I don’t know any one who’s honest. But then a thief thinks everyone steals. I’ve been lying for a very long time. So long now that I forget that telling the truth is sometimes easier. I can remember seeing a commercial, being maybe 8 years old, a men’s clothing company released a new line of underwear. They had men who work out for a living, clad in the new underwear, walking slowly down the street. A sort of underwear parade. What I remember equally clearly is that on that day my body betrayed me. I felt, what I knew, I shouldn’t feel. My dirty secret was born.
For the next 16 years, I was my own worst critic. And I was my own best audience to try my truth-bending prowess on. I read the bible diligently, I threw myself in the arms of God. I knew he’d fix me. That was a new lie I sold myself. What I knew is that giving my life to God meant I didn’t have to have a wife. Sadly no matter how much I lied to myself, to others, it was never good enough. Every time someone questioned my sexuality I hated myself more, I promised myself I’d lie better next time, I’d be more convincing. Somehow, I’d have to be. I could do it, if I just wanted it bad enough. But it was never enough. Every crack I patched lead to five more.
Five years after I came out I thought I’d never do that to myself again. Closets, hiding my true self, that was for other people. Weak people. More lies. But I believed them. I took my current job because I had no choice. I choose to stay in the closet to keep this job. And I hate myself for it. But I had thought it didn’t matter, that even if I was slowly killing myself, the damage was contained in one place, in me. Today I learned that too was a lie.
I worked on a custody order, revoking the mother’s custody. My client told me that the mother didn’t want to see her daughter, that she had moved away and had only texted her a few times in the last year. Today in court, as the mother cried uncontrollably, her 13 year old daughter told the court how the thought of her mother inspired terror and nightmares, I saw the elephant in the room. An elephant I know well. My dirty secret was shared by this woman too, on her wrist two female symbols were intertwined.
Every conversation I had with my client came rushing back, she “had run off to California”, she “led some crazy life there”, she “couldn’t provide a safe environment”, the knowing looks... the subtle knife. I actively divested a lesbian of her child and now I have no doubt it was done because she was a lesbian. Sure it was never said, but it didn’t need to be, the small town system filled in the gaps. As she cried, I walked over and took the tissue box to her. Our eyes locked, hers, puffy swollen, stared at me knowingly. I said nothing. And in that moment the last of my humanity flickered and nearly went out.
I am a liar. That is my truth. I ask only that my actions be judged along with the system that created me. An apple tree can’t produce oranges.