Dating In the Closet

By LIR Advocate

No matter what your sexual orientation is, dating can be complicated! There’s so much stuff to learn: like your new love interest’s favorite food, music and artists. But if you or the person/people you’re dating are in the closet–-meaning, not open about your sexual orientation or gender identity, for whatever reason–things can get even trickier. We recognize that there are an infinite number of reasons someone may not be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, not being out as trans to family for fear of rejection, not being out as gay at work for fear of being fired, not being out as bisexual amongst queer friends who think you’re a lesbian, or, not being out about being intersex to be able to stay on your school’s swim team, and so, so many more.

We want to be very clear that everyone has the right to live their lives and present themselves to the world however they please. There is nothing wrong with being closeted or not “out” about your identities to everyone in your life! Every individual has to decide for themselves if and when is the right time to come out, and for many LGBTQIA folks, coming out is a lifelong process that happens over and over again, not just once. No one owes anyone information about their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex-life in general–sexuality is personal and everyone has the right to privacy.

Everyone in a romantic relationship should have an ongoing and open, honest dialogue about their likes, dislikes, wants, needs and boundaries. Especially when first getting to know someone this should include when, how, and how often you’ll communicate, what you’re comfortable with romantically or sexually, and what kind of commitment you’re hoping for.  Queer folks who are not out need to be even more diligent about making sure everyone in the relationship is on the same page about what is and isn’t OK. If you’re in the closet, while you absolutely don’t owe anyone an explanation of your choices, it may help your new love interest understand your situation if you’re comfortable being honest with them about why you’re not out.

The following are some of the many additional topics queer and trans people should discuss when dating:

  • What label/s (if any) do each of us use for our sexual orientations and gender identities?
  • Who knows about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity?
  • Who can and cannot know about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity?
  • Can we post our relationship status online?
  • Can we post pictures of us looking like a couple online?
  • Can we display pictures at work of us looking like a couple?
  • Who can each of us talk to about our relationship?
  • What, if any, are the boundaries for that?
  • How should we introduce one another to friends and family?
  • How do we introduce each other if we run into someone whose relationship (work/friend/family) with our partner is unclear or unknown?
  • Where can we go out in public together as a couple, safely?
  • What happens if someone who knows you and I spend time together sees me in a queer social setting or with other out people?
  • How do we act in public?
  • Is there a code word or phrase we can use when one of us is feeling too exposed?
  • Where do we see our relationship going? What are our goals for us as a couple?
  • Am I comfortable keeping our relationship a secret?
  • How long am I willing to keep our relationship secret?
  • How serious would we have to be for the fact that one of us isn’t out to be a dealbreaker?
  • What kind of self-care or affirmations can I do to remind myself that our relationship is important and valid no matter who knows about it?
  • Am I comfortable being a secret?

It’s totally okay if you are not comfortable dating someone who is in the closet, but it’s important that you’re honest about that with potential partners, and that you don’t enter into a relationship with the intent of trying to change their mind or “save” someone. No matter what someone’s reason is for not coming out to the world, or out to any one person, that’s their choice and the only healthy option is to respect it. You do you, but you don’t get to make those kinds of huge, life-changing decisions for anyone else.

Outing someone without their consent as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual or intersex may not only potentially cost someone their support system or job, it could literally be deadly. No one has the right to threaten to or publicly (digitally or in real life) out someone, ever. If your partner threatens to out you when you argue, that’s emotional abuse, and there is nothing you could ever do to deserve it.

If you have concerns about your relationship, whether you identify as queer, straight, trans, cis, closeted, out, or anything else, please chat, text or call us!

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