Beards, Bisexuals, & Busybodies: The Schematics Of Staying In The Closet
So today I came across the video that’s making the rounds in the gay community of the remarks made by television host and radio personality Wendy Williams. Known for a very blunt, sometimes crass commentary that seems controversial, today her comments about gay men that date women for years before coming out of the closet illicit a very strong and quite visceral reaction from Williams.
It all started after she was asked about the ex-fiancé of Jason Collins, the NBA player that came out of the closet and sparked a huge debate about being gay and being involved in professional sports. Williams felt that Collins had implied that Collins cheated this woman out of eight years of her life. Known to what many call a beard, or a woman that either knowingly or unknowingly is in a relationship with a gay man that is still in the closet, and in this case, Collins omission about his sexuality was hurtful. That even though the struggles he went through were important, he and any other closeted man should not involve other woman that want to one day have families into that situation.
During this sound bite there was one quote made by Williams that really stuck out for me and I haven’t been able to move past it because it angered it me as it seems so dismissive to what we fear as gay men:
“The one thing that irks the hell out of me is a deceptive closeted closeted man”
To sum it up Williams was making the argument that she was somewhat sympathetic to the plight of men still in the closet and the struggles that it has on an individual but we should know better than to bring someone else into it and deceiving them which results in them losing years of their life. Later on in this candid interview, Williams also inferred to the legitimacy of bisexuality as questionable and that it was not something she.
So is staying in the closet deception? No, I don’t or at least not in the way Williams referenced the term. I’d like to remind Williams that first off, there are no winners in the scenarios of closeted men that chose to be with women but that it is a very delicate subject. Because being in the closet is not only a psychological and emotional dilemma, but can manifest into a physical one as well. The fear of being judged, persecuted, even having your life threatened making you have to constantly be on alert to if anyone around can detect it.
Being in the closet is not about deception as the term is to maliciously withhold information to use against someone. Being in the closet is the time in which we deal with accepting our sexual nature and how society still wants us to conform to some form of heteronormative practices. Its basis has been and will always be about fear. Fear of what judgments can await us from our loved ones, security with our jobs/careers, and those that may try to harm us. This is about protecting ourselves, and in some cases that does mean our very lives.
But we cannot be unsympathetic or dismissive to how it affects the women in these relationships once the man they once believed was straight, a man they once believed desired them sexually, may not have been sexually attracted to her. That she may feel that she was being used as a protective shield around this man’s life all the while whatever dreams she had of commitment and family was not the same schematic blueprint of family that he envisioned. It’s true that he could have had some sexual desire as sex does not always equate to attraction, or that he too wanted to build a family the same way she did and truly wanted to make the relationship work. He may have even loved her but sexual orientation was the thing that made it not work.
And these women have the right to feel sad, hurt, even cheated out of time because in truth that is what has happened. It’s not easy to say but they too are a causality of these circumstances that compels a man to stay in the closet. But I won’t call this deception so much as I see it as two people that were unable to make it work because they are too different. Because this man felt like the only way he could have a family was to subscribe to what our society tells a man how he should act, who he should be sexually attracted to, and who he can love.
This is a touchy subject, but the one thing that I feel Williams and others with opinions like hers need to take into account that instances like this are driven by a deep sense of fear that is sometimes so crippling you do everything in your power to mask any signs of it. One may even begin to convince themselves that you can be sexually attracted to a woman and have sex, that you can build a family, and that you can fall in love until you one day are finally able to see that it is not enough to pretend to believe just to make it so. It’s fear.
Williams also made a snide reference that Collins partner should have been able to pick up on his sexuality, like some animal that is roaming for prey and that frustrated me as well. Because of this busybody mentality, she’s no better than any other bigot shouting slurs at us from across the street. It infers that gay looks or acts a certain way when it does not. Sexual identity is more than any stereotypical paradigm to be identified. And inferences like this puts blame on the woman because it says “she should have known better” when none of this is her fault. So incredulously, Williams insulted the very gender she so flippantly tried to defend.
What would be beneficial in preventing things like this from happening is talking more about our experiences and to stop shaming homosexuality. Comments about the legitimacy of bisexuality don’t help matters at all. It is not about “easing your way into being gay to hold on to some masculinity It’s biology and the one thing we’ve learned from that is that it is all shades in nature. Just like skin color, sexual identity comes in all different shades with varying degrees.
Williams should also remember that since she herself is a part of the problem as she loves to sensationalize the potential sexuality of some of the celebrities she talks about. She makes endless speculations on whether or not someone is gay adding the note of scandal for her viewers to buy into and she profits from it. She may not know it, but doing this infers that it is somehow wrong and shames the men and women that may be struggling in this situation.
None of this is fair to anyone in the situation. I hope that those of us who are out and proud can show the men and women that are still in the closet, still living in fear that they don’t have to be trapped anymore. That our community is growing with love and support that will stand by them. Hopefully those that make scandals out of homosexuality like Williams can see that they’re only adding to a very difficult situation.