It’s a powerful thing to process your life through art. In some ways I wasn’t really fully aware what I was processing and it has become more clear in this time of reflection. Much of my current art I thought was related to loneliness and desire. I guess I also didn’t realize I was only scratching the surface of where the theme was coming from for me. How does that relate beyond the obvious of a single gay male living in a large city?
Part of this journey over the past 7 years has been about being more comfortable with who I am. Yes gay. Check. Got it. What does that mean? I mean obvio relations with men. Check. We are all clear on that. Tv has us covered. What I am getting to here is the closet. Many of those who know me will say, “Swank you left the closet a long time ago.” Yes, it’s true I came out when I was 18. Yes I have been an activist. Yes I have been in relationships. However, for a majority of my life I’ve been open and selective about the details of my life. Depending on context. Depending on culture. Depending on, depending on, depending on, and the list goes on. Everything categorized. Everything separated. Neat and stressful.
Over these 7 years things have changed. Context, people, cultures, and etc have all evolved. Even in teaching I began to allow myself to be fully open. As a result I experienced successes and also set backs. It’s still a struggle to be openly gay in many contexts. When I say openly gay I don’t mean I am running around putting rainbow stickers on people and screaming “I am here, I am queer, get used to it.” Although that may not be a bad idea. JK JK. It’s about not editing myself to make other people feel better about who I am. It’s about ownership of the body and mind I have been gifted in this life. And as a result of that I get unwanted attention from people who may not even characterize themselves as bigots or prejudice. They don’t know themselves in the context of the world to make that determination. They aren’t looking at themselves and correcting their mannerisms or speech to blend into the culture. They are “normal”.
I heard something yesterday that I identified with at such a deep level and allowed me to break through in how I am thinking about this journey. It is the idea of hiding yourself in a closet for so many years as a child and the effect on the adult. What does it mean to hide in shame for so many years? Afraid of being yourself and then being rejected by everyone. You leave that closet but you were still behind those bars for all those years. You still carry that fear and shame. You work to break free of it, but at the same time it’s nearly impossible to break free of something you can’t completely comprehend the effects of still. I’m only beginning to understand through my art and emerge from the closet in my mind and heart. At some point I will move beyond that and it will be part of my story not the story. Right now the work is the work. The images of loneliness, faces emerging from behind things, freedom conflicted with imprisonment, desire and love, hate and desire, and all the other conflicts lined up in a row on my walls. They are beautiful and they are also painful.
Conclusion? I am unsure where this is going, but the realization has given me some pause. I’ve been gathering around friends and connecting. Evaluating who are the real friends and what that means to me. I am investing in those friendships. I am breaking the isolation the little boy I used to protect himself from the shameful truth. I am not ashamed of who I am, but I live in the residue of all those years I was. It’s time to let more of the past go. I am coming out of the closet, in my heart.