“The Closet”

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet reiterates notions that I have always believed to be true: the closet is an evolving concept that you can never fully exit from, and that is constantly being rebuilt with every new interaction. With every person that presumes heterosexuality at first glance, another closet is built around the person to whom the presumption is directed. As a person who identifies as bisexual, I understand these closets very well, as I am more often than not assumed heterosexual and must constantly come to terms with the fact that there is no official end to my “coming out”. Since I am attracted to more than one gender, my observations of “the closet” and conversations surrounding it have been even more complicated; at times I am perceived as LGBTQ, and at times I am not. This uncontrollable outward perception is something hat Sedgwick addresses when she comments that gay identity–unlike religion, in her example–is an identity that is not necessarily fixed and accepted. Because heterosexuality is considered the norm, anything that deviates from that is questioned and invalidated. The way that gender can play into these assumptions adds even more complexity to the discussion.

As it relates to film and media, this idea of community validation/invalidation can be seen when a viewer interprets a character as straight without considering the possibility that they are not, or that other people may have differing interpretations of their representation onscreen. I use this example as a means to say that if a character’s sexuality is not blatantly defined, I think I can safely assume that the majority of viewers would infer that they are straight since society at large views heterosexuality as a given, and homosexuality as an alteration from that given that must at the very least be “proven” before being validated. The simple fact that queer cinema is separated from general cinema in an academic setting further proves this, though of course historical context and the prohibition of openly queer stories in film must also be taken into consideration.

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