Cleaning Out Closets & Carving Out Niches

   In highschool I obsessed over the show Prison Break. I also obsessed over the guy who played the protagonist in it.

Wentworth Miller (fun fact: he’s named after Captain Wentworth from Austen’s ‘Persuasion’)      

   I think we can all agree on the reason. Yes. He is a great actor. His acting skills were the sole reason why I had a poster of him in my locker (the only poster I ever had in my five years of secondary education, I might add. Yes, Wentworth, you should be flattered). 

   There were countless days spent swooning over him, calling him drool-worthy and thinking I was oh-so-witty playing on his name like that. And, for some weird reason, my friends debated whether he was gay or not. I don’t know if this was some way of trying to annoy me (if it was, it didn’t work), or simply a result of the media always questioning why he never brought dates to premieres. In any case, his sexuality was more openly discussed among us than any of ours were. I even drew a little badge for my little poster Wentworth that said ‘Cleanin’ out da closet’, because apparently that was the kind of hip lingo I used back in the day, and because I thought all the theorizing was a little beside the point.

   Anyway, it seems the questioning wasn’t too far off. This past week Wentworth Miller came out at a Human Rights Campaign dinner. He spoke about growing up and feeling like he would never fit in, not only because he was a closeted homosexual, but also because he was from such a mixed racial background. The loner title was twofold for him. 

Yeah. I still have the poster. And he still has my heart.

  And as he talked, I found myself relating to him. I knew exactly what he meant when he talked about having nowhere to call home. Being someone who was born in one country, and grew up in two others I don’t have anywhere that I feel I can belong. Though I have lived the longest where I am now, I am reminded everyday that I am not like these people. I have a yearning to  visit the place I was born in but I have never deluded myself about fitting in with those people, either.

   There’s a cultural limbo that all diasporic children occupy and while we find a certain balance – we have to – it’s not always easy. It’s like being one of those pieces in a puzzle that kids are given, except we don’t really have a slot ready-carved out for us. Either we compromise, sliding into any shape, and pretend that staying within its ill-fitting borders equates belonging – or we accept that we’re different. We accept the fact that we’ll always be the stray puzzle, and we attempt to carve out our own niches, our own version of ‘home’.

   In his speech Wentworth Miller talks about how difficult it was for him to understand the concept of ‘us’ or ‘we’, how strange it seemed that there could be others like him. And he might have been talking partly about his sexuality, but it felt like hearing my thoughts on fitting in being spoken aloud. It was bizarre to hear what I felt, what I thought for years in the privacy of my head, coming out of this stranger’s mouth. I never considered the possibility of a ‘we’. It has always been an ‘I’, and the different ‘I’s that I show to different people. Bits and pieces, and never the whole. My parents know one fraction of me, my siblings another, and my friends yet another. There is no place for ‘all of me’. At least, not yet.

   And to think how twofold the pressure must have been on someone trying to hide their sexuality as well is mind-boggling. I was dismayed to hear that he’d attempted suicide as a school boy. It’s depressing to think that we live in a society where this kind of obstruction of identity – in any form – is necessary. To think that we have to keep dividing ourselves into fractions, showing only one side while the other parts remain hidden, sometimes forever, is saddening. 

   This isn’t a pity party. Hearing Wentworth’s speech just triggered this outpouring of thoughts that are always swirling around in my head, and I finally decided to give them some release. Identity is such a strange thing – we struggle with it enough on our own terms, but to have to compromise it for the rest of the world’s demands seems too much. 

   I’m glad Wentworth’s come out. I’m glad that he no longer has to feel the need to lie through his interviews, that he no longer has to hide who he his. I’m glad he’s found his niche. And it might be a different kind of niche, but it gives me hope that I’ll be able to find mine someday. 

Mark of true friendship in highschool: when your friend collects pictures of your favorite actor for you because there was no way your parents would let you buy teen magazines.


2 thoughts on “Cleaning Out Closets & Carving Out Niches

  1. Good for Wentworth Miller on sharing his story like that. You're right about it not being a pity party. It's always a great thing to hear someone's personal story and be able to relate.
    You do hit the nail on the head by saying that we have to “divide ourselves into fractions”. It's sad but true.
    Great post! And thanks for sharing the Wentworth Miller pics. I always did think he was droolworthy.


  2. Yeah, I can only imagine how torturous it must have been for him (and is for others like him). We always seem to insist that we're alone and not realize there are others who could obviously feel the same way.

    Haha, anytime. You have good taste 😉


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