Luke* and I have the best heart-to-hearts in my closet. We sit on my pink blanket with two cups of green tea and a plate of cookies, sipping and nibbling and conversing. What we say in the closet, stays in the closet. When Luke told me that he was gay, he did not so much come out of the closet as firmly root himself into mine.
“I’m not straight. You can’t tell anyone, Katie.”
It was strange how those two sentences would change the way I saw the world. Luke’s secret peeled off a veil of half-understandings. I began to see facts not as how I wanted to see them, but as how they were. When he fought with his parents, I no longer brushed them off as teenage struggles for control. Instead, I saw eruptions of frustration from conservative Chinese parents, heartbroken over their first and only and gay son, unable to carry on the family name.
During lunch, I realized that Luke sat at my table because he felt uncomfortable with the guys. Mask lifted, my eyes opened to his secret loneliness in his dorm. He could not participate in the mandatory macho-bonding, whether it was the exclusive games on the squash court or the crude jokes told in the common room. It stunned me to see these things, everything that I had seen or could have seen but had refused to see.
Most people refuse to see fully, although they realize partially. When Luke leaves after one of our closet heart-to-hearts, my mother often comments, “Luke dresses so well. He’s a boy, but he’s so into fashion.” At some level, she knows as she watches him put on his tan loafers, meticulously matched with his red corduroys and pressed navy sweater. She trusts him as my friend because instinctively, she understands that he will never be my boyfriend. Yet, I know that if “Luke is gay” were to become a concrete fact, she would shy away from that trust. She would tell me, as she has so many times, “Homosexuality is a sin.” But if “Luke is gay” is only a vague possibility, in her mind Luke will just be Luke. Like so many others, she walks a thin line between half-knowing and knowing, between comfortable blindness and troubling reality.
I crossed the line that day in the closet. While Luke’s secret never changed our friendship, it has profoundly shifted my perception of the world. Am I really seeing, or do I only see what I want to see? I no longer take everything at face value. I question my assumptions and observe more closely, wondering what really shapes people’s lives and actions. This paradigm shift has led me to recognize and speak out for the truth. Whether it is promoting gay rights and awareness through articles in Haute, or attending Gay Straight Alliance dinners with Luke, I try to get others to cross the line—from turning a blind eye to making a personal realization. My attempts have been somewhat successful. Over the years, Luke has been able to step out of our closet of tea and cookies and troubling secrets, one trusted friend at a time. Their surprise is often followed by a familiar whisper—“How did I not see?”—and I hear a silent thud. They have just stumbled over the line. They have just joined me on my side of painful reality, acutely aware of the effects of false judgments and convenient assumptions.
(Favorite parts bolded)
Saturday, October 13 2012
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