Sorry to disagree

Posted by Keith Rennie on November 29, 2004

In Reply to: Sorry to disagree posted by Bob on November 29, 2004

The original posting refers to the a traditional english expression which is more commonly "skeleton in the cupboard" (i.e. shameful long-kept family secret such as a murder) and has nothing whatever to do with closets, water closets etc. The English phrase predates probably by centuries any references to "coming out" which are C20th US.

: : : : Come out of the closet or come out -- means to begin to participate in the homosexual social and sexual life. It was originally "homosexual use" in the mid-1900s. From "Slang and Euphemism: A Dictionary of Oaths, Curses, Insults, Ethnic Slurs, Sexual Slang and Metaphor, Drug Talk, College Lingo and Related Matters" by Richard A. Spears (New American Library, Penguin Putnam, New York, Third Edition, 2001).

: : : : A second reference talks about the Gay Liberation Movement or Gay Lib "which encouraged homosexuals to 'come out of the closet' and to work for equal rights for homosexuals. Such new attitudes were reinforced by the American Psychiatric Associations's decision in 1973 to remove homosexuality from its diagnostic and statistical manual after finding that homosexuality per se was not an indication of mental illness..." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).

: : : : I am guessing that the phrase grew out of the expression "skeletons in the closet."

: : : I thought this had come up before - I think 'closet' is being used in the sense of toilet cubicle. toilet = water closet (WC).
: : : cottagers use public toilets for gay sex - hence their sexual activity was 'in the closet'.
: : : much better for gay people to be allowed stable monogamous relationships without being villified - don't people think?

: : : L

: : Yes.
: Which "closet" is the source depends on whether it's UK or American, because the term "water closet" is strictly UK. That sense of "closet" is not used in the U.S. To us, closet means only a clothes closet.