5 Realities As A Gay Person Forced To Stay In The Closet

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I was located in a very rural village, with only 500 people for company. In a place that size, everyone knows everyone else's business. I could tell you what my neighbor had for dinner three nights earlier, although that may be because I got them to cook for me. Hard to say.

But either way, I was deeply in the closet. Being with so few people, there was no choice. This can be extra challenging when the third or fourth question a new acquaintance always asks is, "Do you have a girlfriend?" Some days I lied and said yes, but most of the time I simply said no and tried to move the conversation somewhere else. But rarely did I get to talk about homosexuality. And I never told anyone in my village that while they were looking at the new teacher, I was checking out the male nurse visiting from the next village over.

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Sadly, a village full of people constantly on the hunt for food and water meant a village with no reliable wingmen.

What's interesting is that I had friends in the Peace Corps in Botswana who were also gay, but were placed in larger cities -- thus, they got to talk about it more. Of course, rhapsodizing about last night's hookup to a stranger is bad form anywhere you go, but they could at least broach the topic, since they wouldn't see the same person for weeks at a time. Where I was, they didn't have TV -- they didn't even have the electricity that is somewhat necessary to turn on a TV -- so they were a lot more culturally closed. Of course, they also didn't have Two And A Half Men, so maybe there was something to the tradeoff.

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If there were any men I was perfectly fine with having to give up, it would be them.

US Army Africa

Even in villages the size of a Sub-Saharan Lego set, it's not like the topic of homosexuality was off the table. Believe it or not, it came up quite often. For someone like me, your first instinct is going to be akin to splitting up teams for gym class: "Pick me! Pick me!" Well, you can't do that anymore. But you can talk about homosexuality -- just in the abstract.

For example, if you wanted to mention how awesome Pride parades are or how important it is to you that gay people have equal rights, you could frame it in terms of a friend. Instead of you being gay, you have gay friends back home. This way, you can claim some ownership of the issue without having to personally defend yourself.

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You'll risk giving yourself away by insisting that your friend is absolutely packing down there.

This strategy can still get you in trouble. Sometimes, people would question why I would want to be friends with someone who was "unnatural." One fellow teacher advised me to cut all ties with my "gay friend," since he was evil and corrupted. Apparently, they think of gay people kind of like sexual werewolves.

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We have better hair, and are in favor of silver bullets.