coming out of the closet

by gilda rêvasseur on July 24, 2008

courage
photo by barnsley anna

i was walking around the basement level of the patricia field store on monday, you know, doing my thang. no i’m bullshitting, i was going around looking at our merchandise, gathering stuff for the website. there was no one else on the floor except this one customer, a middle-aged guy, dressed in rolled up denim shorts, a washed-out tshirt, and glasses on his head.

although he didn’t look like our usual customer, i smiled and said hello, then didn’t take much notice of him as i looked through the racks. then out of the corner of my eye, i realized how shocked he looked. literally, he was in a state of shock, with his mouth slightly opened, his eyes wide, and his arms a little away from his body with his fingers all straightened. his head was turning slowly from side to side, and he was just looking around almost in some state of disarray.

“are you alright?” i asked.

“i’ve just never been in a store like this before,” he said. “tell me, do guys wear clothes like this too?”

“well, not all guys. but yes i have seen a lot of guys dressing up and going a little bling-bling. even if they don’t wear the clothing, some of them pile on the accessories,” i replied.

as i stood there for the next 15 minutes talking to him, he told me a lot of things about himself that he claimed had never told anyone before. he said that his “feminine, bi side is just screaming to get out”.

i learnt that his name was ****, let’s call him josh, and that he was from memphis. josh comes to new york every summer, but he had never heard of patricia field and had never been to the store. he had never explored his sexuality even though he knew he was different. “i’ve been looking for a store like this my whole life.”

“how is it like in memphis? are people open to gays?

“oh no, you’d get killed. i mean, you wouldn’t get killed, but socially you’re as good as dead. people would ostracize you and shun you,” he said.

“well you’re in new york city now. if you think you want to explore this side of you, you’re in the perfect city to do it! and the perfect shop. no one’s going to look at you differently in here. everyone’s so nice and so open.”

josh seemed to take a liking to this particular accessory that i was standing next to, which was made out of very shiny silver beads and basically had strings of beads attached to a choker, giving it a sort of harness look. i showed him how to put it on and told him he could just wear it on bare skin if he wanted, or it could look great with a singlet or with a leather vest thrown over. “what do you think?” i asked him, after i had ushered him into the dressing room and he tried it on.

“i’m just taking it in right now, give me a moment. wow, this is so new to me and i’m so lost. i’ve never done this before. i’m just taking it in. wow…” he kept saying, covering his mouth with his hand at times.

my heart went out to josh. i know how it is like to live in a stifling situation where a part of you is dying to “get out” and yet it can’t. it is a terrible, terrible feeling.

josh said that he would be in town till wednesday, and so i told him that tuesdays in new york is gay night. he had a whole day to get ready, to take a deep breath, gather some courage, and go out and explore a new side of himself. i told him that if it was too overwhelming, that he shouldn’t attempt too big a step, but to take little ones until he becomes more comfortable with his sexuality. “don’t do a whole outfit and make yourself feel self-conscious. you can take small steps like starting out with accessories. a little bird doesn’t fly at first try.

“thank you so much, gilda. i’m so glad it was you who i met. you were so nice to talk to me and tell me that it’s ok, if it’s really what i wanted. i was ready to run when i met you. literally, i was going to bolt out of the shop because i was so scared.

it was the nicest thing i had heard all month.

i had to get back to work and introduced josh to one of my favorite stylists/sales assistants, omar, who helped josh try on a few different outfits. he left the store after a long while, without making any purchase. when i went upstairs to get something, the girl behind the register told me that josh sent his biggest hugs and thanks.

a few hours later into the day, josh was back and i spotted him trying bolder accessories and even leather harnesses.

i don’t know if he made a purchase in the end, but i know that even if he didn’t, that he would be back one day. maybe next summer, when he comes back to new york.

“how you do feel, gilda, now that you’re responsible for making someone gay?” asked mars, who also works in the store.

“i didn’t make him gay, he made it sound like he was almost choking because he had never allowed this side of himself to emerge before! i only told him that it was ok to let go!

i felt like a mother bird watching her baby learn how to fly. and i wish i had given josh a hug.

i’ve never experienced the “i realized i’m gay” emotional rollercoaster (because i’m not), so i cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be for some people. i’ve asked some gay friends of mine about it and some of them were born into such strict, religious families or environments, that they were really rejected by their own family and the societies they were in, when they came out of the closet.

my own “coming out of the closet” experience, was of a different sense. i realized the path of life that i wanted to take, and it was so different from who i was supposed to become. i had always been a science student and enjoyed physics and chemistry. i had wanted to be a vet when i was younger and had seriously read every single book about dogs in the national library. my parents had high hopes for me and sent me to the best schools to have the best possible education. then i decided to do fashion.

i can’t tell you how hard it was when i first told my parents about it. they were so angry. in singapore back then (i make myself sound so old), the only people who did fashion, or anything art-related, were the people who “couldn’t make it”. they were the people who couldn’t do well in school. or at least that was the image that people in singapore had. and many still have the same opinions today.

all my peers were going to university, to become doctors, lawyers, auditors, engineers, bankers. and there i was, telling my parents that i didn’t want to do university. i wanted to go into fashion where my passion lies. i knew i might not earn a living, i knew i’ll probably be living on bread and butter, but this is what i wanted to do. i was going to take the unbeaten path.

my mother was a little furious and screamed, “i thought all along that you wanted to become a vet!”

it was hard. and i was so angry and i felt so suffocated. i didn’t want to live a lie. i only get to live once. i wanted to just do what i was passionate about, and that was fashion. my parents wanted me to “go to university and get a proper degree, and then i can do whatever i wanted to after that”. but i didn’t want to waste my life away doing something that i had no interest in. i love animals, don’t get me wrong, but i realized that i couldn’t go through all the emotional heartache of being a vet and having to help dying animals and sad stories like that. what if i couldn’t save them? i couldn’t deal with my own dog’s death and i knew that it would kill me everytime a dog were to die in my clinic.

so i went against their wishes and started to work instead. my friends couldn’t understand me either. so for almost a year, i hardly kept in contact with any of them except my best friends who were always there for me.

it was a very difficult, long and winding road that i walked alone. this was also the time in my life when all sorts of shitty things happened, which i had talked about sometime ago. it took me 2 years, but in that time my parents, whose opinion and support mattered the most to me, finally grew to accept the new me, and now they encourage me whole-heartedly. my friends also came around and told me that they admired that i had the courage to follow my dreams.

i think that those 2 years, although difficult, forced me to really grow up and i discovered so many new things about myself. i also realized that if i put my mind to it, i can really achieve anything i wanted to. and look where i am right now? i’m living my dream and i’m not even pinching myself to check that i’m awake.

i hope i get to meet josh again. and i hope that the next time i get to see him, that he would be happy and smiling, instead of with a scared and bewildered look on his face.

to all of you joshes out there, don’t wait for someone to give you a little nudge. don’t drown in your own fear.

is there a side of you that is screaming to come out? is there a part of you that is waiting to be discovered? is there another you inside, that is getting suffocated?

or have you already come out of the closet?

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

koko July 24, 2008 at 9:27 am

hey gilda~~ i’ve been reading your blog for a while but this is the first time i’ve ever commented! great words of wisdom there!

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Casey-Scott July 24, 2008 at 9:35 am

I think that it’s incredibly sad when people feel that they’re in a position of that much isolation that they can’t truly embrace the “real” them.

I knooooow that this isn’t a WILAM post, BUUUUT I must say, that what I do love is that I was able to realise that the only person who truly matters, and who I truly have to do proud is myself. What other people think about us is really none of our business. Accepting that, and realising that – in a non-narcissistic or self-absorbed way – I’m the most important person that I hve to please, was such a release for me. I love that feeling of just pure comfortability (is that a word? ha!), and the way that happiness just feels so much more … pure, if that makes any sense?

And, you know what? I think the thing that I’ve found is that, in accepting who I was and allowing myself to navigate my own life, I’ve gained respect for it. “Coming out of the closet”, whether it is about our sexuality or – like you raised – our dreams, is a huge step of courage; but it’s an amazingly liberating step at the same time.

Life is good, and that’s worth celebrating.

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fi. July 24, 2008 at 9:43 am

This is an amazing post. “a little bird doesn’t fly at first try” is so inspiring!

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Lesley Denford July 24, 2008 at 11:13 am

The “me” that is waiting to come out is the girl who gives up her job and car and apartment in Toronto to move to New York City. And as scary (and impossible feeling!) as that is, I’m working on it right now.

Gilda, you rock my world. Can’t wait to meet you in a few weeks! I’m staying at a hostel on the Bowery, which I think is right near Pat’s store. <3

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Julie July 24, 2008 at 11:22 am

Well, I came out of the closet in a religious way. My mum is a Jehova’s Witness as is my sister and my father, I don’t consider myself one because I’m not baptized. Anyways, when I was in High School all sorts of things happened and I told my mum that I didn’t want to be in that religion anymore.

She was angry at first, but she sees now that I’m still the same person. I just left religion for a while and I still have the same values and beliefs that I was raised with, things like that don’t erase themselves overnight.

I’m pretty happy with my life, I mean engineering is my passion I love working on my computer but I also like fashion which is why I’m teaming up with one of my best friends to start a t-shirt line. Yes, I know, it’s like totally surreal for me. We’ll make some samples and see how we go from there.

Kisses.

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Polina July 24, 2008 at 12:02 pm

you need to be strong to be different… you need to be even stronger to stop hiding the fact you are different… sometimes I start guessing what the world would look like if every person would follow their hearts… do what THEY want to do, not what others want them to do…

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D.J July 24, 2008 at 3:04 pm

I think it all comes down to your identity. If you know who you are and were you’re going nothing and no one will be able to stop you!

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Nato Tuke July 24, 2008 at 3:37 pm

What an interesting experience. Good for him though im sure it feels nice to find something that makes so much sense for ones self!

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Joy July 24, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Gilda, I really feel like you have so many touching things to share and I always feel proud of you! The way you write, it is as if I’m going through it with you!
Thanks for sharing your inspiration and experiences with us! <3

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Beka July 24, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Wow! You and your stories…

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Annie Spandex July 24, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I’ve never been to Memphis, but I find it hard to believe there’s no gay scene there!

It’s nice that this story all started with you not ignoring someone just because they didn’t look like your normal customer. Funny how such a small act can propel a life-changing experience.
And good for you for not being snooty in the first place! <3

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Design for Mankind July 25, 2008 at 10:12 pm

What a beautiful post, Gilda. I commend you for your courage.

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Popartpistol July 26, 2008 at 4:08 am

Wow to both stories.
Because you came out of the closet and moved into fashion you’ve ended up helping poor repressed Josh. I LOVE it! I bet Josh had an amazing night :) Also, there should be more retail girls like you.

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Leanne July 26, 2008 at 8:08 am

Wow, I do hope you get to meet Josh again soon and the next time you meet him he’ll be more confident to be himself. I have a few gay friends and lucky for them we have been very accepting of them. Their families don’t know because their families are traditional.. and asian, but you can see the change in clothing and the way they expressed themselves once they have come out the closet. it was a huge relief, i was very happy for them. unfortunately, i haven’t come out of the closet for my dreams. i admire you gilda. my dream is to be an artist and have my own studio and maybe gallery. in the last year of highschool my parents and i had many fights, they wanted me to do anything med related. i do med now.. i like it but, it’s not my passion and doesn’t give me the buzz like sketching does..

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Fabulously Brke July 26, 2008 at 9:59 am

This is a GREAT post. I teared up at some parts (shhhh)

I’m going to link this

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gilda July 26, 2008 at 11:16 am

hey you guys, i promise you that i’m reading a your comments! i’ve just had a busy week and was entertaining my cousin who was visiting, but she left yesterday so i’ll be replying soon! xox

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kara July 27, 2008 at 7:14 am

Hey Gilda,
I love your blog (:
That was such an inspirational blog!
Thankyou for writing that!
My situation is similar to how yours was!
My parents really want me to go to uni and do a BA but I don’t know if I want to, I would love to do fashion photography or something involving fashion/beauty.
It’s nice to know I’m not totally alone.
kara xx

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gilda July 27, 2008 at 5:22 pm

+koko+
hi koko!! thank you so much for leaving a comment so i know i have other readers! it’s always very exciting for me. :) hopefully i’ll write better articles that might entice you to comment again. :D

+casey-scott+
oh i love what you said so much. aieeeee! *hug*

+fi.+
i’m so glad you like it!

+lesley+
i’ve been hearing you talk about this big move for a while. i know it’s not easy but persevere and i’m sure everything will work out right in the end!! and i never knew there were hostels on bowery!

+julie+
oh wow, i never knew that. thank you for sharing… i think telling your parents about your own religious views, especially if it goes against theirs’, is something terribly hard to do! good for you that you managed to do that!! you sound like you have so much going on but i think you should definitely try everything while you’re still young!

+polina+
i think if everyone followed their dreams, there would be much less angry and unhappy people in this world.

+d.j+
that’s true, but i also think that for some people, it’s hard to do that and go against what close friends and family expect of them. some people swallow their dreams and what they want for themselves, and instead want to make their parents (for example), happy. that’s noble too, although it might make themselves unhappy in the long run.

+nato tuke+
i know!! i was very happy for im when i saw him trying all sorts of clothes and accessories that he had never tried before. i hope things worked out for the best!

+joy+
ohhh thank you for saying that. what a great compliment! yayyy!!

+beka+
hahahaha i hope that’s a good thing :)

+annie spandex+
you know, i don’t know whether or not there is a gay scene. but he told me that the people closed the only topless bar that opened in memphis and the “christian” people were more like cults. *shrug* i’ve never been there so i don’t know how much is true.

+design for mankind+
wow i’m kinda excited that you left a comment for me! yes!! :) thank you very much!

+popartpistol+
ahahah you make me sound like i’m amazing but really i’m just a normal girl happy in her own world! i hope josh does someone else a good turn though. :) that would be kinda cool!

+leanne+
oh gosh leanne, i know exactly how you feel because i totally went through the same thing!!! i went against my parents’ wishes too but trust me, i wouldn’t recommend it to everybody because i was so angry with them, and they with me, and we hardly talked for weeks. for 2 years we were fighting! i think it’s great that you want to make your parents happy, and in my own way, i know i disappointed them so much before that i want to make them happy one day too. us asians have a very strong filial piety thing and although i know it’s painful for you, i really respect that you are trying to follow their wishes. my only suggestion to you is, don’t give up your own dream! continue to draw! you’re good at it! draw all you want whenever you can. one day, who knows? you can set up your own studio (hey, doctors make a lot of money ok!! heh heh) one day you can have your own show! one day you can make that dream of being an artist happen, and if your parents aren’t happy about it, you can gently remind them that you have already followed their dreams and now you’re just following yours!!

+fabulously broke+
awwww you’re such a softie like me! haha! thank you :D

+kara+
thank you very much. well, i’m going to university now and although i’m not interested in any uni and honestly i have no desire to go to school, i’m killing two birds with one stone now. my parents want me to complete uni and i want to do fashion, so i found a university that will let me get a BA in fashion! clever eh? maybe that is something you might be able to do…? good luck!!

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Julie July 28, 2008 at 1:09 am

Yeah, I don’t know how I get myself into those situations. At least my schedule for next semester looks great and I won’t have school on Friday which gives me more time to start working n_n.

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gilda July 29, 2008 at 1:21 am

+julie+
hahaha well when you’re busy it means you’re on your way to something big. no school on friday!!! i’m jealous. so you have a totally long weekend!!!

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Ashe Mischief July 31, 2008 at 9:03 am

Gilda, love! Would you consider submitting this or another post to the Fabulous Festival?

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Ruby Rococo July 31, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Oh Gilda, this is my first time reading your blog and this post really moved me…. the “trapped” feeling you describe, and this man finally daring to explore and to dream out loud to a sympathetic audience. I got all misty-eyed! Thank you for sharing this. It really gives me some food for thought.

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gilda July 31, 2008 at 11:05 pm

+ashe mischief+
ohh thanks! i sure will :> all in support. wheee!

+ruby rococo+

thank you for your comment, ruby! meeting him really made me think about a lot of things too. i’m glad it did the same for you :)

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vera lynn August 2, 2008 at 3:14 am

Hi. This is my first time visiting your site. I got here through the grapevine; clicking on random links brings you to places you never would’ve found before. It sounds kind of cheesy but this post gave me the little push i needed to admit two things: that I was bisexual and that I wanted to be an artist and not a journalist. I had known both for a while, but I finally worked up enough courage to tell my best friend that I was bisexual & I wanted to go to art school and not university. I’m not ready to tell my parents yet, but it makes me happy that I’ve made a step in the direction I want. Thank you.

V. Lynn

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gilda August 3, 2008 at 7:15 am

+vera lynn+
hey there. thank you so much for leaving a comment on your first visit. and more than that, thank you so much for sharing your story. it was so brave of you to do so! i’m glad you made a step in that direction too… i’m sure you’ll just feel so much better to let it go. take care!!

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orinoco August 7, 2008 at 2:42 am

Wow, this post really relates to the sort of thing I’ve had on my mind recently. I’m in my final year of high school and I had always grown up with the assumption that I’d go on to university. It’s what my parents have always wanted me to do, so I guess I just inherited that.

I’ve already planned to take a year off next year and travel, and lately I’ve been thinking that I’d like to travel for longer – to live as a nomad while I’m still young! That’s pretty much the opposite of what everyone wants me to do, so it’s a battle to distinguish between my own dreams and the thoughts of everyone around me.

Great article. :]

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gilda August 8, 2008 at 3:38 am

+orinoco+
hello, thank you so much for leaving a comment and sharing your story! i’ve always respected the few of my friends who have traveled the world on their own money and worked in different countries. it’s quite amazing, the stories they tell! just make sure you’re really doing it because you want to, and not because you’re trying to prove them wrong or something! wishing you the best!! :)

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Louis August 10, 2008 at 9:45 am

I just discovered your blog. What an inspiring post.

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gilda August 10, 2008 at 11:24 am

+louis+
thank you very much!

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! July 20, 2009 at 5:58 pm

This website is strikenly similar to galadarling.com

Was that your inspiration for the general direction of the site?

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birdie July 30, 2009 at 3:52 pm

GILDA! This is gorgeous. I love how inspiring your story is … and I hope Josh finds his way, too. *hug*

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gilda July 31, 2009 at 9:48 pm

+!+
dear miss piss-me-off, all i can say is, fuck you. i know gala and i haven’t visited her site in eons. when i told her about what you said, even she agreed we have nothing in common besides our love for clothes. and even then, we have different tastes. i never copied her, and i was never particularly inspired by her, and i never copied anyone else. so again, fuck you. and get your english right before you come here and insult me. you don’t say “strikenly similar”. it’s “strikingly similar”, duh.

+birdie+
i do wonder how josh is doing… every once in a while i think of him, i honestly do. i’d never really met anyone like him before. but i guess, in a very different way i had to go through different obstacles to realize my own dreams, so i really felt for him. it must be so hard to be sexually “different”, and living in a place will people who judge and who won’t accept you as you are.

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David Carpenter August 6, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I need to know how to tell my family

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gilda August 6, 2009 at 7:41 pm

+david+
oh no…. i wish i could help you but well, i have no idea how that works. i guess you just need to sit them down and tell them. is there ever a right or wrong way? i don’t think so. good luck!!

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Sabrina August 24, 2009 at 10:49 am

Wow, that is so inspiring. My sitaution is similar to what yours what but your words have helped. You are so right…you’ve got to reach for the dream no matter what gets in your way. You’ve got to overcome the obstactles and the dream starts to become reality :)

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kathleen August 26, 2009 at 9:22 am

First, what is success? Seriously, what does that mean to you? Let’s assume you can only pick one of two things:

1. You want to be a star. You are famous -everyone knows your name. But in fashion, stars are usually bankrupt and constantly looking for new investors. Your life is consumed with money problems. WWD regularly reports on your latest financial disaster. Bankrupt but famous is usually true in fashion. Can you name one designer in this category who hasn’t declared bankruptcy or been bailed out by angels at least once? Most, more than once.

2. Nobody knows your name but you live well. You can pay your bills, you’re happy, greet life cheerfully and never worry about checking the caller ID. You have the financial freedom to worry about your collection, not how to pay for it.

These two scenarios are typical in this industry. There’s nothing wrong with wanting option #1, it’s how you choose to live your life. If you want to be a star, you can be a star at anything. You just happened to pick fashion. Madonna was/is a #1. She just wanted to be a star. The thing I admire about her is that she KNEW it and she worked it like a job. Most people who want to be stars just want to fling out a bit of flair, play up a minor talent, hire a publicist and brand themselves.

If you fall in camp #2, you should know that most of these designers have math and science backgrounds. Hard science is not incompatible with the industry. Rather, it’s usually a hint the designer will perform better than what is socially considered to be “successful”.

Summary: assuming you can only pick one, which would you want? Fame OR Fortune? Which, at your core, would make you happiest? Which would make your family proudest? There’s a tremendous amount of intellectual rigor in running a company well. Consider people you admire personally, not because they’re famous. You admire the people you do because of the discipline and rigor they bring to their work. Whether it’s fashion or whatever, you won’t find an intellectual slouch among them.

Btw, I’m the “underwater basket weaver” of my family :)

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Jami January 3, 2010 at 9:33 am

I think that most amazing discovery in my life is that you are not alone and lot of other people have the same feelings. I’ve spent most of my younger life trying to please people and fit in. And why? I should just be myself. You got to do work in what you are passionate about (in this case fashion) so you can get good at it. I just wish I had your courage when I was younger.
.-= ♥ Jami´s last blog ..Learn By Yourself How to Put on Make up =-.

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Chi March 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm

This is the first time I’m commenting, but I’ve been reading your blogs for the past 2 hrs (creepy no? haha).
I found this post so inspiring. I just recently told my parents that I don’t want to be a doctor (I never did, I only convinced myself) and that I want to pursue fashion designing seriously. They freaked because I’m in my 3rd year of college and was in the process of applying. I just couldn’t take stifling my creativity anymore. I “came out of the closet :) ” Your story and Josh’s story is so beautiful.
Being true to yourself, no matter how long it takes you, is very challenging, but it is so freeing and builds your strength for future obstacles.

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Qrystyl August 28, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Hi Gilda I’ve just recently began reading your posts, and I think that “coming out of the closet” is what I really can relate to (on your part.haha), especially, since this is the first I have left a comment. But its definitely hard making that transition when so many people expect you to major in something you were great at. But its never something you loved doing. Growing up I also enjoyed Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. I majored in Biochem for a year and a half. In doing so, I realized that I never really showed love while doing it, I realized I only did it because it was what I was great at. Since, childhood I loved to draw. I never thought my transition would be into the Art field. And the same as I, many people thought I dropped a “high status” for something I would get nothing in return. But I never thought of it that way…Art was something I enjoyed doing and in return I felt completely satisfied with myself. So currently, I’m a Painting major going on my 2nd semester. Kudos to you and to the people who “doesnt want to live a lie, to those ‘Joshes’ who realize they cannot drown in their own fear, and to those who decide to chance that unpaved journey to redefine themselves!!!”

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Ana November 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I’ll just keep it short and sweet: this was powerful.

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