In the pic on the right, that's me as a freshman at NYU in 1983. When I rediscovered this pic some time ago, I laughed for days. It would still be 20 years after that when I'd really come out of the closet. Before that happened, I served on a Mormon mission to Brazil, got married in the Mormon temple, had 4 kids, and continued pretending I was straight.
I don't remember the context of that dorm room picture, but it definitely seems Freudian or symbolic somehow. Why did I pretend I was coming out of a closet? Of course, I knew I was gay at the time. All my classmates were coming out, yet my smile belies the terror that I actually felt inside. My family and religious community would never accept me unconditionally as a gay man, and I knew it.
But how did I think I was fooling anyone? I was enamored with Timothy Hutton, the band Loverboy (mostly because of that album cover showing the butt in red leather pants), and I loved all things theater, especially musical theater. New York City welcomed me in its loving, understanding embrace, yet fear still made me to reject a very fundamental part of myself for years to come.
Even coming out 20 years later, I was right about the non-acceptance of my family and church community. But true peace really only comes by living on the outside in a manner consistent with how you feel on the inside. It feels incredible to finally have that. And my advice is do it sooner, rather than later.