I have been gently nudged lately by a friend to consider, again, why I am closeted. Why, she asks, would anyone choose to live like this?
I suppose it may appear that I am choosing to be closeted, insofar as I am not choosing to come out in the world at large (and my congregation in particular). I am in a profession (or calling-- a pastor of a church in a Protestant denomination) in which my sexuality is, at present, grounds for removing my credentials (ordination) and thus rendering me unemployable.
At this point, I could play the God card, and say that God calls me into ministry. And that is what I believe. But just to level the argument (since, the call of God is one of those trump cards against which not much can prevail) let's say, it's simply a profession from which I obtain great personal satisfaction and joy, and which I am able to perform satisfactorily as far as my main constituency (my congregation) is concerned. Let's simply say that I love my job, and to be out as a lesbian would seriously compromise my ability to do my job, perhaps even cause me to lose it. That is one reason to "choose" closetedness.
But... in an odd way, I didn't choose it, it chose me. I lived as a married straight woman for more than 20 years, during which time I struggled (mostly quietly) with my sexuality, fighting off attractions to women and seeking therapy to help me to stop falling for them. I loved my husband and believed it would be wrong to leave our marriage. I was ordained in my denomination, and saw the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to become a pastor.
Let me be clear: during this time my position on homosexuality was absolutely the same as it is today. I do not believe it to be a sin, either in terms orientation or in terms of what is usually condescendingly called "lifestyle." I believe one can sin through one's sexuality-- sure. When you use someone, when you are unfaithful, when you use sex as a weapon, the exact same ways you can sin as a straight person. But being LGBT is not in itself sinful. To believe that would be to believe God did a less than competent job in creating us. (I read that somewhere this week).
Eventually my husband found love elsewhere (a less conflicted love, who knew she was heterosexual to the core-- I assume). This left me devastated, bereft, and free.
It was not long after that I found my way to Beloved, and she found her way to me. There was no question in my mind that I had a "right" to love, if you want to call it that. There was also no question that I would need to be closeted in the relationship if I wanted to continue in my work.
But there was also no question that I wouldn't, for example, forego being seen with her in public. Of course we would go out to dinner together. Of course we would go to the movies. Of course my children would get to know her and love her, and she would become a big part of our lives. Slowly I have let myself drop her name now and then in church... these last weeks, I asked for prayers for my "dear friend" in church, and a few people now approach me saying, "How is Beloved?" or "How is y0ur friend?" I risked alienating some folks the week of her procedure by not being available for a rather large event (that had only been scheduled after Beloved's appointment was set). The choice was easy. It occurred to me that the coming out process with my congregation had probably already begun, gently, slowly. And that's ok.
So I choose and I don't choose. I wish I lived in a world (and served in a denomination) where I would not be faced with the choice between my work and my love. And so I choose both, in the way that is working for now. There it is. My "choice" to be closeted.