To Open the Door
Loud voices painted the walls of my family’s house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We shared laughter and home-cooked meals at our large wooden dinner table, its legs showing visible wear and tear from the many generations (and states, as I was born in Denver, Colorado in 1991) it had passed through.
Our parents strongly supported our use of imagination, providing us with all the ingredients we’d need for our own home theater: curtained closets, colorful walls, and hand-sewn dress-up clothes. As I got older, I took on the role of actor/director, barking orders at my younger sisters from inside my closet, but during the 1990s a five-year-old me very much wanted to be the star of these productions. Many of these performances involved me donning the outfit of one of my favorite movie or book characters. I would climb the cherry tree and howl like Mowgli or pretend that the swing set was Captain Hook’s pirate ship.
While I loved becoming an assortment of characters, my favorites were always women. They did more exciting things than the men, in my eyes. Mary Poppins could slide up a banister, Snow White got to wear a colorful outfit, and Dorothy fought the Wicked Witch of the West. I would much rather wear a dress and a braided wig than playing sports like my twin brother. I stopped wearing dresses by the time I got to elementary school because my parents didn’t think it was appropriate for a boy. I wasn’t trying to push boundaries at the time, I just liked wearing colorful outfits.
I still expressed my creativity in middle school and high school during the 2000s but was much less outgoing than my siblings. The four of us were only a year and a half apart in age (we are two sets of twins), so I always just felt like “another Miller.” We weren’t as close as we could have been in high school, and I was ready to get out of my small community in Lancaster.
On top of all of that, I had a secret that I couldn’t tell anyone.
The secret was something I realized in middle school when I read the words “gays and lesbians” in the newspaper. I had learned their meaning long before that, but I had never made the cognitive connection between those words and who I knew I was. I suppose I could have told someone. Though I came from a religious background, I knew my family would be supportive. However, the thought of exposing that side of me was not an option. I didn’t want to have to deal with the fallout of being different. It was easier to pretend I liked girls than to tell people that I would much rather date boys. Like my role in the plays I would perform in my bedroom, I preferred to remain behind the scenes and in the closet. It may have been dark in there, but I was comfortable without all those eyes on me. Letting my siblings get the spotlight instead was a way to survive.
The closet door, or curtain, opened just a little when I went to college outside Eastern University in 2010. At the college outside Philadelphia, I was no longer “one of the Millers,” I was Seth. It was a relief to live a life free from the expectations that had dictated how I lived mine, but it wasn’t complete freedom. The campus was beautiful, filled with trees and water, and mansions made of stone, but there was still a culture of discomfort surrounding queer students at the Christian college. The group for LGBT students wasn’t officially allowed to be a club, and there were regular talks about whether or not Christians should be supportive of queer people. These discussions weren’t very helpful to me. I didn’t have any doubts about the morality of being gay, but just wanted to be comfortable telling people.
I don’t remember the exact date of my decision, but I was ready to come out during my junior year in 2012. However, this desire could not overcome the fear of being vulnerable, so the words remained stuck in my throat, like some phrase I couldn’t quite remember. It sometimes felt like being a foreigner in a place where no one could understand me. Finally, I found someone else who spoke my language. A friend of mine came out to me one night in December of that year, but it wasn’t a confession. He was just stating a fact: he had been in a relationship with another man. Being gay for him wasn’t a big deal; what was important to him was the ended relationship he was healing from.
Coming out was a physical process for me. The need to be honest and the fear of being vulnerable churned violently in my stomach, shaking me quite literally, so much so that I couldn’t keep my hands still. I was sitting on the couch in my dorm, and I looked up at my friend, my face burning. “I’m gay too, actually.” With just a few words, someone else knew the truth about me. It felt earth shattering. Yet the ground beneath us was still intact. He was surprised, but not shocked, and offered a listening ear. Nothing had changed, not really, but I finally felt like I could speak, as if I had a voice for the first time in my life.
The next few months were exhausting. I had too many people to tell, and I couldn’t find the right way to do it. There was never a good time, as I felt like I owed everyone an explanation, and had to answer questions that I didn’t always know the answer to. I felt guilty that I hadn’t told people sooner. I felt bad that people who cared about me had to go through a shock, a sudden realization.
I started dating men, but not everyone knew. I couldn’t come out to everyone in my extended family, or at least I didn’t want to. This was a challenge, because I just wanted to be in a relationship with someone without it being an issue. I didn’t know how everyone close to me felt about my being gay, and that was terrifying to me. I didn’t know who I could discuss it with, and I didn’t always want to, but I felt obligated to have a conversation with everyone, even if it meant talking to someone who thought it was wrong for me to date men. I felt constant pressure to discuss a polarizing political and moral issue, and I was the issue.
Then, in 2017, I fell in love. Moving to Philadelphia brought me to the neighborhood of my now boyfriend. I saw his face on a screen, and after pressing a few buttons on a dating app, I saw his face across from me at the table of a local taproom. It was a Wednesday night, so there was no one else in the restaurant, but we stayed until it closed. I walked home knowing I would see him many times after that.
We shared a few more meals, nights, and eventually, an apartment. Being gay didn’t really matter to me anymore. He mattered. Our relationship mattered. If my homosexuality was an issue for someone else, that was their problem. I didn’t, and don’t, owe anyone an explanation for who I am, or for who I love.
In living my truth, I didn’t come out of a closet, but opened the door and let people in. So maybe it’s not really a closet after all.
This is the story of Seth Miller
Seth was born in Denver, Colorado, and his family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania when he was five years old. He was an imaginative child growing up, writing his own stories and directing his own plays. Like so many members of the LGBTQ community, Seth spent many years in the closet. However, after finding a community of support, Seth was able to live a life of openness, in which he could feel comfortable being himself. Now, Seth teaches literacy to children at the Boys and Girls Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He likes to write, and make people laugh, occasionally at the same time. He runs a personal blog at websitemusings.blogspot.com.
Life Log #146
This story first touched our hearts on August 31, 2018.
Read the story on our website: https://ourlifelogs.com/2018/09/07/to-open-the-door/