Since then, my mom has done 93 paintings of the changing city. She has a documentary that was done about her. She has a Facebook Live show. She has chronicled a changing city way over half a century. So that’s like the naming of the desire and then the getting support.
Free yourself from your closets:
So I want to go back to Michael. So he remained and remains my friend and mentor, and he was my active friend until he died in 1991. I loved him urgently. When he was diagnosed with AIDS, he began this fierce fight towards self-healing.
He knew that his healing was going to center around revealing the very truths that he was most afraid to tell. More than anything, that meant coming out to his parents. Even though he was living with his lover, he never said the word gay to them and he was absolutely petrified. He finally came out. It wasn’t a big deal. They were pretty wonderful about it.
But he said, “Ken, I felt like I was dancing on a table in a tutu in front of my father. It was that awkward to do. It was that kind of shameful and embarrassing.” But out of it and the empowerment that it brought him, coming out of his closet, he wrote this poem. This poem captures so beautifully what it means to be in a closet. It’s called, “I Held Onto My Secret”.
“I held onto my secret tightly. I hid it behind my teeth. I choked it in my throat. I crushed it in my chest. I was dwarfed by it, humiliated by it, chased by it. I stepped over the edge when I revealed my secret, but it didn’t hurt. My other foot simply landed. It was, after all, no revelation to me. But the pain I was protecting myself from by carrying my secret was the pain I was inflicting on myself by carrying my secret.”
There’s no worse pain than that of isolation. Whatever our closet, and whatever your closet might be, in intimate relationships, coming out is an act of bravery, and it’s an act of liberation, and it’s an act that is really hard to do without the support of other people. We need each other. Not only do we need other people, but other people need us.
Just like Michael said to me, “I didn’t like that book because the people in it weren’t kind to each other.” All of a sudden, I realized you were allowed to say stuff like that. His coming out of the closet enabled me to come out of the closet.
Every time we speak our scary truth, we open a path of truth for others who are still afraid to do that. We give them that thrilling realization that freedom is a possibility, that there might be a place for this part of them in the world.
When we do that, we validate all the people who bravely came before us, and we pay it forward to those of us who are too afraid still to speak. Then the path of authenticity starts feeling like a path to freedom, a path that we can stop walking alone, a path in which we can find walls turn into doors, and we can reclaim the parts of ourselves that we’ve given away.
So to each of us, I wish us the bravery and the willingness to admit our closets and take some scary, beautiful steps to normalize what’s inside those closets, to bring light to that which has been hidden in darkness, and to make it part of our lexicon, part of who we are, part of what we can share, part of what we’re allowed to do in the world because that liberates other people as well as liberating ourselves.
I’d love to hear your stories and your feedback, and blessings to each one of us who is learning how to open and come out of our closets. Thank you and I look forward to connecting on the next episode of The Deeper Dating® Podcast.
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