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27 June 2011, 2:00 pm No Comments

Personal Narratives: Cleaning Out the Closet

Submission by Emma Coleman, TNG contributor

c. Wuyouyuan, Wikimedia Commons

I don’t mean old magazines, clothes you haven’t worn in a year, gifts you forget to give to someone two years ago, or dust bunnies in the corner. I’m talking about the closet of sexual desires, dirty little secrets, hidden dark fantasies, lost ambitions, and best keep plans for the future.

Now I have been literally and metaphorically cleaning out my closet. I’ve parted with so much litter and clutter. Garbage bag after garbage bag found its way to the trash. [Hefty! Hefty! Hefty! Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.] Possessions I’ve carried with me for ten plus years and were shelved are finding a new home; a little cash in the pocket never hurts, but knowing that someone else will use them and not sit in landfill is just as good.

So why clean now?

It’s time. It’s time to move on, move away, and just grab life by the waist and wrestle it into submission.

Several weeks ago I braved a day trip to Philadelphia for a trans/queer health conference and attended some sessions. It was the largest registration this conference ever had.  I had never been around so many queers or trans people in my life. It was my utopia of a queer family, blended and nuclear, somehow connected through a ramified family tree.

It amazed me to learn how far some of these conference goers traveled just to attend this health conference and the sense of comradery, respect, and love they had for each other. Everyone was the
same, yet so different. Some were like me; some weren’t. The sessions and booths were an amazing sense of validation. Topics ranged from queer sex, hormones, and surgical options to gender expression,
relationships, and more It was rejuvenating having the opportunity to spend a day focusing on gender queer and trans issues.

Sadly, I kept to myself for most of the day. I wasn’t in the positive social mood which a conference like that deserved, but being around like people was a refreshing breathe of air [Out with the bad; in with
the good.] Even though this anti-social caterpillar kept to herself, she kept close ear on a particular group of trans and queer folk from the DC, Baltimore, Annapolis and NoVA area. [Hindsight, I regret not
introducing myself to that lively group. They must have known each other from an online message board because they kept referring to each other with goofy nickname handles and going “So you're so-and-so.”]

My day eventually blossomed when I ran into people I knew. I’ll spare their remarks, but they were rather surprised to see me there of all places. By the end of the day, this social butterfly had
her own little group to exchange with. [Take that anti-social caterpillar!]

The drive home Saturday night after the conference set me at unease knowing that I was not complete and a bit unorganized, in general. I had been putting off the task of getting “my life together” for some
time now. [Really, who wants to take the time and access their own life? It's boring and can be rather depressing and discouraging!] With summer already here and ample time to spare, there was really no
excuse to put it off.

I spent the next couple weeks accessing and categorizing those dust bunnies, spider webs, and musty mildewing boxes in my closet and head. The dust pan, broom and trash bins were well used, filled and emptied many times over. I’m not exactly sure but somehow those scattered, muddled assets were prioritized, and just in time for DC and Baltimore Pride.

Pride was a flight demonstration of the refurbished me, my “new” self. The goal was simple: have fun and meet people. And to be honest, it worked. Holy shit did it work! The “clean up” definitely radiated
through everyone I interacted with. My presence had a much needed shimmer of confidence and demonstrated ease-of-grace that had been lacking for the last six years.


I felt the things I owned, physically and emotionally, owned me. I no longer wanted to be bound by it. I wanted to be liberated and have an opportunity. I wanted to make the changes in my life I had been putting off for years.

Physical items take up space. You carry them from apartment to apartment. They clutter up a room and collect dust. A framed picture in its special place eventually fades, gets buried, and most likely is
replaced by a brighter, crisper, more meaningful one. Quite frankly, I no longer had space or need for them in my life. The excrement of years of schooling, moving, and laziness came to an end. The buried
items I always wanted to do something with met their purpose. A select few were repackaged; most took the happy walk with Mr. Hefty.

Sentimental items are a wee bit more difficult to discard than their physical counterparts. A symbiotic dependency is formed and attaches itself to these cherished keepsakes. As with time, we forget why exactly we saved them. But of all the clutter I tossed, sold, and gave away, nothing was more difficult than sorting out the shit in my head.

Emotional baggage by far is the most difficult. The closet-filled-head of old vintage hat boxes, little chic jewelry containers, delicate pill boxes, and heirloom cedar chest collect more than their share of unwanted feelings and memories. They are deceptive at times, misdirecting the emotional assessment. Others remind us of foolish immature dreams. But once recognized and re-appropriated, discarded, or let go, a wash of liberation cleanses our direction. All this was long overdue- the emotional and physical assessment and inventory.

The benefits of this time intensive and mentally exhausting exercise are already paying off. I have been more forthcoming with my needs, expectations, and goals. That’s right people. This girl has a five-year plan! And for the first time, I’m learning how to be friends with someone I have feelings for, for someone I know that does not, and will never, feel the same about me.

Now I ask you again, what’s in your closet? And, when was the last time you cleaned it?

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