Everyone thinks queers hate their closet. No queer loves being in the closet, but every queer loves their literal closet. Figuratively, you realize it only sucks once you’ve come out of it and joined the beautiful man in that half-fishnet shirt who loves himself dearly and the most magnificently androgynous person who screams anarchy without screaming at all. A community with purpose but without perfection, built on a foundation of complete and utter love for oneself—that’s not idealism, it’s the evolution of humanitarianism. My closet has embodied all of my change hidden from everybody, tucked behind a door as though that’s where it belongs.
In middle school, my closet held Dilbert comic strips wallpapered to the ceiling on the left side and NatGeo rock climbers and mountaineers plastered high on the right, perched on their summits. I always appreciated a person who would risk a broken body for a new view and adrenaline-intoxicate—looking as though they’ve conquered something while also looking like an ant on a skyscraper. A lumpy fleece body pillow on the floor held me some nights when I didn’t want to sleep in my bed— no longer would I be subjected to the room my mother had strewn up sheer neon pink curtains in and refused to let me paint tropical seaweed green to live out my mountaineering dreams. Neon pink-sheer wasn’t my summit to mount—instead, it leveled me with scrutinous expectations and some rose-colored curtains to look out at the world from.
In high school, my closet held my frustration of misplaced queerness– channeled into, not my expression or acceptance of myself, but into forging myself into a “proper woman”. The same misplaced queerness that made me nervous in the locker room after basketball, or that made me feel guilty for wanting to hold my best friend’s hand on bus rides. My best friend I loved—but I wasn’t supposed to love girls—so I loved her like I loved biking and cooking, right? My closet held my brother’s hand-me-down basketball shorts and large t-shirts, until I got called faggot and lezzie, then it held jeans and hoodies because I swore I wouldn’t let anybody see my body– they would just misinterpret it. My closet consoled me on nights that I wanted to recognize who I was, but I didn’t have the words in my pockets.
Oh, my college dorm closet, a small busted-up tan portable wardrobe only half-functioning. The first two years it would hear me cry, watch The L Word, cry a little more. I stripped it of everything except a small box of old clothes- for when my parents visited- and refilled it with things that filled me. A busted canvas mess of Hawaiian shirts and hats lighting up the corner of my room. I stopped spending time in my closet and began falling in love with my ambiguous self and the fact that no binary could contain me.
My closet holds dusty-packed-away-queer-shame in the shape of a brown 3M Scotch box full of moth-ball-smelling clothing. Except that every day I would become a more saturated shade of myself and decide to pack another article away– the laced tank top I got for Christmas that accentuates my hips, the black pencil dress I used for job interviews but was too cheap to dry clean so it smelled of sweat and Old Spice from its most recent use. All clothes that made me feel feminine despite never wanting to feel that way a day in my life. Clothes that I would uncover every once in a while for a job interview, or a public presentation until I decided other people could learn to love me for who I am, and if they don’t, fuck ‘em. The box moved with me three times and I could never bring myself to part with it. It was a brick every time I opened the door– literally blocking me from closing the doors all the way. I could never place why I kept it—maybe because it was a safety net in case I ever needed to access that privilege, or maybe because I’ve never been ready to let go of the image that other people had of me for fear of letting them down. I’ve always held a certain guilt about my presentation and how it will affect other people—the one thing I never considered is how it would affect people positively. What I would give to let my 10-year-old-self see a woman shopping in a men’s section for herself, or a butch woman in her finest CEO suit so I could know that things would get better.
I’m staring at it, peeking underneath my shoes, it’s not brown anymore, more like a speckled dust-layered taupe. Fuck you little box. I’m not relying on you to save me from a society that’s sick and judgmental. You don’t make me feel safe, you make me feel scared being queer. My freedom is in my fluidity– my ability to grow and change that my closet has kept safe from judgement. I’ve survived and thrived through all that shit and would do it again to get to where I am right now, in this moment, tossing you into a Goodwill donation bin where someone will consider you a blessing—not me.
Kyra Hill currently writes for dental websites and is working towards funding a collaborative project that showcases the dynamic and diverse rural queer community. They are fond of writing odes and climbing boulders, as well as writing odes to boulders. They are fortunate to have been previously published in GRAVEL and The Broke Bohemian.