In Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s article “Epistemology of the Closet,” she theorizes about the notion of the closet for non-heterosexual people, essentially saying that it is an oppressive concept to the very core. And I definitely agree.
As someone who does identify as heterosexual and is unfortunately very ingrained in the heteronormative culture, I do find the “closet” to be so fascinating. To generally be assumed straight until proven not, and then having to “come out” as simply being who you are, or alternatively, to be assumed gay/non-heterosexual because of certain stereotypical physical and personality attributes until proven not, must both be completely frustrating. As I become more educated and experience more people in my life have to go through that process as I get older, I have learned how incredibly frustrating it is that we think this way. And while in some ways, based on historical context and basic species biology, it does make sense, that does not mean it is right.
But as someone who also identifies as culturally Jewish, I thought her comparisons to anti-Semitism and having to “come out” as Jewish were really interesting as well, and a concept that I myself could identify with. This is not me saying that coming out as gay and coming out as Jewish are equivalent by the way. I think her quote, “A (for instance) Jewish or Gypsy identity, and hence a Jewish or Gypsy secrecy or closet, would nonetheless differ again from the distinctive gay versions of these things in its clear ancestral linearity and answerability, in the roots (however tortuous and ambivalent) of cultural identification through each individual’s originary culture of (at a minimum) the family” (Sedgwick 50). I have had to “come out” as Jewish before in the face of extremely offensive jokes at the cost of my culture, but I can’t imagine it’s really anything like coming out as gay for the first time. But I did really appreciate the theorizing about this concept.