Coming Out Of The Closet Essay Definition

Exploring The Closet and Coming Out

  • :: 4 Works Cited
  • Length: 2169 words (6.2 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
The act of "coming out" is a complex political tool. Its use is open to ambiguous possibilities, ranging from subverting social order to reinforcing those power structures. Of course, it is undoubtedly an empowering act for many non-heterosexual persons to identify themselves as such. Even if the categories of "heterosexual" and "homosexual" are entirely socially constructed (as Michel Foucault argues), that does not mean that they are not real categories of thought that shape the way we live our lives. Indeed, my computer is entirely constructed, but is still undeniably real. Since many non-heterosexual people do live their lives identifying differently from heterosexual people, they may find "homosexual" (or a similar label) an accurate description of their identities and daily lives, however socially contingent that description is. That said, I do not wish to make a judgement call on whether or not someone should or should not come out. Rather, I wish to examine the complicated space represented by "the closet" and the multifarious effects that "coming out" has on the larger social structure.

On one hand, it is tempting to say that the space of the closet, and the resulting ability to come out, is a necessarily radical weapon. Our social structure is based around insides and outsides: "any identity is founded relationally, constituted in reference to an exterior or outside that defines the subject's own interior boundaries and corporeal surfaces" (Fuss 234). Homosexuality serves as the foil to heterosexuality – something that heterosexuality can define itself against. It is "a transgression of the border which is necessary to constitute the border as such" (Fuss 235). Heterosexuality becomes that which is not homosexuality. The secretive space that the closet provides, though, complicates this binary structure. By providing the ability for an "outsider" to pass as an "insider," it serves as an ambiguous space that is neither clearly inside nor outside. It is a contradiction in itself, in that it is both inside and outside simultaneously. Furthermore, it points out the instability of society's larger inside/outside structure by including both inside-ness and outside-ness in the same space: the closet is a site where it is possible to be homosexual and inside, and heterosexual and outside, all at the same time. This possibility that anyone can spring out of the closet at any time and declare her/his ruse destabilizes the tenuous boundary between inside and outside. The act of coming out is subversive also because it points out all of heterosexuality as performance.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Exploring The Closet and Coming Out." 123HelpMe.com. 11 Mar 2018
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=24745>.

LengthColor Rating 
Opening the Closet Door Essay - As we move through our daily lives, most people at some time experience a sense of disconnection, of not conforming to the box. When these challenges come in the form of sexual orientation they can create a great deal of confusion, fear, and resentment. It can become a lifelong journey to sort these out, not only for the person in the dilemma, but their families as well. In her poem “In the Counselor’s Waiting Room,” Bettie Sellers touches on many of these issues. The guilt associated with being discovered with the “quiet girl down the hall,” the rejection of that lifestyle by her family, and the narrator’s own sense of confusion over this “outing” are revealed in this brief thirteen line p...   [tags: Literature Review]716 words
(2 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Homosexuals: Coming Out of the Closet in Angels in America Essay - "Coming out of the closet" is an essential for homosexuals to develop their personal identity. Coming out of the closet is a figure of speech for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people's to tell others about their homosexuality or bisexuality where previously this had been kept secret. Framed and debated as a privacy issue, coming out of the closet is described and experienced variously as a psychological process or journey; decision-making or risk-taking (Wikipedia). Author Steven Seidman writes that “it is the power of the closet to shape the core of an individual's life that has made homosexuality into a significant personal, social, and political drama in twentieth-centu...   [tags: Homosexuality ]
:: 4 Works Cited
1061 words
(3 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay on Coming Out of the Closet - Coming Out “Coming out” is a means of identifying one’s sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. At its most basic, “coming out of the closet,” means being honest with those around you—friends, family, colleagues, and so forth—about your sexual orientation, about whom you are. It also means acknowledging one’s sexual orientation to self. Such disclosure is an ongoing, lifelong process rather than a one-time event. New personal, social, and professional situations require gay men and lesbians to make decisions about the degree to which they can be open about their sexual orientation (Morrow, 1996)....   [tags: Homosexual Gay Lesbian Bisexual Papers]
:: 12 Works Cited
2272 words
(6.5 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Coming out of My Heterophobia Closet Essay - Coming out of “My Heterophobia” Closet Growing up in a heterosexual world as a Lesbian who remained in many closets, has shape my identity and the way I will transact with people for the rest of my life. Upon coming out of closet, or being pushed out (by suspension from parents and friends) at the age of eighteen or nineteen I quickly assumed the bi-sexual title because it meant at least there was hope for me in the future. This proved to be worse for my self-esteem, and may have caused the most damage because even though I was free to come out, I was still afraid (somewhat) of taking the big leap and being totally ostracized by my friends and people I know....   [tags: essays research papers]1404 words
(4 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
George Orwell's Coming Up for Air Essays - George Orwell's Coming Up for Air George Orwell’s novel, Coming Up for Air, portrays England at two different times. The story is based around George Bowling in 1939 and his life in the suburbs of London on Ellesmere Road, where all the houses are the same. He is very cynical of the world around him and dreams of his times as a child in Lower Binfield when things were not perfect, but not yet ruined by the Great War. The vision of 1900 England versus England in 1939 creates a sharp contrast in life for George Bowling....   [tags: George Orwell Coming Air Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
1298 words
(3.7 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Second Coming Essay - The Second Coming In his poem "The Second Coming," Yeats predicts cataclysmic changes about to be wrought upon human kind. He states, "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world," (1511). This statement is in line with Modernistic thought of this time period. Modernistic writers felt that traditional teachings left something to be desired, and that it was time for change. There was a huge upheaval in religious beliefs and current religious convictions were being challenged with new scientific knowledge....   [tags: Second Coming]365 words
(1 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Free Essays - The Second Coming - The Second Coming The Second Coming reminds me of the Marabar Caves in A Passage to India because of the "disconnectedness" that is portrayed. The poem quickly begins: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre [cycle of history] The falcon cannot hear the falconer'; Here Yeats reminds us all about the cycle of life that is constantly in rebirth. Everything is constantly "turning" in a "widening gyre" and yet the "falcon cannot hear the falconer" Life is connected in the sense that it is constantly in motion, constantly "turning" and yet there exists this strange "disconnectedness" because nature "the falcon" is so far separated from mankind "the falconer" that it can no longer be cal...   [tags: Second Coming]503 words
(1.4 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Yeats’ Second Coming and Cummings’ what if a much of a which of a wind Essay - The End of the World in Yeats’ Second Coming and Cummings’ what if a much of a which of a wind Hellfire and brimstone, a massive environmental disaster, a third World War; how will the world end. This issue can stop conversations, or start hour long arguments; it can start a religion, or cause people to renounce their faith. The answer to the ubiquitous question of how the world will eventually end is a paradox; to know the answer means that the final hour has come. Both E.E. Cummings and William Butler Yeats express their premonitions about when and why this awesome event may occur....   [tags: Yeats Second Coming Essays]1944 words
(5.6 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Coming into Language by Jimmy Santiago Baca Essay - Is it possible to make vital life changes to become a better person at heart. Who’s the one that can help you. The only person that will get you up on your feet is yourself, and you have to believe deeply to make those changes. In this essay there are many main points that are being brought across to explain the problems and wisdom that arose from Baca’s life as an inmate. It talks about how he was grown up into an adult and the tragedies that he had to face in order to become one. Later I fallow steps that lead to the purpose and rhetorical appeals of Baca’s essay....   [tags: Coming into Language]1080 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Closet Essay - The Closet Wolfgang knew about his father's past. It wasn't talked about much, but when it was, Wolfgang's mouth would perspire saliva and he would swallow it with fear. His past scared him, scared him so much one time while listening a small puddle began to form around his left leg. His father had never hit him or anything. His friends, they all got the belt, slap across the butt. Wolfgang tried to explain to them the stories, but they all thought he had it easy. The stories consisted of a kid, a non descriptive child....   [tags: Creative Writing Essays]1185 words
(3.4 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]

Related Searches

Social Structures         Closet         Binary         Homosexual         Social Order         Empowering         Categories         Michel        




If one person can act heterosexual, it illuminates heterosexuality as an act, implicating all of heterosexuality as a performance.

On the other hand, it is also possible to interpret the closet as a reinforcer of inside/outside categories. The closet is a space of secrecy. If someone is "in the closet," s/he is pretending to be something that s/he is not. This secret indicates that two oppositional identities at work – the one that is kept hidden, and the other that covers for it. The closet also reinforces the places designated for these two identities. The "real" identity which is kept in the closet is "private," whereas the presumed identity, outside the closet, is "public." Moreover, the concept of the closet emphasizes the hierarchy inherent to these binary oppositions. That one identity must be hidden implies its shamefulness and inferiority to the opposing, public identity.

Clearly, coming out can have extremely disparate effects, or at least differing interpretations of those effects. In order to determine whether or not coming out is a successful political tool, we must evaluate how the act influences the actor's relationship to power. Here it is useful to turn to Foucault's definition of power. For Foucault, there is no single, monolithic power force (e.g., the government). Power, rather, is exerted in the way we produce discourse – the way we form knowledge which then creates what we regard as "truth." Starting in the eighteenth century, "the confession became one of the West's most highly valued techniques for producing truth" (Foucault 59). The "confession" here can take place between any two people with an investigative relationship, for example, between doctor and patient, teacher and student, or parent and child. Power, then, is not simply divisible between the dominators and the dominated. It is exercised in interchanges, and forms not a single oppressive force, but rather something closer to an inescapably dense web. There are particular sites of power where power relays are more salient: sexuality is "an especially dense transfer point for relations of power" (Foucault 103). Still, these power locals are interconnected within a broader power system.

Under this definition, power is inseparably linked to the ability to participate in the formation of discourse. Coming out, unfortunately, does not provide this sort of authority. Indeed, it merely exposes homosexual-identified people to the power structure on a more personal level. The individuals in society who can speak authoritatively about homosexuals are not gays and lesbians themselves, but rather, individuals who simply espouse the dominant discourse which is already in place – ideas that everyone already accepts before they are even said. Coming out does not enable homosexuals to claim "back from them a certain interpretative authority over the meaning of [their own] words and actions" (Halperin 13). On the contrary, coming out exposes a gay person on a personal level – others can talk about her/him personally with no fear of being discredited so long as they are asserting the "truths" of dominant discourse (Halperin 13). This lack of power is illustrated by the typical heterosexual response to a homosexual coming out: "Are you sure?" Those within the dominant discourse (those who are "inside," in Fuss's terms) have the ability to refute what the "outsiders" are saying about their own identity. It is hard to imagine this scenario with someone claiming a more benign label such as "I am a vegetarian." This identity statement does not prompt the response, "How long have you known? Are you sure it's not just a phase? Maybe you just haven't eaten very good hamburgers yet." Sexuality is by far a much more poignant locus in which power relays may be articulated; these relays reveal the authority held by "insiders."

At the same time, however, it is important to note that staying in the closet will not bring you greater power either. Though a closeted homosexual may gain some privileges usually reserved for heterosexuals, s/he does not have authority over the discourse that creates her/his identity that Foucault recognizes as power. In the closet, a gay person does not know what others think about her/him, if others have "caught on," and is thus still servile to other people's knowledges. S/he is merely attending heterosexuals' requirement that homosexuals not reveal themselves. If this need is met, heterosexuals can maintain a distance from the "outside," and keep the so-called secret of homosexuality unacknowledged. Of course, homosexuality is hardly a secret, as Foucault argues extensively – the concept of homosexuality is a product of a complex social system; at the same time that homosexuality was constructed, it was understood as a secret. "What is peculiar to modern societies, in fact, is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret" (Foucault 35). When homosexuals refrain from communicating their sexuality, they present themselves as something that does not need to be acknowledged. "To 'closet' one's homosexuality is also to submit oneself to the social imperative imposed on gay people by non-gay-identified people, the imperative to shield the latter not from the knowledge of one's homosexuality so much as from the necessity of acknowledging the knowledge of one's homosexuality" (Halperin 29).

The closet, then, reinforces the dominant discourse in another way – by allowing silence. For "silence itself – the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the discretion that is required between different speakers – is less the absolute limit of discourse... than an element that functions alongside the things said... There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses" (Foucault 27). The need for heterosexuals to remain silent on the topic of homosexuality is yet another reinforcer of their dominant status, and the space of the closet allows this silence to exist unquestioned.

Coming out disrupts this aspect of discourse-formation – yet this does not necessarily mean that claiming a homosexual identity is liberating. Since the concept of "the homosexual" is socially constructed, no one identified her/himself as "homosexual" before s/he was told what it means – that her/his sexual behavior supposedly meant something about her/himself. "Not only did [society] speak of sex and compel everyone to do so; it also set out to formulate the uniform truth of sex... we demand that [sex] tell us our truth, or rather, the deeply buried truth of that truth about ourselves which we think we possess in our immediate consciousness" (Foucault 69). However, sexual identity cannot reveal any deep, hidden, personal truths since it originates from a social process, not from one's own person. Furthermore, the claiming of a socially constructed identity, even if meant to be a rebellious act, is exactly what is needed in order to solidify the creation of that identity. As already established, no one could have identified her/himself as homosexual before some social authority told her/him that s/he was. The act of repeating back the identity with pride – "I am gay, and I'm proud about it!" – is the resistance required to complete the power relay. "[H]omosexuality began to speak in its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or 'naturality' be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified" (Foucault 101). One cannot have power without having resistance, and this resistance is vital to the power relays which produce identity.

However, it is not necessarily the case that identities must be performed exactly as dictated. "[T]he argument that the category of 'sex' is the instrument or effect of 'sexism' or its interpellating moment... does not entail that we ought never to make use of such terms, as if such terms could only and always reconsolidate the oppressive regimes of power by which they are spawned. On the contrary, precisely because such terms have been produced and constrained within such regimes, they ought to be repeated in directions that reverse and displace their originating aims" (Butler 123). Resignification may be possible in the space between what we are assigned and what the range of possibilities are that we can do instead. Whereas Foucault posits a direct reverse discourse, where individuals are only able to throw back the authoritative discourse's own language, Butler finds that it may instead be possible to intervene in the discourse, shift the meanings, and influence one's own identity. "There is no subject prior to its constructions, and neither is the subject determined by those constructions; it is always the nexus, the non-space of cultural collision, in which the demand to resignify or repeat the very terms which constitute the "we" cannot be summarily refused, but neither can they be followed in strict obedience. It is the space of this ambivalence which opens up the possibility of a reworking of the very terms by which subjectivation proceeds – and fails to proceed" (Butler 124). For example, if lesbians are looked down on because they are supposedly "unnaturally" masculine, how does this notion change if a woman, denying the negative connotation, lauds this very quality in her female lover? If used self-consciously, perhaps this kind of language can simultaneously address and counter the dominant discourse that means to assert these concepts in negative terms.

Even if it is impossible to be in control of the production of truth, inside or outside of the closet, it is important to become involved in the discourse that establishes knowledge, and this is only possible outside of the closet. Utilizing Foucault's definition of power, it may be quite impossible to be liberated, if "liberation" means free of all forms of power. Foucault makes clear that power is an incredibly extensive structure, that, in the closet or not, one cannot escape power. However, coming out does provide an important resistance. When one comes out, s/he is trading one set of power relays for another: but this does not mean that the act is not ultimately freeing. One is still entrenched within the power system, but coming out presents a different form of power relations in which one can reverse, resist, and react against the social discourse.

Works Cited:

Butler, Judith. "Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion," from Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge, 1993. p121-140.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (Vol. 1). New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

Fuss, Diana. "Inside/Out," from Critical Encounters: Reference and Responsibility in Deconstructive Writing. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995. p233-240.

Halperin, David. Saint Foucault. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 1995.



Coming Out Of The Closet Essay

Coming Out

“Coming out” is a means of identifying one’s sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. At its most basic, “coming out of the closet,” means being honest with those around you—friends, family, colleagues, and so forth—about your sexual orientation, about whom you are. It also means acknowledging one’s sexual orientation to self. Such disclosure is an ongoing, lifelong process rather than a one-time event. New personal, social, and professional situations require gay men and lesbians to make decisions about the degree to which they can be open about their sexual orientation (Morrow, 1996).
Sexual orientation is one of the four components of sexuality and is distinguished by an enduring, emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectionate attraction to individuals of a particular gender (Bailey and Bobrow, 1995). According to Bohan (1996), the other components of sexuality are biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and social sex role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior). There are three sexual orientations that are commonly recognized: homosexual, attraction to individuals of one’s own gender; heterosexual, attraction to individuals of the other gender; or bisexual, attractions to members of either gender. Persons with homosexual orientation are referred to as gay (men or women) or lesbians (women only).
At the start of the 1960s homosexuality was referred to as primarily a private affair, supported by the universal belief that homosexuality was a disease or a sin. The majority of Americans indicated that homosexuals were considered harmful to American life. A fear, dislike, hatred, or prejudice of gay men and lesbians, known as homophobia, became widespread. Americans found that their homophobic attitudes surfaced in the following irrational fears: a fear of homosexual tendencies in oneself; the fear that heterosexuals would be converted to the homosexual lifestyle; and fear that if they are accepted, procreation and the human race would be altered or extinct.
The climate of the 1960s was turbulent. This decade was marked by many political movements, which reflected support for non-establishment themes. During this time the “sexual liberation movement” became a popular cause. This intensified social and political interest helped many disadvantaged groups to receive support and attention that previously had never been received. As part of the nation’s desire for sexual political liberation, gay liberation became visible.
The gay liberation movement occurred in Greenwich Village, New York. In June 1969, police invaded the Stone Wall Inn, a bar for gays. The gay people at the club became angered by the police actions, because they felt that it was unprovoked harassment. They fought for several nights, refusing to have the bar closed. This incident, generally referred to as Stonewall, has been noted as the beginning of the awakening of gays...

Loading: Checking Spelling

0%

Read more

Out of the Ordinary. Essay

1044 words - 4 pages Out of the OrdinaryA week before I moved out of my house, I told my brother that he better give me something of his so that I have it to remind me of him. So when I went away for college, my brother had bought me a puppy beanie baby, probably with the help of my mother or sister. The darling puppy was placed in my brother's little hands headed toward me when I...

“Let’s Put Pornography Back in the Closet” by Susan Brownmiller: Analysis of an Argument

614 words - 2 pages In “Let’s Put Pornography Back in the Closet,” Brownmiller discusses her views on the First Amendment and pornography. She explains that pornography has become a disturbingly common sight and there should be some type of restrictions put forth to protect the people who are subject to seeing such obscene materials. Brownmiller uses her feminist views to convince the reader that these restrictions are needed, but only in cases dealing with...

The coming of age in literatur

1165 words - 5 pages Coming of Age in Literature A theme is being traced through the three stories of "Nights", "Sundiata", and "Gilgamesh". It is the coming of age of a child or man in a story. In all of these stories, a child or man who has to face many challenges is part of coming of age. In "Nights",...

Coming Apart: The State of White America

2367 words - 9 pages Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 - 2010 (2012) - Charles Murray Charles Murray is an American social scientist and author of many important books including his 1994 best-selling, The Bell Curve co-authored with Richard Herrnstein, a Harvard psychology professor and researcher. Murray himself is a Harvard graduate (history) who also holds a MIT PHD in political science and is a self-described libertarian. His following...

Coming of Age in Homer's the Odyssey

1027 words - 4 pages Identity is a theme that runs strongly throughout The Odyssey. While much of Homer's work is devoted to Odysseus' journey, an examination of his son Telemakhos provides an excellent example of character development. From the anxious and unconfident young man to which Book I opens to the courageous exactor of his father's estate, Telemakhos undergoes notable emotional maturation. The spiritual journey illustrated by Telemakhos, through his own...

Coming of the Online Age - Marketing Challenges

836 words - 3 pages Marketing Challenges(Cited Source: http://www.forbes.com/columnists/2006/08/11/skype-myspace-free-internet-cx_np_0814skype.html)(Forbes.com by Natalie Pace on 8 - 11 - 06)This article points out that Skype overtook MySpace in terms of the number of users who have registered for both, even though in recent times MySpace even overtook yahoo in terms of...

out of the silent planet

929 words - 4 pages Brittany TaylorKristi LockwoodHighschool English26 October 2014Similarites between Malacandrian theology and Christianity.Although various biblical allusions appear in many novels, most are not easily interpreted. In order for a reader to be able to recognize an allusion they must first understand what an allusion is. An allusion is a comparison to something that goes deeper than what is just stated. In the...

Outliers: Out of the Ordinary

1179 words - 5 pages Malcolm Gladwell insists throughout his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, that the recipe for achievement is not simply based on personal talents or innate abilities alone. Gladwell offers the uncommon idea that outliers largely depend upon “extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies” (Gladwell19). According to Gladwell, successful men and women are beneficiaries of relationships, occasions, places, and cultures. The author draws on a...

The Push out of Texas

3114 words - 12 pages The Push out of Texas A rich part of American history takes place in Texas around the early to middle part of the nineteenth century. During this time period, Texas became a region of American settlement. The price to pay for that settlement, however, ranged on a variety of levels for the different cultures and races of people living there. During this time period, three different groups of people lived in this region. These groups...

Out Of The Silent Planet

519 words - 2 pages Out of the Silent Planet By: C.S. Lewis C.S. Lewis produced a book that conveys vivid scenery, relatable characters, and a vague but detailed plot that gave rise to a novel with wonderful clarity. Out of the Silent Planet is an account of the voyage of Ransom, a linguist, who is kidnapped and taken to another planet, Malacandra (Mars). Where he learns that Thulcandra (Earth) is called the silent planet because there has been no...

Stepping out of the Shadows

1689 words - 7 pages Stepping Out of the ShadowsThe Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends Project reported last year that there were a staggering 6.05 million undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States of America: a number I find extremely hard to encompass . What comes to my mind are families constantly living in fear of being discovered and deported, not being able to...

0 Thoughts to “Coming Out Of The Closet Essay Definition

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *