I Spent 25 Years in the Closet

And coming out almost killed me

Chelsea Catherine
Human Parts
Published in
9 min readAug 26, 2021
Illustration: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

I got married when I was 20 years old. My ex-husband was 27, a graduate student at the university where I was getting my bachelor’s. We met while I was at work at the college bookstore. He bought coffee and always smiled at me. He was gentle and calm. Stable. He felt safe.

We spent about six months together before tying the knot. Our wedding ceremony was in an art gallery near the town where I grew up. The ceremony went well with no hijinks except for a small snowstorm that swirled in and then left just as quickly. I gritted smiles and faked enthusiasm throughout the eight-hour ordeal, even though my body felt wired and uncomfortable.

When we returned to our hotel room, I was exhausted and sweaty and sick of the makeup caked on my face. I knew he was going to initiate sex. Even though I didn’t want to, I felt guilty saying no and got through it as quickly as I could. After, he rolled over and fell asleep. I watched Law and Order and cried because I couldn’t imagine doing this for the rest of my life but saw no alternative.

The other day, one of my best friends asked me if I really didn’t know I was a lesbian for 25 years. “Didn’t you have crushes on boys in high school?”

I had one boyfriend during high school, but I didn’t like him much. We spent our time arguing and yelling at each other, sitting at opposite ends of the political spectrum. We were both given the superlative of “Most Opinionated.”

“The problem was that I liked older women,” I told my friend. I adored one of our teachers, a former Miss Vermont, but always laughed it off as a “girl crush.” She was older than me, and I admired her. It was the same with Mariska Hargitay from Law and Order: SVU. Her character, Olivia Benson, was a total badass. My obsessive thoughts about her didn’t mean anything.

I told myself I looked up to them and that was it.



Chelsea Catherine
Human Parts

Chelsea Catherine writes sometimes. They have two fun gay books available here: