Life in the Cupboard
Feb 17, 2009
Not too long ago, I came out to my mother. I think when we take on something like that, something that seems so enormously significant, it never really plays out exactly as we’d imagine. Maybe it’s just me, because I do lead an active fantasy life, always dreaming about what could or might happen, but when faced with reality, I’m never as articulate as I’d like to be. My voice becomes shaky and I forget everything I wanted to say. But then something even better happens; I’m forced to go off the cuff. I stop trying to be clever or charming in order to get what I want and to dictate the other person’s reaction. Instead, I just say the simple truth.
Truth is a heavy theme in Harry Potter. Several characters have hidden identities and most of Harry and his friends’ time is spent trying to discover the truth. In particular, I have always been struck by the similarity between Harry and Voldemort in their relationship with the truth. Both take great offense to being lied to (we all remember Harry’s reaction to the news that Snape was the one to hear the prophecy and, of course, Voldemort’s demand of Dumbledore to “Tell the truth!”). There are many ways in which Harry and Voldemort came to value the truth so much, one of which is definitely their upbringings. Harry, quite literally, grew up in the closet. I have mentioned before how Harry’s story has been likened to a coming out story because of this. Hidden away like the Dursleys’ dirty little secret, and forced to lead a two dimensional life, one with no real history, Harry later developed a zero-tolerance policy about being lied to. Voldemort was tucked away in an orphanage, never knowing the truth about all those special things he could do that made him so different. They were both hidden in the Muggle world, waiting for someone to rescue them, when the Magical world came calling with answers and truths that bridged their first real connection to anything.
As we see truth after truth hidden or revealed during the series, it becomes clear that the weight of a lie is rather significant. Whether it be the cumbersome perpetuation of the invention of Harry’s time at St. Brutus’ (and Aunt Marge’s subsequent blowing up) or the slow unveiling of Dumbledore’s youthful secrets (followed by Harry’s first mistrusts in his former headmaster), it seems that lying is usually much more trouble then its worth. I have been left with such feelings repeatedly after finishing a Harry Potter book. It’s so easy to step back and see how many things, Harry giving himself up in the forest notwithstanding, would have been easier if someone had just told the truth. And yet, it is that one last great lie of Dumbledore’s that gives Harry the strength to walk willing to his death. It is more important that this lie was masked as a truth, the whole truth, and Harry, having been searching his whole life for this final answer, is emboldened by what he now thinks he knows. He sees it as Dumbledore’s last words to him, and the fact that they are “the truth” is enough.
So, if the truth is so important, why would anyone choose to live in the cupboard? Dictionary.com defines the closet as “a state or condition of secrecy or carefully guarded privacy.” Carefully guarded. No wonder being in the closet has been linked to neurosis and suicide. Research also indicates that the only way for gay individuals to become well-adjusted is to come out. I can honestly say now from experience that the weight of the lie I lived, for me, tainted every part of my life and I really do feel like I’m on the road to accepting myself and my lifestyle. At work, I come out every single day to new customers and though it can be tedious, there is something reaffirming about being in the practice of that. I still have one foot in the cupboard though. There is still one significant person in my life I have yet to tell the whole truth to and as euphoric as I am over how far I’ve come these past couple of years, like Harry, I finally know what I have to do.