Closets Are for Clothes was created to serve as a platform for inspiring others to follow their hearts, to love bravely, and to live honestly; because more often than not, the world has told us something else. We’re here to show the world that there is nothing wrong with being yourself, what’s wrong is a society that feels entitled to decide who that is.
Because of our message, people often contact us in search of advice or guidance. Sadly, a lot of the messages we receive are from our youngest followers. Most of them are dealing with bullies at school, or are having trouble at home. As upsetting as it is to read those messages, it is a privilege to play a part in creating a space in which others feel comfortable confiding in. It is my greatest hope, to always feel like a safety net for anyone that is feeling unsafe.
More often than not, the ones who reach out seem to be feeling hopeless. A message that I will always remember came from very young girl. It was a Monday night and we were having a late night meeting. As I went through our direct messages on Instagram, I came across hers. It said “I feel like giving up.” My heart sank with the weight of her words.
Those five words created a wave of anxiety that washed over me, and for a moment I felt helpless. I was overwhelmed by what felt like a thousand different emotions at once. I was nervous, I was scared, I was upset that the world was so careless with her. She was only thirteen. She shouldn’t know this kind of defeat. In that moment of panic, I knew what I had to do.
So I did the one thing that I know best, I wrote to her. I didn’t have to scramble for the words, they just came. Maybe I told her every little thing that I wish someone would have told me. I told her all of the reasons why she needed to stay. I told her how much she had to look forward to. I reminded her of the all the simple pleasures in life. I promised that if she gave it some time, it would get easier. We talked back and forth until she felt better.
I tossed and turned all night. All I could think about was this girl, and how a few hours ago, she was considering giving up. I didn’t know who she was, but her life mattered to me. I wanted to know that she’d keep fighting. I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote.
“…and on the days you wake up thinking you are down for the count, stay. Know that your heavyweight heart is still beating the odds.”
I posted those words on Instagram late that night. In the morning I let her know that she was the inspiration behind it. She’s actually the inspiration behind this entire post. Oddly enough, it was one month ago today that I read her message. One month ago today, I made a friend for life.
We’ve talked regularly since then. You’ll be relieved to know that she’s doing much better. She’s working towards starting a Gay Straight Alliance in her school. A couple weeks ago she let us listen to an anti bullying speech that she gave in class. It gave me goose bumps. She’s a brilliant writer. Her bravery and ambition is inspiring.
This girl will forever hold a special place in my heart. I watched her rise from the darkness. She came out fists raised and swinging, all with the most beautiful smile on her face. She’s miraculous, really. There’s so much fight in her, I can see it. There’s not one doubt in my mind that she’s going to use that strength to make this world a better place. She already has.
It is voices like this we hear in the dark, urging us to shine our light a little brighter. We want you to know that we’re listening, and we aren’t giving up on you. There is so much to look forward to, as long as you choose to stay.
For the ones who have a hard time staying…
I understand that right now you feel entirely alone. You might feel as if you’re the only person in the world ever to endure such pain. Maybe you’ve been suffering quietly for quite some time. Maybe this time, you just don’t see a way out. Maybe that terrifies you. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you feel at peace, almost as though you’re standing so close to the edge that you can finally see the end. However you’re feeling, I am asking you to hold on. Hold on with everything that you have.
You are strong, you know. You wouldn’t still be here if you weren’t. Maybe lately you’ve been feeling anything but, and that’s okay. You just need to be reminded of all the incredible things that you’re capable of. Think of how resilient you’ve been. All these years, and you’ve never given up. From the first day you entered this world, you’ve been fighting for your life. You’re still undefeated.
You’re still here because here is where you belong. Your existence is irreplaceable. Without you, the world would be incomplete. You matter, your life matters. If you don’t feel like you matter to anybody else, know that you matter to me.
It takes guts to stay, I know that. But when the world pushes, you push back. It’s what you’ve always done. Look back at every moment you’ve spent on this earth. Think about every bad day that you pushed through, and how at the time you didn’t think you would. Remember that you did. You always did.
You’re having a hard time, but that’s all that it is- and it’s temporary. The beauty of life is that it’s ever changing. The way that you feel today will not be the way you feel forever.
In the effort to make you feel less alone, I’ll let you in on a secret that I’ve been keeping from nearly everyone. I’ve struggled with depression for my entire life. The first time I wrote a letter with every intention of leaving, I was eleven. It’s not something I feel comfortable talking about, but I’ve realized it’s an important part of my story.
Until today, I thought admitting that would mean to admit that I am weak. I’ve never wanted to paint myself as anything other than strong. To be honest, posting something this personal terrifies me. I just want you to know that you aren’t broken. The feelings you have are valid. They don’t make you any less powerful. To struggle means to put up a fight, and the greatest fight in this world is the fight for your life.
So I get it. I know what it is to feel hollow. I know how easy it can be to lose your way. I know how scary it is to no longer see yourself when you imagine the future. Never surrender. To surrender to the pain would be to surrender all hope for a better tomorrow.
The bad days won’t last forever. Soon there will be great days. They’ll be days where you fall madly in love with all beauty that exists in the world. They’ll be nights that you wish would never end. You’ll meet unforgettable people. You’ll make memories. You’ll take pictures. You’ll smile until your cheeks hurt. You’ll laugh until your sides split. You’ll kiss in the rain. You’ll dance alone in the kitchen while your waffles burn. You’ll steal somebody’s heart. You’ll give yours away. And one day, you will know that life is good.
Until then, do what it takes to stay. Find a creative outlet. When I’m feeling low, I write. Every once and a while it turns into something that I’m proud of. But most times, it’s terrible poetry that I laugh about later. If writing isn’t your thing, paint. Even if you’ve never held a brush in your life. Maybe you’ll create a masterpiece. Maybe you’ll paint something so hideous that it actually makes you smile. Keep it. Get in your car and drive with no destination, sing your heart out along the way. Find a field and scream. Binge on Ben and Jerry’s while watching cartoons. Give your mind a rest. Write a love letter to yourself. Remind yourself how strong you’ve been.
Remember everything I told you. Remember you’ve been here before. Don’t give up your chances. Life will get easier. You will be happy again. You belong here. Your life matters to me. If you need a friend, you’ve got one right here.
Closets Are For Clothes and we will never surrender.
Six months ago, we officially launched Closets Are For Clothes into action. We were on a mission, to cover every heart we touch with pride. We set out to show the world that our love is no different. We hoped to destroy every ounce of shame that exists within our community. From the beginning, we knew that it wouldn’t be easy. To be honest, we didn’t even know that it was possible. We only knew that we had to try. Six months ago we made it our job to try.
From the start, CAFC has had an astounding amount of love and support for our cause. We’ve been especially fortunate to have such a great number of people reaching out to help. Because of this support, CAFC has had the opportunity to collaborate with some truly gifted individuals. With our powers combined, we’ve been making magic.
In August, we were contacted by Britt Shand- a videographer who studied Digital Cinema at Northern Michigan University. Britt was inspired by our cause, and hoped to become involved. After meeting with Britt for an interview, we knew right away that she was our missing link. The same day, we filmed our first video clip, titled “Love Unfiltered” which was used for the official launch of our Art Department.
At our second meeting with Britt, we were introduced to Nicki Chastain. Nicki studied Digital Cinema at Northern as well. Together, Britt and Nicki are an unstoppable force of creative genius. We were beyond privileged, and so lucky that they wanted to work with us. Going back and forth on ideas and concepts for our next project, we formed an unexpected bond and a lasting partnership.
In September, we began working on our first big project. We reached out to our community via Facebook, asking if anyone would be brave enough to share their coming out story in our documentary. Luckily, CAFC knows a lot of courageous people. Almost immediately, our inboxes were flooded with friends stepping forward to share their stories, hoping that their voice might make a difference.
That same week, our Production Associate, Prince (formerly known as Lindzay Taylor) came out as transgender. He decided that he would tell his friends and family in our documentary. In the beginning, we were scared; we feared the road that was ahead. We worried about the heartache that he might face if his friends and family weren’t accepting. We feared every little thing that we couldn’t protect him from. Then we remembered, we’re Closets Are For Clothes, and this is what we do. We don't hide from the things that terrify us, because fear doesn’t deserve to win this fight.
Despite our greatest fears, we supported him fully. We found comfort in knowing that although the road ahead may be a challenging one, it will be on that very same road where he finds himself. We are excited to walk beside him as he continues to discover himself, and inspire those around him.
On September 14th, CAFC and our team of filmmakers came together to capture the coming out stories of our friends who were audacious enough share. For the next ten hours, we spilled our guts. We opened our hearts and emptied the contents. With the cameras rolling, we traced the lines all the way back to the beginning, to the very first step that lead us here.
Although every journey was unique, the struggles and triumphs were shared. In the end, we may have been alone on our journey, but we were always united by our destination. All we ever wanted was to be happy. To find comfort in our own skin, to love who we love in the light of day- and the freedom to be exactly who we are, instead of what we were told to be.
By the end of the night, our hearts were overflowing with love for what we had created. We had no idea what the finished product would look like, but we didn’t have to. We already knew it was incredible.
The next three weeks, Britt and Nicki devoted countless hours towards editing the piece. Jessie worked tirelessly on writing, performing and recording the movie score until it was absolutely perfect. The last few days before the release of the documentary, were a bit of a blur. We had to pull a few all nighters in order to make our deadline.
The weeks leading up to the premier, I’d been imagining it to be a spectacular event. For some reason I assumed that everyone in attendance would be dressed as if they were aboard the Titanic. And in my head, the decorations were better than any wedding I’ve attended. In my head there was champagne. And in my head, I was the king of the world.
Meanwhile in the real world, Jessie is suggesting that we call off the premier entirely. There was a lot of work that needed to be done, and we didn’t have much time. I told her not to worry, and that everything would be perfect. That’s why we make such a great team, she worries about real life problems, while I live in the land of unicorns. It’s a balancing act.
The closer we come to our deadline, the more I started to question the legendary night that I had created in my mind. The night before our premier, Jessie and Nicki stayed up until 4:30 AM, fixing audio issues. From Here On Out was finished just 16 hours before the doors opened for our big night.
On October 9th, the cast and crew gathered for the premier of From Here On Out. When we arrived at the hotel, we encountered our first iceberg. As we rushed around to set up, we noticed that something was wrong with the projector. As we scrambled to fix the visual issues, we realized that the projector had no audio. The doors would open to our 50+ guests in approximately 30 minutes.
(I might consider this to be the part in Titanic where the band continues to play as the ship goes down).
Nicki drove to the store to buy speakers, while the rest of us remained anything but calm. Reality set in; we had Titanic dreams and a box wine budget. The guests started pouring in amidst the chaos. I was no longer king of the world.
I managed to compose myself after a talk from my good friend, Phoebe. She promised me that every person in the room was there because of the love they had for us, and for our company. She assured me that they all knew they weren’t at the Star Theatre, and the technical difficulties didn’t matter. What mattered was that they were here, and that they were here because they believed in us. Suddenly every problem that seemed so big just minutes before didn’t matter anymore. It was our big night and it was time to enjoy it.
After our talk, I was ready for anything...except for my speech, I wasn't ready for that. I nervously kicked back a few glasses of wine while Jessie and Britt delivered two incredible speeches. When I had imagined this part in my head, there was a microphone and a podium to hide behind. In real life I had neither of these things, just a shaking piece of paper and my trembling voice. All eyes were on me, and I couldn’t seem to find the words to express how grateful I was to each and every person in that room, I still can’t.
We managed to get the audio fixed, and the visual issues were improved. We explained to our guests that we were experiencing some technical difficulties, cut the lights and pressed play. It was our time to shine.
Jessie and I held Prince close, as we watched it all play out. We squeezed him tightly at the part where he came out as transgender. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud than I was at that moment. I was proud of him, and proud of what we had created. We were in a room full of people, and for a second, it felt like just us three. When the credits rolled, we heard sniffles all around. The lights came on, and all we felt was love. It was the happiest moment of my life.
We are grateful for every person that came out to support us that night; it was a pleasure sharing the night with you. We couldn’t have done any of it without our wonderful cast. You’ve shown us what bravery looks like, and more importantly, what it feels like. You’ve shown us the light at the end of the tunnel, and promised we’ll get there as long as we keep walking.
Britt and Nicki, we cannot thank you enough for turning our vision into a reality. Thank you for your time and devotion to our cause. From Here on Out exceeded our expectations, but we’ve learned to expect that from you by now. We feel privileged to have such talented women as a part of our CAFC team.
Most importantly, I want to thank Jessie. Somehow I forgot you in my speech, but I hope you know that it is an honor to share this company with you. I want you to know, if I were given a choice, I would still pick you every time. It goes without saying; no one makes a better team. Without your talent, and without that big brain of yours, CAFC wouldn’t be what it is today. Thank you for all that you’ve done, and for all that you continue to do.
On October 11th, in celebration of National Coming Out Day, From Here On Out was uploaded to our website. That day, and the weeks following, our documentary was viewed and shared thousands of times over. Since then, our inboxes have been flooded with messages of gratitude of those who viewed it. Some were thanking us for sharing our stories, and some for giving them the inspiration to come out to their own friends and families.
We want to thank every single person that took the time to listen to our stories. For those of you who shared our documentary on social media, we cannot thank you enough. To those of you who took the time to contact us with words of encouragement, thank you. It feels so good to know that our voices are being heard.
To every person who is, or has been down this road- thank you for your guts. Thank you for choosing love, and never looking back. We know that sometimes it isn’t an easy road, just remember that we’re all going to the same place.
Closets are for clothes and it’s about love, from here on out.
1. You don’t look like you’re gay. What does that even mean? Really though, I wish I knew what this “ideal lesbian” looked like so that I could live up to your standards of classic lesbian. You seem to be more knowledgeable about the subject than I am, maybe you could direct me to the nearest Lesbians R’ Us, so that I can acquire the proper attire to fit the part. It is apparent that I have failed How to Be a Lesbian 101, and may even require a tutor.
2. You’re too pretty to be a lesbian. Although I do appreciate your failed attempt at a compliment, I can’t help but feel a little bit offended. Lets clear this up real quick… it is not possible to be “too pretty”… for anything. You can be too short to ride a rollercoaster, you can be too young to run for president… you cannot be “too pretty” to be gay. This statement implies that you assume most lesbians are ugly, which is not only offensive… but incredibly inaccurate. There are plenty of gorgeous gay women in the world (and you won’t find them in lesbian porn). Contrary to popular belief, we’re just like the rest of the population; we come in all shapes, sizes, makes, and models. Everyone has a different “type” that they find attractive. Your view on beauty is yours and yours alone.
3. How do you have sex? First, this is a ridiculous question to ask a person… unless they are either one of your very close friends...or you’re on air with Dr. Ruth. Since I am neither of those things… what makes you think that I want to share the details of my sex life with you? If you must know, the sex is better than you could ever imagine. Picture all of the parts that you hate about having sex with a guy… now imagine not having to deal with any of it, and now add boobs! Lesbians know how to please a woman because they’ve got the same parts and know exactly how they work. That’s all of the information that I am willing to share at this point. If you’re looking for a demonstration or a “how to” tutorial... try sneaking around the Gay and Lesbian section of Barnes and Noble. Guaranteed, you’ll feel just as uncomfortable and I am right now.
4. Are you sisters? If by sisters you really meant scissor sisters… then yes. Next question.
5. Wait… scissoring is real? Yes. Next question.
6. Which one is the guy? Maybe you don’t understand the whole idea behind being a lesbian. Neither of us are men, that’s pretty much the point. We are both women, who love women. It’s a fairly easy concept once you accept the part where we’re both girls. I’ll assume you really meant “which one of you pays the bills/ drives the car/ kills the spiders” Fair enough, I just don’t understand why any of that matters? Unless there is a spider in this room right now, your question is irrelevant.
7. When did you become gay? Great question. For me I think it was when I went to this really sketchy Chinese Restaurant when I was eleven. The water was a little cloudy and tasted like skittles. I woke up the next day and BOOM… gay. It could happen to anyone. Seriously though, I can’t speak for everyone in the gay community… but I don’t think it’s ever a “Freaky Friday” type situation. I don’t think any of us went to bed straight one day, and woke up gay the next… that would be absolutely terrifying. I think I was collecting the pieces to the big “gay puzzle” my entire life. When I was 20… I found the very last piece and finally saw the big picture. (It was a unicorn eating a bowl of lucky charms. I saw it, and I was like… oh).
8. Maybe it’s just a phase. As awesome as it sound to grow out of my love for women, that’s probably never going to happen. A phase is like the time in middle school when I thought it was cool to wear tube socks and skirts because I was so freaking punk rock. Or the time I spent pretending to like dudes. I’ve been attracted to women for my entire life.
9. How do you know that you’re gay? Well, I took an “Are You Gay” questionnaire once that I found on the internet… I hear it’s pretty accurate. In all seriousness though… I know because of the way women make me feel. I don’t really think I need to get into the details of what happens when you’re ridiculously attracted to a person.
10. Did you have a bad experience with men, is that why you’re gay now? No. I’ve just had really great experiences with women.
11. Why don’t you just date a boy if you like girls who look like boys? This is another one of those questions where you have to first accept that we are both women… who love WOMEN. Believe it or not, a person’s style or haircut does not determine their sexuality. (Young Justin Bieber is a prime example of this situation). No offense to Justin, or the Beliebers.
12. My friends sister, Kat, is lesbian. Do you know her? As if every lesbian has met every other lesbian that exists! What is it with you people? What’s Kat’s last name? Okay that’s actually my ex-girlfriends new girlfriend. Next question.
13. Who wears the pants? Both of us? We both wear pants on a daily basis.
14. I’m seriously so sick of men. I should just become a lesbian. I feel ya, I’m so sick of women… I should just become straight. See how ridiculous that sounds?
15. I’m not gay or anything, but if I were… I would totally have sex with you. Thank you, that is very… kind.
Closets Are for Clothes is picking up speed and has been growing rapidly since our official launch on May 31st. We are eager to show you everything that we have been working so hard on. CAFC is beyond grateful for the overwhelming amount of love and support that we have been shown in these few short months. We have received countless messages of gratitude for our cause, reminding us daily of why we formed this organization in the first place. Words cannot express how thankful we are to each and every one of you; for believing in our cause, for believing in our company, and for believing in us. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.
Last week, we added a member to our Closets Are for Clothes team. Lindzay Taylor has been working closely with us since May, and has quickly become an asset to the CAFC family. We are certain that she will go above and beyond our expectations with her position in marketing and promotions. We couldn’t be more proud to have her with us. From the beginning, Jessie and I have been very particular with the people who become involved in our organization. Over the last few months, Lindzay's unyielding determination and interest in helping CAFC grow has not gone unnoticed. We are very lucky to have her on the CAFC team. Welcome aboard Lindzay.
In the beginning of August, we released our latest line of t-shirts. Our newest designs definitely make a statement. With the fight for marriage equality currently underway in Michigan, we created the MI Love is Equal shirt. Because although same-sex marriage hasn’t been legalized here yet, Closets Are for Clothes knows that our love is equal, regardless of what the law says.
Here is to the outlaws. To the ones who aren’t scared to be themselves and to those who aren’t afraid to fight for what we deserve. Together we are a movement, stronger than anything standing in our way. Together we are Love Outlaws. This shirt is dedicated to those of us who aren’t afraid live and LOVE outside of the law. All CAFC apparel is available for purchase online, at closetsareforclothes.org click on ‘OUR CLOSET’. Be sure to visit our website frequently to stay up to date with latest designs, events, and blog posts!
So far, CAFC has spread the love to 6 different states through our online store. We have made it our mission to reach all 50 states, and cover our map in pride. Visit our website to view an interactive map of the states that we have reached, and to see the faces of pride. Help us cover our map by submitting a photo of yourself in CAFC apparel, to be featured on the map.
A couple weeks ago, CAFC was lucky enough to join forces with an extremely talented photographer by the name of Kelly Karnesky. We spent the day roaming the streets of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, with a diverse team of LGBT models. With the combination of Kelly’s witchery behind a camera and our gorgeous group of models, the shots turned out to be more than we could have ever even dreamed of. We have posted a few teasers on our Instagram and Facebook, but the real gold has yet to come.
You can find us this Saturday August 23rd at Michigan Pride in Lansing. We will Rally at the Capitol, decked out in our newest MI Love Is Equal shirts. Join us in taking a stand for LGBT rights. The March to the Capitol steps begins at 1PM. Visit http://www.michiganpride.org for more information on the events scheduled throughout the day. We will also be selling all of our shirts at this event. If you see us, don’t be afraid to stop by and say hello!
So that is a look at what we have been up to this summer. We hope you’ll continue to support CAFC as we grow. At the end of the day, all we really want is to help people in any way possible. We hope to continue to serve as a light in the dark, to find your way out, and to be proud when you get there.
Closets Are for Clothes, and this is only the beginning.
When people ask why it is that we are so passionate about CAFC, I always think of a memory that I have from childhood. It was summer, and the sidewalks around the block from my house were being redone. I wanted nothing more than to leave my handprint in the wet cement. It became my mission for the day. My first mission was actually to pick up a pack of Lucky Lights from the candy store, but the handprint was next on the list. I had priorities and a seriously unhealthy addiction to candy cigarettes.
In order to complete this mission, I would have to sneak around and avoid being busted by the construction workers. I had my eyes on the freshly poured square at the corner, and they were working a few doors down. I don’t think I would have considered it vandalism at this age, but I did know that I shouldn’t be doing it. I knew I had to move fast, there was only a small window of time before it would be too late.
The bike ride home was spent chain smoking, while nervously constructing a plan. Of course I was that one kid who actually pretended to smoke candy cigarettes. I took my habit very seriously; I pretty much was Joe Camel, except way more awesome- if you can imagine that. My dad would even light them for me, just to take it to the next level. He was the “cool dad” that everyone wished they had. Look up the definition of punk rock in the dictionary, and you will find his picture. He taught me and my brother everything we know about being cool.
He was the person who showed us how to “flip the bird” at the ripe age of seven. Before then, I thought it meant to give the thumbs up. (He would later come to regret this decision; my brother let that bird fly everywhere). He taught us never to attend a concert wearing the bands t-shirt, because that shit is dorky. I don’t know where I’d be without him, probably giving some jerk the thumbs up in traffic. Anyway, let’s get back to the story.
The plan was to make it look like an accident, a staged fall as I rode past the workers on my bike. In my nine year old mind, it was flawless. Because really… how could a group of grown men get mad at a poor little girl who fell off her bike? I envisioned it as some sort of bail, tuck, and roll type situation. With no previous education in stunt falls, I assumed all possible risks and remained adamant.
*I can usually attribute nearly every reckless idea that I ever had as a child, to the Home Alone movies, but not this one. On this day, I acted alone. Because Kevin didn’t know shit about stunt falls.
I rolled up to the scene going fast- too fast. I turned my head and noticed the workers looking in my direction. I went for it anyway. A slick ghost rider move was attempted, but was unsuccessful. I panicked and hit the brakes at the very last second. The dismount was sloppy, but I managed to land right on target. To my surprise, the concrete wasn’t as soft as it looked. I must have spent too much time at the candy store. This made it very hard to complete my mission, but I didn’t let that stop me. I pushed harder, determined to finish what I came there to do. I wasn’t leaving until I left my mark.
(This is probably the part where the workers realized that my bullshit fall was absolutely NOT an accident).
Suffering only skinned palms, my handprint was IN the cement. There was no time for celebration, not now anyway. Suddenly, I noticed the workers were much more upset than I had anticipated. Turns out, grown men absolutely can get mad at a child for falling off a bike, if it happens to be onto a freshly leveled sidewalk. They were yelling things and I don’t know what they were, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn't “are you okay?” I climbed back on that bike and peddled as fast as my legs would let me, with the biggest, shittiest grin on my face. With a lucky between my lips, I disappeared into the sunset. It was a good day.
However insignificant the handprint may have actually been, it was a big deal to me. In my mind, it was a land mark. I would walk everyone I knew to that corner. I would put my hand over it and say “this is MY hand.” Nobody seemed to think it was a great as I did. They had more important things on their minds. They had Tamagotchi’s to feed. To me, there was something incredible about leaving something behind, perhaps more permanent than myself. My handprint would be on that sidewalk for what I thought would be forever.
These days, I can’t help but see this whole place as freshly poured cement. Every single second is an opportunity to make a move, to leave behind something great- something so much bigger than ourselves. This is about falling on purpose, even when we know, they’re all watching. Because maybe what some consider good the way it is, isn’t quite good enough. Maybe it won’t be good enough, until we’re all willing to get our hands dirty. This is about proving that we are here, and that we deserve to be. And some day, when this fight for equality is over… when the battle has been won- we will all come back here and say, “these are our hand prints.”
Closets Are for Clothes, and great stories don’t start from perfect sidewalks.
Forty Hours Straight
When Closets Are for Clothes was just starting out- when it was only a twinkle in our eyes- I felt like a fraud in a way. Here we were, screen-printing pride tee shirts out of our basement- while I was closeted myself. I was working full time at a small mortgage company. Forty hours a week, I pretended to be somebody else. I had convinced myself from the beginning that they wouldn’t accept me otherwise. This assumption was not without warrant, I had recently been fired for being openly gay. *Yes, you can still legally be fired in the state of Michigan for being LGBT.
Every morning, I woke up early to be sure I blended in with the rest of them. I had grown out my short hair, long enough for some pathetic excuse for pigtails. I started wearing dresses and painting my nails regularly. I traded in my wallet for a purse… it was that serious. I made this hurried transformation to prevent my coworkers from ever questioning my sexuality in the first place; because I know that I am a terrible liar. It’s strange because as a kid, I couldn’t tell the truth to save my life. Maybe somewhere down the line, I exceeded the limit for telling fibs; because all I’ve got left now is unfiltered honesty. Secrets aren’t something that I am capable of digesting, and word vomit seems to be a regular occurrence in my life.
Shamefully, lying by omission is an art form that I’ve mastered with grace. In this situation, I learned to avoid tough questions and eliminate the use of pronouns. When speaking of my girlfriend, she remained nameless. She was “my boo.” These cryptic conversations eventually lead to curiosity among coworkers. Never at any point did I directly tell untruths, (with the exception of one ridiculously huge lie). In my eyes, if you insist on telling tall tales, go big or go home. Get creative, if you’re going to be making shit up, at least make it interesting.
My first of many awkward encounters at the office was cringe worthy to say the least. A loan officer had noticed that I was wearing a Claddagh ring. He asked what the story was behind it and what the significance was. Eventually, this conversation lead to asking what my “significant others” name was. Yeah, he said significant other? Obviously he was on to me.
(When you’re in the business of keeping secrets, every question is an accusation).
Being the quick thinker that I am, I responded with the most violent case of projectile word vomit. Fear had taken over, as I temporarily lost control of my speech. Without even the slightest pause, I looked him in the eye and informed him that unfortunately, due to the circumstances, I could not tell him my significant others name because I was in the Secret Service. I think I may have been equally as shocked about the words that just spewed from my mouth. His lack of response to this fabrication was probably the best I could have hoped for. He said nothing. He walked away quietly with a slightly puzzled look, while I was left to sit with my thoughts. I don’t know why that was my go-to answer. If I was going to lie, I could have at least said something a little bit more believable, maybe along the lines of “Ben, my boyfriends name is Ben.” I can’t explain the things that happen to me most days. I have these moments, outbursts of extreme social awkwardness. I’ve just learned to roll with it. I’ve discovered if you’re confident enough in your weirdness, nobody will even question it.
I had often considered coming out at work, but was always waiting for “the right time.” I was looking for the perfect opportunity to casually slide “I love ladies, more than the average bear” into conversation. I never found the right time, because it did not exist. I knew that the longer I waited, the more awkward the conversation would be. Keeping secrets wasn’t something I was good at, and suddenly, I had been keeping one for almost two years. For the first time in my life, I was afraid to be myself. It was a feeling that I can’t describe, and one I hope to never experience again.
The first company Christmas party was a struggle. I knew that everyone would have a date, so going alone wasn’t really an option. I considered renting a boyfriend for the night, but that would have committed me to a whole chain of lies that I obviously wasn’t capable of producing. After discussing it with friends, I chose to bring my girlfriend, and introduce her as my best friend/roommate. The good ol’ roommate trick… because that’s not gay at all. The worst part about the situation was that I forced her to play the straight girl role with me. I’m not saying that either of us deserved an Oscar, but she was wearing high heels and lip gloss.
Of course there were a few slip-ups on my end. There was the photo strip incident, let’s talk about that. It was pouring rain one afternoon when a colleague rushed over to tell me that the windows were down in my car. After coming back inside, I ran to the bathroom to dry off. When I returned to my desk, I was surprised to find a photo strip of my girlfriend and I kissing. It was sitting on my desk, for all to see. Panic sank in as I wondered who it was that found it, and whether or not they showed anyone. The next few weeks were spent making up entire storylines in my head of how it actually played out.
As time passed, I was beginning to fear being myself outside of work. I started to worry about coworkers seeing me in public with my girlfriend. On my way to Ferndale Pride last year, I joked with a friend about how I hoped I wouldn’t end up on the news. Just my luck, my photo appeared in the Detroit Free Press photo gallery, wearing a shirt that said The Other Team. Of course that would happen to me. I remember being there and thinking about how silly it was to be at PRIDE, when I had no real pride of my own.
Towards the end of my time at the mortgage company, I slowly started dropping hints. It wasn’t even because I felt comfortable enough to do so; I just couldn’t keep it a secret anymore. It’s a lot of work to be anybody other than you. I went to last year’s Christmas party alone. I ended up nervously drinking shot after shot of Patron with my boss. At some point, a coworker offered me a ‘blow job’ shot, to which I responded “you know…blow jobs aren’t really my thing”. It was awkward for everybody. Obviously the Patron had disintegrated my filter. Secret Service guy ended up driving me home. I was told I did some gymnastics upon entry. After the Christmas party, my “Secret Santa” emailed me to apologize for getting me a gift card. She insisted that she was in a hurry, but promised she liked me a lot. She also casually mentioned in this email that she was not a lesbian. It’s always good to state things like that, you know… for the gay record. I’m not sure if she was hinting that she knew, or if she was just saying it… for the record, either way it made me nervous.
Looking back now, I realize the weight I was carrying, by keeping my personal life hidden. By constantly having to censor myself and filter the information I shared, I was slowly becoming isolated from my coworkers. Aside from that, it was messing with my confidence. I felt like I wasn’t good enough the way that I was, and that the only way to change it- was to be somebody else. I don’t want to be anybody else. I know now, that who I am is enough. Never again will I let the fear of rejection determine my pride. Being gay is one part of who I am, but there is so much to me than my sexual orientation.
Shortly after I came out to one of my co-workers, I was laid off for two weeks and then terminated, days before my birthday. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and consider it mere coincidence. They claimed it was because my computer had a virus, and they couldn’t afford to fix it. I could call it an unfortunate situation and feel bad for myself, or I could see it as a second chance. I told myself that wherever I ended up, I would be honest from the beginning.
In March I started working for a real estate company. Since then, I’ve been an open book with everyone. Some coworkers I added on Facebook, and let them figure it out on their own. There is an incredible sense of relief in knowing that I don’t have to hide anymore. I mean, I’m not prancing around the office wrapped in a rainbow flag or anything… but if people ask, I’m not telling them I’m in the Secret Service. Despite the initial awkwardness, telling the truth is so much easier than dodging questions and bending the truth.
Last week I came out to an older co-worker and it was probably one of the most unexpected reactions I’ve ever experienced. We were talking about break ups, and he had asked if I’ve ever been broken up with. I told him that it’s only happened once. He asked how “he” did it, so I took that opportunity and ran. I told him that he was a girl. He whisper shouted “whaaaat, you’re gaaay” followed by… “does anybody know?” Just by looking at him, I realized that his mind was blown. His brain basically exploded onto my desk. I told him that dudes weren’t really my thing. I didn’t know what direction this conversation was headed at this point, but I didn’t care. I said it with absolute confidence. All he really said after the initial shock of it all, was “you’re so much cooler now in my book.” If only everybody’s books read that way. He acted as if I told him something impressive, like I was a race car driver or something.
I’m not suggesting that everyone who is closeted at work should come in tomorrow with a megaphone and announce it to the world; actually I would strongly advise against that. I understand that our jobs are important. We live in a world where sometimes it isn’t an option to be out in the workplace. I would say to go about this situation cautiously. The information that you choose to share is entirely up to you. I am only writing from personal experience. I have been fortunate enough to finally work for a company that makes me feel safe enough to be myself. It is important to think about how deeply it affects your life by choosing to be out, or staying closeted in the work place. Forty hours straight- makes for a long week.
I realize that the chance of this letter reaching the audience in which it’s intended is slim to none. But who knows, maybe while you’re surfing Facebook, you might stumble upon this little love letter, from me to you. I’ll put my faith in the power of social media and see what happens. If anything, maybe I will sleep easier knowing that I tried, because something is better than nothing. I will try my best to remember that it always seems to be the ones with the most hate in their hearts, who are in need of the most love letters.
Hearing stories like this always breaks my heart, but this hits especially close to home. I’ve gone to Motor City Pride for the last three years. The first time I had gone, I felt uneasy. I was uneasy because I knew that hateful people like you exist. I went anyway. I went because this celebration belongs to us. The LGBT community has fought and continues to fight incessantly in a battle for equality. To say that we deserve this day, to say that we’ve earned it, would be an understatement.
We deserve so much more than a parade, but I think we’re all willing to settle for basic human rights. The right to EXIST without fear of falling victim to hate crimes simply for loving who we love. I think that would be a good place to start. That’s what this festival is about, celebrating our victories, and acknowledging the work that still must be done. You have made it abundantly clear that we have so much more to do. Thank you for reminding us what we’re up against. Thank you for shining a light on what some would rather turn their head to. Homophobia is alive and well in this country, we didn’t need you to validate that. Actually, let’s call it what it really is- gay bashing. You weren’t afraid of him, you were afraid of yourselves.
So what was it about Howard that made you feel the need to puff out your chests and act so barbarically? What was it that you needed to prove, and to who? Were you proving that you’re masculine, lady loving heterosexuals? Because, you know, men don’t actually have to prove that sort of thing. Were you demonstrating how “hard” you are? I’m just not so sure how hard it could be to assault one man between the EIGHT of you. He was completely outnumbered and survived with minor injuries; if anyone is a champion in this story, it’s this kid.
Something about Christin made at least one of you question yourselves. A button was pressed. Maybe you were envious of his courage to live life openly. Perhaps you wish you were able to walk down the street, confident in your own sexuality, even proud enough to celebrate it. No one knows the answers to these questions except for you. Nobody knows your stories, or what triggered the pure hatred you’ve demonstrated towards our community. I can only hope that the universe works in our favor on this one, and that justice is served.
The members of our community are some of the most unyielding souls you will ever find. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t still be here today. What you’ve done is shameful; sadly we’re no stranger to acts of violence against us. Yes, it is scary, sharing our time here with you. But we aren’t going anywhere. Maybe you don’t know us well enough to understand that we aren’t the type to let fear win. We will continue fighting for what has always been ours. We will never quit loving who our hearts love, even if it means swimming upstream. We will keep celebrating our PRIDE, because it isn’t yours to take.
The underdogs have this way of finding the bright side in everything. Maybe it keeps us from becoming overwhelmed by the dark. Things could have turned out much worse. I am grateful that the man you so cowardly attacked has lived to tell his story. Too often, this is not the case. I hope for his sake, that one day he can find it in his heart to forgive you. I hope that he can find strength in knowing that he is a part of something so much bigger. I hope he knows that although nobody had his back the day that this happened, there are so many more of us who would have, if only we were there. As for all of you, I hope that you find peace within yourselves. Maybe one day you will love yourselves enough to attend Motor City Pride with an open mind and heart.
Closets Are for Clothes and this will always be about love.
When Closets Are For Clothes was created, we realized that by standing up against hate we will eventually become face to face with it ourselves, maybe even staring it dead in the eye one day. To tell you that this doesn’t terrify me would be a lie.
It keeps me awake at night thinking about it. There are people in this world who strongly disagree with CAFC’s message, crazy hateful people. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t be here today. Knowing that these people exist is what fuels our passion for change. Knowing that YOU exist is what sparked this fire burning in our hearts in the first place.
In the beginning we were afraid to show our faces, out of fear of becoming targeted ourselves. We even went as far as considering using pseudo names; as if we were some sort of top secret spies. But we aren’t spies- and everyone knows I can’t keep a secret. We realized that if CAFC is going to ask for your bravery, then the very least we can do is be brave ourselves. We promise to continue living out loud in hopes to encourage others to do the same.
If our support can inspire even one person who has been struggling, if we can give them a voice, if we can open
just one closed mind, it will all be worth it. I have been told that I have a way with words. I think what they meant by that is, “Ang, you’re kind of a ninja.” If I need to verbally scissor kick the bullies of the world right in their cold hearts, I’m not afraid to do it.
We understand the fight for equality won’t be an easy win, but we believe that every one of us is worth fighting for. Besides, we’re the lucky ones; we’ve got love on our side. It starts with loving yourself. Love fully and unapologetically. The only way to silence hate is to smother it with pride. We must refuse to live quietly, waiting for change to come. If I’ve learned anything from history, it’s that change does not simply arrive; it is taken by those who aren’t afraid to make noise, to cause a ruckus, to have their voices heard. Change begins with bravery.
We choose to be brave today because tomorrow isn’t promised. Life doesn’t stick to the blueprints we have carefully drawn up. The thought that I could be gone tomorrow worries me, because we have big plans, and I don’t want to leave behind simply a footprint. We hope to leave behind an entire highway, with billboards along the way to remind you how incredible you are. CAFC hopes to change the minds of those who make you question yourself in the first place.
The reminder that our time here is short has inspired us to exist with purpose, to live out loud and with passion. I know that this is what we have been put on this Earth to do. I know because of the way it makes my heart swell when I think about it, the way it makes me feel like I can’t breathe. The way my fingers can’t keep up with my thoughts. It’s like my heart keeps telling my brain “hurry up, there is so much more we can do.” It has consumed my every thought. I want nothing more than to be your light in the dark, to help find your way out. It all begins with one brave step; don’t be afraid to take it.
Closets Are For Clothes, and we are just getting started.
I’m Ang Frank, co-founder of Closets Are For Clothes. Since this is the first post, why not start from the beginning? Who doesn’t love a good coming out story? Maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll share mine one day. Coming out is a roller coaster ride of emotions, and nobody’s experience is exactly the same. Some coming out stories are surprisingly happy, while others are heart wrenching and everywhere in between. I’d be lying if I told you that coming out is a cake walk. It isn’t a cake walk. But I CAN tell you that there is CAKE at the end of this walk. I know it’s a little soon to be promising you cake, but I’m an honest girl and you can hold me to my word. I promise cake, if you promise to keep walking. My hope is to help give you the guts, and the courage, and everything else that it takes to make the best of your own story.
I am going to assume that you are LGBT and not currently out. I will also assume that you hope to bust down that door sometime in the near future (I know I am making a lot of assumptions. I apologize).
Coming to terms with sexual identity can be a battle in itself. Some just know, and it’s as simple as that. Some people, me for instance, had no idea until it hit me like a ton of bricks one day in my twenties. It was like someone handed me all of the missing pieces to the puzzle and I could finally see the big picture. Suddenly every little thing made sense. Suddenly, I understood the world’s obsession with hand holding and FRENCH KISSING. It was one big “Aha” moment after another.
Some will struggle with fighting these feelings until the day they die, but not you, because you are braver than you know. You deserve to experience happiness unfiltered. One thing to keep in mind during the coming out process is that no one else’s happiness is more important than your own. This isn’t about selfishness; it’s about being able to take off the mask and be comfortable with your reflection in the mirror. This isn’t a “lifestyle choice.” It’s a truce, a white flag to end the war within.
Not everyone is going to understand, and that’s okay. Humans have a hard time understanding anything or anyone that breaks the mold. We have trouble embracing our differences and often use them to build barriers between us. We overlook the beauty and strength that diversity creates. We forget how terribly dull this place would be without it. At times we are blinded by the walls we have created to divide us. If you’re lucky, you live on the privileged side. The side that gets to pretend discrimination does not exist, because they’ve never had to experience it. On the other side is where courage and bravery is found, in the hearts of the underdogs. Everyone knows our track record, we have a history of victory.
I know there are real reasons for hiding. Some people in this world aren’t as open minded as we might like them to be, but I promise, we’re getting there. It is hard to see progress when you’re standing still. Keep marching forward and you’ll see just how far we’ve come. Maybe you fear disappointing your family and friends. I am going to let you in on a little secret. I bet some of them already know, or at least have a slight suspicion. I remember sitting my brother down to tell him that I was a lesbian. His reaction was as if I told him what color my eyes were. I thought it would be this huge surprise. He said two things to me that day that I will never forget. First, he said, “you act like I didn’t know this already.” And the next thing he said was “I’ve always wanted a brother.” I think he was excited to be able to talk about ladies together. My point though is that your “big secret” might not be so secret. Think about it. These people have known you the longest. Do you really think they aren’t suspicious of your ever-growing flannel collection, or the fact that you prefer to wear pant suits to weddings? Do you really think they haven’t noticed your lack of interest in men? They remember that weird shit you made your Barbies do as a kid. I bet you just said to yourself, “I didn’t have Barbies. I had GI Joes.” Exactly my point! Your family has watched you grow into the person you are today. They might not be as clueless as you think.
Unless you are a method actor, the news you are about to deliver might not be as big of a shock as you assume it will be. It’s like this. Think about when you go to the doctor and you have to get a shot. The worst part about it is not the actual shot. It’s the anticipation of it all. The smell of alcohol, the way they tie that giant rubber-band to make your vein swell. By the time the needle goes in, you realize you’ve worked yourself all up for a tiny pin prick. The hard part is getting the courage to get it over with. In your case, it is admitting to yourself, and to your loved ones, that you are
(fill in the blank)
Once you come clean- no matter the response, you will feel immediate relief, as if you have been holding your breath up until this day. The moment you say it out loud, you set yourself free. Never mind the mess at your feet, it is not permanent. I never said it wouldn’t get messy. In fact, if it doesn’t get messy, I’m not entirely sure you’re doing it right. Think about cleaning your room. Doesn’t it usually get even messier before the progress comes? Consider this the disaster before the finished product. I know it can be overwhelming, but if you stop and take a nap you will lose your momentum.
Everyone reacts differently when responding to this conversation. Keep in mind that it can be awkward for all parties involved, not just you. People handle emotional situations differently. If you receive a not so great reaction, please remember that these things take time. I know firsthand these things take time. When I came out, I expected my dad to react the best out of anyone. I was wrong, he was devastated. For the first few months he wouldn’t even look at a picture of my girlfriend, let alone meet her. We didn’t speak of her and he pretended that she did not exist until one day he called me up and invited the both of us to dinner. It started getting better from there. It has been five years and he has completely turned around. But if you were to ask me five years ago, I would have told you that he was a lost cause. He said some pretty awful things in the beginning. Remember not everyone is so brilliant with words, and in the heat of the moment, we have all been known to say some things we don’t really mean. Stand your ground. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t belong here. You belong here and we cherish each and every one of you. Although our stories may be different, we share our underdog hearts, and a record of being undefeated. Remember my promise, and don’t stop until you find your cake.
Closets Are For Clothes, and you are incredible.