Who Am I?

Recently I have given a lot of thought to the prospect of coming out of the closet (in fact, I even bought and read a book called Outing Yourself). My desire for for a life of openness and honesty, regardless of whatever negative side effects may accompany it, reminded me of Jean Valjean's dilemma in the glorious Les Miserables, in which Valjean must either face the reality of his true identity or continue leading a convenient--albeit deceptive--double life. This inner struggle, similar to my own and that of gay people (especially religious ones) everywhere, is captured in the beautiful song fittingly entitled "Who Am I?", since that is the question I and so many of us are wrestling with.

First off, Valjean is a highly visible community leader, something I can relate with to some small degree as a leader in the ward, the Republican Party, and Student Government (in the which settings being homosexual is comparable to being an ex-convict--complete with all the trappings of societal stigma and labels). "I am the master of hundreds of workers / They all look to me..."

Secondly, Valjean faces a fork with a difficult path down either road. "If I speak, I am condemned / If I stay silent, I am damned." [How appropriate given today is the National Day of Silence for oppressed LGBTQ people!] Sometimes I feel like my options are equally discouraging: condemnation on one side, and damnation on the other. Like us MoHos, Valjean has to deal with a considerable amount of guilt.

Thirdly, Valjean does not want to live a life based on deception and denial; nor do I. "Can I conceal myself for evermore? / ...And must my name until I die / Be no more than an alibi? / Must I lie?"

Finally, Valjean confronts issues of shame, conscience, and obligation to God, just as I do: "How can I ever face my fellow men? / How can I ever face myself again? / My soul belongs to God, I know / I made that bargain long ago / He gave me hope when hope was gone / He gave me strength to journey on..."

In the end, Jean Valjean presents his true identity and faces the consequences because he knows it is the right thing to do. Increasingly, I think it may be the right thing for me to do, too.


Alan said...

Coming out is such an individual thing. Different for everyone in terms of timing, motivations, methods. Only you will know when and how is right. Nothing wrong with seeking advice beforehand, of course. And I will tell you from experience, after a long time of thinking I couldn't possibly come out, that it has been one of the most wonderful, freeing, exhilarating things I've ever done.

Anonymous said...