Mar 17, 2008

Closeted vs. discreet vs. out

Coming out of the closet.

One minor irritation I have is people conflating being discreet with being in the closet. While these two are related terms, they are not synonymous. Being in the closet pertains to whether other people know your sexual orientation, meaning whether you (or others) have disclosed that you aren't straight. Being out is the opposite of being in the closet. The key idea here is other people's knowledge of your orientation. Also, you can be in the closet with some people (like your family) or out to others (like your best friend). "Coming out" is the act of voluntarily disclosing to others of your homosexuality/bisexuality while "outing" is the disclosure by others of your sexuality against your will. (Outing is a whole different ethical issue altogether, and maybe fit for another blog post in the future.)

On the other hand, being discreet is all about your behavior. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, being discreet is "marked by, exercising, or showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior; [being] circumspect." So discretion is all about your behavior while being closeted is all about other people's knowledge of your orientation. That's a very fine distinction. Being discreet has nothing to do with whether you are in the closet or out. (Additionally, your discreet behavior is also different, though related, from your mannerisms, which is what being masculine or effeminate is all about.)

There are many people out there who mistake discretion with being in the closet. Of course, if you want to maintain your closeted state, you certainly need to be discreet, but it doesn't necessarily mean that if you're not being discreet then you're already out or if you're out, then you aren't discreet anymore. I am out to several friends, but does that mean I can't be discreet in my activities anymore? Also, I've been to gay places in Malate, but does that mean I'm no longer in the closet or indiscreet?

There are many levels to being closeted and it is merely a function of how many people know about you. Being publicly out means that practically everyone knows that you are gay. Likewise, there are also many shades to being discreet. You can be the ultra-paranoid discreet guy who only goes on one-on-one EBs and will never show your pictures online, saying instead "just meet me na lang." Or you can be the relaxed discreet guy who refrains from holding hands with another guy in public but still goes to gay saunas and clubs.

How much you are out and how discreet you are is entirely up to you. You choose which people you want to come out to and you also choose how much to be discreet in public. So it's a mistake to ask in chat for EBs saying "discreet only" or "discreet here for same" and then later rejecting a guy because he doesn't fit your standards of discretion.

Update: “Discreetness is not a black-and-white thing”

Photo from the Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center at Flickr.


Kai Santorino wrote on March 19, 2008 at 3:09 PM:

thanks for linking my blog to yours! will be adding yours too in a bit

Princhecha Fiona wrote on March 20, 2008 at 12:35 AM:

Hello! Just a question, can one be discreet and effeminate at the same time? =p hihihihi

Mugen wrote on March 22, 2008 at 7:54 PM:

I think the better, more applicable term is masculine and effeminate. One can be out but remain masculine like... Dennis Trillo. On the other hand, a person can be discreet or closeted but his gestures and interests would immediately give hints that he's someone like us.

Vince wrote on March 24, 2008 at 10:47 PM:

Kai, you're welcome. :)

Fiona, not really. Hehehe.

Mugen, I consider masculine and effeminate behavior as mannerisms that are unconsciously portrayed. Whereas being discreet is a conscious effort to hide your sexuality. There's a difference there but in practice, there usually isn't: discreet guys tend to display masculine mannerisms anyway.

Princhecha Fiona wrote on March 26, 2008 at 5:11 PM:

hmmmm, so you're saying that if you're effem then you don't exercise prudence already? haha and it's all about the conscious vs unconscious behaviour that differentiate being masculine/effem with discrete/non-discrete? :)

Anyway, I agree more with mugen's view though. (but as you said, in practice, there usually isn't any diff.) hihihihi

Nanggugulo lang. hehehe :) Salamat sa oras! =p Mwah!

raf tolentino wrote on February 22, 2015 at 12:05 PM:

These words are still misused. I hope more people find this post. Hehe.

Just to sum things up
Effem is within the masculine-feminine spectrum
Out/closeted is about other peoples knowledge of your orientation whether directly or indirectly acquired
Discreet is about the exercise of prudence and tact.

It is therefore possible to be out, effeminate and discreet all at the same time.