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Closeted and in the closet are metaphors used to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and intersex (LGBTQI) people who have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity and aspects thereof, including sexual identity and sexual behavior.



In late 20th century America, the closet had become a central metaphor for grasping the history and social dynamics of gay life. The notion of the closet is inseparable from the concept of coming out. The closet narrative sets up an implicit dualism between being "in" or being "out". Those who are "in" are often stigmatized as living false, unhappy lives.[1]


In the early stages of the lesbian, gay or bisexual identity development process, people feel confused and experience turmoil. In 1993, Michelangelo Signorile wrote Queer in America, in which he explored the harm caused both to a closeted person and to society in general by being closeted.[2]

Seidman, Meeks, and Traschen (1999) argue that "the closet" may be becoming an antiquated metaphor in the lives of modern day Americans for two reasons.

  1. Homosexuality is becoming increasingly normalized and the shame and secrecy often associated with it appears to be in decline.
  2. The metaphor of the closet hinges upon the notion that stigma management is a way of life. However, stigma management may actually be increasingly done situationally.

Related terminology

  • A person who is in the closet may be disparagingly referred to as a "closet case".
  • The Glass Closet (Harlow, 2006) refers to those who may not be out, even to themselves, but others can plainly see that they are, in fact, in the closet.
  • Pagans who keeps their religious ideas secret are known as being "in the broom closet".

See also


  • Chauncey, George (1994). Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. New York: Basic Books. Cited in Seidman 2003.
  • Humphreys, L. (1970). Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places. Chicago: Aldine.
  • Kennedy, Elizabeth. "'But We Would Never Talk about It': The Structure of Lesbian Discretion in South Dakota, 1928-1933" in Inventing Lesbian Cultures in America, ed. Ellen Lewin (1996). Boston: Beacon Press. Cited in Seidman 2003.
  • Seidman, Steven (2003). Beyond the Closet; The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life. ISBN 0-415-93207-6.
  • Seidman, Steven, Meeks, Chet, and Traschen, Francie (1999), "Beyond the Closet? The Changing Social Meaning of Homosexuality in the United States." Sexualities 2 (1)


  1. ^ Seidman, Meeks, and Traschen (1999)
  2. ^ re-released in 2003 by University of Wisconsin Press, ISBN 0-299-19374-8

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • closeted — [kläz′it id] adj. concealing one s identity, esp. one s sexual orientation [a closeted homosexual] …   English World dictionary

  • closeted — adj. closeted with (he was closeted with the mayor for an hour) * * * closeted with (he was closeted with the mayor for an hour) …   Combinatory dictionary

  • Closeted — Closet Clos et, v. t. [imp. & p. p.{Closeted} p. pr. & vb. n. {Closeting}.] 1. To shut up in, or as in, a closet; to conceal. [R.] [1913 Webster] Bedlam s closeted and handcuffed charge. Cowper. [1913 Webster] 2. To make into a closet for a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • closeted — [[t]klɒ̱zɪtɪd[/t]] ADJ: v link ADJ, usu ADJ with/in n If you are closeted with someone, you are talking privately to them. [FORMAL or LITERARY] The prime minister has been closeted with his finance ministers for the past 12 hours... Charles and I …   English dictionary

  • closeted — adjective Date: 1763 closet 3 < a closeted homosexual > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • closeted — adjective a) confined Hes spent all day closeted in his room. b) Not open about ones homosexuality. Syn: confined, holed up, in the closet …   Wiktionary

  • closeted — adj. Closeted is used with these nouns: ↑homosexual, ↑lesbian …   Collocations dictionary

  • closeted — clos|et|ed [ klazətəd ] adjective a gay person who is closeted has not admitted publicly that they are gay …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • closeted — UK [ˈklɒzɪtɪd] / US [ˈklɑzətəd] adjective a gay person who is closeted has not said publicly that they are gay …   English dictionary

  • closeted — /kloz i tid/, adj. functioning in private; secret; closet. [1675 85; CLOSET + ED2] * * * …   Universalium

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