Monsters outside of the closet

"I didn’t get to come out the way I hoped. I had been outed."

by Dillon Pierce
Special to The Gayly

Being a young man from small town Oklahoma, I spent my adolescence like many LGBT youth. I was not afraid of the monsters in the closet. I was afraid of the monsters outside of it. I spent many nights afraid, denying the signs I received from the world.

I prayed for help, that I could be normal, and that I would stop dreaming about showering with the twins from Zoboomafoo! I pushed those feelings away into my gut and locked them away. I would be fine. No one would know.

As I reached adulthood, I traveled away from my home to attend college. I hoped in this new chapter in my life to experience the world and truly find myself…and boy did I!

Two years into my college experience, in a drunken game of truth or dare, I would be forced to look the truth in the face. It had a beautiful face. I kissed another man for the first time. The flame that I had tried to stomp out rose again in my gut. I knew at that moment that there was no way I could deny, at least to myself, the truth. I was attracted to men.

What do you do, when you know your world will change? Being a college aged kid and fitting in with your peers is hard enough. I had found friendship in my theatre department but insecurity set in. If I came out, I would not be the same. Would my friends be mad at me for lying to them for years?  Did I have the strength in myself to speak my truth to the people who I loved? And if I did, could I still be me?

I sought out guidance from the only gay adult I knew. The man was a carpenter who had been out and proud for more than 30 years. I began visiting him regularly, learning about his identity and life in the south as a pioneering gay man. His bravery and commitment to himself and his truth was inspiring to me. My resolve to open the closet door and free myself from living in fear grew. “Soon,” I told myself. Soon would come faster than I expected.

One day, I was greeted in the hallway by a friend. “Hey, Dillon! You didn’t tell me you were gay, man.”

I felt instantaneous fear. “What do you mean?” I replied. I felt desperate. I wasn’t ready. The friend assured me it was okay, she claimed a mutual friend of ours had shared my secret with her. I ran. I found the one who had told my secret. How could he even have known?

When I finally was able to confront him, he could offer no explanation. He had observed me going to visit the carpenter and simply assumed. “I didn’t think it was a big deal.” He said. I had been outed. No big deal.

I didn’t get to come out the way I hoped. It wasn’t a triumphant moment with champagne glasses, pomp and circumstance. It wasn’t an intimate moment with my friends one by one, crying and hugging our fears away. It was hallway gossip. I did not fly out of the closet on wings made of pride but was instead drug unceremoniously by a man with no understanding of the gravity of the effect he would have on my life.

I think the most important lesson I learned from the experience is this: I am fine.

The friends, whom I loved, showed me nothing but love. No one felt betrayed, no one felt scared of me. I was not a new person; I simply had discovered something new about myself. There were no monsters outside of my closet, only the imagination of a scared child.

I received some wonderful advice as a young actor, “How can you pretend to be someone else when you are pretending all the time?” I don’t have to pretend anymore. I am Dillon Pierce. I am out and I am proud.

Copyright 2016 The Gayly – October 12, 2016 @ 11:15 a.m.