In Ceremonies, a young woman is walking down the street, preparing to attend a memorial service for a friend. She turns the corner and sees TV lights focused on the door of the church. If she continues to the door, she will walk past these TV cameras. She says to her lover, “I can’t go past that. I’ll lose my job.” Her lover says she can’t not go to the service. So, there in the dark, a block from the church, the couple split up, both of them sobbing, one to go on to the church and publicity, and the other to return to the home they share.
After the memorial service, Mickey introduces his boyfriend to his high school teacher who is also leaving the memorial service. Robbie, the boyfriend, says, “That’s the first time you’ve ever done that.” Mickey wants to know what he meant. Robbie shrugged, “You never acknowledge me.”
Later that night, Mickey is returning one of the many phone calls from his sister, who says she saw him on TV and wants to know why he went to that boy’s memorial service.
“What will people think?”
“I think you should lower your voice—’
“They’ll think you’re queer!”
This is the moment. Mickey’s mother’s way is to give him an opportunity, even an invitation, to lie. Marian’s is to dare him. She comes on like she’s training tigers, chair up and whip trailing.
“Lloyd already thinks so. He’s thought that for years, and you have no idea how hard I’ve—”
“This is hard enough. You are not making it any easier.”
“Why is it so hard? Tell me that. What are you hiding?”
Every second Mickey waits now the lie rots the bone. “I’m queer, Marian.” And the release he should feel now is polluted by his knowledge that she’s had to force it out of him.
In these excerpts from Ceremonies, we’re watching the moment at which being closeted becomes out. What drives Mickey is a need for greater comfort or less pain or, when Marian goes on the attack, a need to defend himself. Self-protection also drives the young woman to turn away from the television lights. The girl on the street and Mickey are both out—to some people—and closeted to others, and what drives them cannot really be determined without a close knowledge of just what’s happening in that person’s life.
You just can’t make generic statements about people and the closet and being out. Everybody is different.