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Closet Gay

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A character is LGBTQ, and doing their best to hide it, either due to potential consequences such as a Homophobic Hate Crime, or Gayngst over whether they'll be accepted for who they are.

May involve The Beard, Secretly-Gay Activity, a Secret Relationship, Flying Under the Gaydar, or any number of tropes pertaining to The Masquerade. Can lead into a Coming-Out Story, or being Forced Out of the Closet.

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Very much Truth in Television of course, especially in highly religious countries. There are still places where you can be executed for your sexual orientation if you're anything other than heterosexual and cisgender.

NOTE: Do not confuse this with tropes such as Hide Your Lesbians, But Not Too Gay, and Get Back in the Closet, where the author has to be coy about a character's orientation. This is where the character is explicitly trying to hide who they really are as a plot point.


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Subtropes:

  • Armoured Closet Gay: The character is both closeted and (outwardly) anti-LGBT+, possibly as a defense against discovery.
  • The Beard: Someone posing as an opposite-sex lover to help the character maintain the illusion of being straight.
  • Closet Key: Someone who helps a character realize their orientation.
  • Coming-Out Story: The character's journey to leave the closet.
  • Flying Under the Gaydar: The character goes out of their way to act straight to allay suspicion.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: The character's orientation is made public against his or her will.
  • Late Coming Out: A character comes out as LGBT+ in their later years.
  • Out of the Closet, Into the Fire: Coming out ups the danger level to the character.
  • Secretly-Gay Activity: A character is afraid to admit their same-sex attraction, and masks affectionate gestures as "just between friends."
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  • Transparent Closet: The character doesn't realize (or at least acknowledge) their orientation, but it's obvious to everyone else.

Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In Ms. Marvel (2014), Zoe Zimmer's constant Alpha Bitch behavior towards Kamala and Nakia turns out to be a mask for the fact that she is gay and has a crush on Nakia.
  • In Runaways, Karolina harbored an obvious crush on Nico Minoru, but remained in the closet until Volume 2. Nico herself would not admit that she returned Karolina's affections until the fifth series, over a decade later in real life (and two years later in-universe.)
  • After his return in Doomsday Clock, Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, was retconned to be gay like in Earth 2, albeit in the closet.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • It: Chapter Two: The ending reveals that Richie has been gay the entire time and was in love with Ed, whom he unfortunately never told before Ed's death.
  • Max in Bent is willing to do unspeakably depraved things to keep the Nazis from thinking he was gay. This is somewhat justified because you really don't want the Nazis to think you're gay.
  • Bobby Kent from Bully is a sexual sadist who can't find anyone who appreciates his homemade gay porn movies. Gay themes constantly follow Bobby's character; his repressed sexuality might be his defining character trait.
  • Happiest Season: Harper isn't out to her fairly old-fashioned family, so when she brings her girlfriend Abby home for Christmas, the two have to pretend to be platonic friends. Prior to the film she had planned to come out to them but didn't, and now has to keep up (heterosexual) appearances because her dad is running for mayor of their conservative small town.
  • Bad Education: Frank is depicted as having two boyfriends (one younger living in Vegas, and one long-term partner who helps with his fraud), which Rachel is shocked to discover. Frank is also shown repeatedly referring to his long-dead wife, whose picture he keeps on his desk, as a means of rejecting the advances of enthusiastic mothers. (In real life, Frank did have a wife who died young, and two boyfriends, but he was not closeted and he and his long-term partner had an open relationship.)
  • In The Dry, Jamie Sullivan and the local doctor are in a secret gay relationship. Living in a small country town, they wish to keep it secret and it helps that they are both Straight Gays. However, Jamie's sneaking around inadvertently makes him a suspect in the murders as he stupidly gives a false alibi to the police rather than admit he was with his partner. Compounded because he was the last person to see Luke alive.
  • The Guru (2002): Randy, who is engaged with Sharonna but has a secret relationship with Rusty, which isn't openly acknowledged until the end of the film.
  • Where the Truth Lies: Vince, Lanny's "straight man" in their comedy routine (haha) is this since he's a public figure in the 1950s. More specifically, he's a Closet Bisexual.
  • Bonnie & Bonnie: Yara is closeted in regards to her attraction for women (or at least Kiki) until she's forcibly outed, because of her homophobic family.
  • Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives: Many of the women in the film discuss their life before coming out and what it was like being closeted. The story of Laura also has her closeted initially.
  • Alto: Nicolette is a closeted lesbian at first, knowing that her family would disapprove.
  • Plan B (2021): It turns out Lupe is queer and in the closet, even to her bestie Sunny (what she says indicates she's bi or pansexual).
  • Fear Street: In Part One: 1994 Sam is still in the closet about her lesbianism.
  • The Guard: Aidan. There's no clue about it until Gabriella mentions it to Gerry, since she married him for the visa and he married her to appear to be straight. And he's already dead by this point, though Sheehy implies that he knows before O'Leary shoots him.
  • Kissing Jessica Stein: Jessica, who dates Helen in secret and struggles to keep her bisexuality hidden from others.
  • Steam: Elizabeth is initially closeted about her attraction to women, afraid of her conservative Catholic parents' reaction.
  • Were the World Mine: Jonathon is hinted to be gay a couple times in the beginning, but he's still so deep in the closet he needs literal magic to manage to come out.
  • Love Is Not Perfect: Elena learns her boyfriend Marco has been cheating with a man while he's seeing her.
  • Girls Like Magic: Jamie is out as a lesbian with everyone else, but not her parents as her dad's quite anti-gay.

    Literature 
  • In The Heroes of Olympus, it's revealed that Nico di Angelo has or had a crush on Percy Jackson. We only find this out because Cupid forcibly draws a confession him in return for a plot-critical MacGuffin. Justified, as Nico grew up in the 1930s and was influenced by the homophobic hysteria of that period, in addition to his feelings of ostracism because of his godly heritage.
  • Left Behind: Buck's new boss Verna has concealed her lesbianism, which he manages to guess. What follows is a VERY uncomfortable scene where our "heroes" imply that they'll out her if she tries interviewing Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah.
  • Temeraire: Captain Granby hides his sexuality out of necessity to avoid being Court-Martialed in the 19th-century English military. He only reluctantly comes out to the protagonist, by then a trusted friend, in the seventh book to explain why he won't enter a political marriage. (Said protagonist grew up in the Navy, and so is already familiar with the concept and used to politely not noticing it.)
  • In The Traitor Baru Cormorant, the title character is a lesbian trying to obtain power in the culturally repressive, violently homophobic empire of Falcrest ("sodomites get hot iron; for tribadists, the knife") so she can rewrite its laws, having already lost one of her two fathers to them. Her struggles with her sexuality against Falcrest's surveillance state and her immediate political needs form a central part of her character. She gains the power she wants in the end, but circumstances force her to sacrifice her girlfriend to do so, embittering her from reforming the empire to destroying it.
  • Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda follows Simon, a closeted gay teenage boy who forms a relationship with another closeted gay boy, "Blue," at his school over email. When local pest Marvin finds these emails, he blackmails Simon into hooking Marvin up with Simon's friend Abby or else Marvin will out Simon to the school. He gets Forced Out of the Closet later in the book, but by the end of it does find Blue's identity and begin dating him.
  • The Mortal Instruments: Alec hides the fact that he is gay, because of the homophobic attitudes most Shadowhunters have. His friends and siblings figure it out by themselves, but his parents remain oblivious, until he comes out in the third book by kissing Magnus in front of the whole Clave including his parents.
  • In Sid Stills' Blues (Three-Quarters in the Bag in Alphabet City), Nathan didn't want anyone to know that he liked men. This led to the breakup of his band, as when he broke up with a man he was dating in secret, the man told one of his bandmates, Jason, who didn't take the fact that Nathan had kept it a secret well.
  • Stranger Than Fanfiction: Joey Davis, one of the main characters, is a gay man who's afraid to come out to his family for fear of how they might react. he hasn't even told his friends about it. They find out when Cash mentions it to them among the secrets he knows they've been keeping from each other. Naturally, they're all shocked at first, but after having time to process it, they all come to accept him. His family doesn't have quite the same reaction, however. If anything, they kick him out of the house after he comes out to them. He went to live with Topher's family after that.
  • Annie on My Mind: Liza, Annie, Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer keep secret the fact they're lesbians, to avoid social repercussions (that do occur when they get outed).
  • Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating: Ishu is not out to her parents in the beginning about her liking girls. She comes out by the end.
  • The Laundry Files: Defied by the titular secret agency to the point of inversion. LGBT+ employees like Pinky and Brains are contractually obligated to attend Pride events to rule out their sexuality as potential Blackmail material.
  • Girls Don't Hit:
    • Joss is not openly a lesbian, rather having the façade of a straight marriage and kids.
    • Joss and Echo's second target is in a clandestine relationship with another man. From what they say, his lover's wife or her family are behind the hit, to “keep up appearances”. For apparently the first time, she empathizes toward a target, and lets him go... Only for him to be shot immediately by Echo, her apprentice.
    • While pretending she's an FBI agent, Joss meets two closeted female detectives living in New Orleans. The two of them are (extra-legally) married and out to their loved ones, but not at work, as Louisiana is less progressive about LGBT+ folks. Not to mention they might not be allowed to remain partners.
  • The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali: Rukhsana hasn't come out to her parents as a lesbian at the start of the story, fearing their reaction. In Bangladesh she's matched with Sohail, who's ironically gay and closeted himself. Sohail thinks it's hilarious when they confide in each other. He says all gays in Bangladesh have to be closeted too since it's dangerous if they're out. He's proven sadly correct as extremists who learn of his sexuality murder him.
  • The Scholomance: Ibrahim and Yaakov hide their relationship in the titular Wizarding School, and the protagonist keeps their secret when she accidentally finds out. Wizards tend to be accepting of such things, but the school's environment is deadly enough that they don't want to take the risk.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Betty: Honeybear is a closeted queer girl (although she rejects even the idea of being closeted, plus any specific LGBT+ identity, but seems to be into women along with men).
  • Big Love: Alby Grant struggles with concealing his homosexuality throughout the series, being the heir of a religious sect dedicated to polygamy (and strictly of the hetero variety). The only time he seems happy is during an affair with a man, whose eventual suicide devastates Alby.
  • Played with in Dare Me, where everyone on the cheerleading team has heard rumors that something happened between captain Beth and her lieutenant Addy over the summer, and assume that Beth, who's made no secret of her preference for girls, made advances on Addy and was rejected. The truth turns out to be more complicated: Addy was the one who kissed Beth, but then immediately retreated back into the closet after realizing that her mother would never approve of her dating a girl from a white-trash family. Addy's attempts to cover up her sexuality fall apart when she becomes attracted to the new, married coach Collette French, and tries to leverage her status as Collette's Secret-Keeper to get close to her.
  • First Day: Josh is a closeted trans boy introduced in the first season (but later comes out). Then in season two a couple other minor closeted LGBT+ kids are introduced too, who get support from the school Pride group that Hannah starts.
  • Girls: Hannah's father is gay, which got speculated on by Hannah's own ex Elijah, who is now proudly openly out, but had been this trope in the past. He eventually came out but not until the later seasons.
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor: Dani is gay and tried to marry a man (her childhood best friend Eddie), but ultimately couldn't go through with it due to this trope. As he died after she broke off the engagement, she suppressed her feelings until meeting Jamie and facing her fears about him directly. This led to the season becoming a Coming-Out Story for her.
  • Innocent UK: Sam Wright, Sally’s ex husband in Series Two. Not only had he been having numerous one night stands with other men, he was also having an affair with the victim Matty Taylor, and murdered him when he threatened to tell Sally about the affair. He describes it as being his worst nightmare to be outed.]]
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Ronald "Mac" McDonald, the ultimate Armored Closet Gay. Although Mac is shown dating women early in the show, eventually his obsessive homoerotic tendencies become a defining trait of his character, but he absolutely refuses to come out because of his strict Catholic upbringing. After numerous misunderstandings, false starts, coming out, and going back in the closet, he finally, quietly, and happily says he's gay in "Hero Or Hate Crime?".
  • Law & Order: Organized Crime: Albi Briscu closely guards knowledge of his homosexuality to the point of murdering one of his own lovers.
  • The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Down Low in Hell's Kitchen" deals with several African-American celebrities wishing to keep their homosexuality a secret.
  • Love, Victor: At the beginning of the series, Victor is in the closet because of his religious parents. At the end of season 1, he comes out to his best friend and his parents and sister.
  • The L Word:
    • Tasha is partly closeted due to being in the military, when Don't Ask Don't Tell was still in place. She's cautious about PDA with her girlfriend, and when found out gets warned by her CO not to let it ever happen again or he'll report her. Later she's prosecuted by the Army for homosexual conduct (which she's guilty of), but the prosecutor is herself a closeted lesbian afraid Tasha's lover Alice will out her so she allows Tasha a way off to stay in the Army. Tasha though refuses to take it and admits she does love Alice on the stand, coming out in the courtroom.
    • Alice discovers a major basketball player is really gay when she sees him at a closet party. She outs him publicly after he makes homophobic remarks.
    • Niki Stevens, an actress whom Jenny gets involved with while she's directing her on Lez Girls, is in the closet as she fears coming out would ruin her career.
  • The Murders: In "Black & Blue" a black rapper turns out to be a bisexual man who's closeted for his career. He remains in the closet at the end, though Kate says there's some out queer male rappers nowadays, but Meg (an open lesbian) replies they came out after they got successful enough for it not to matter anymore.
  • The Republic of Sarah: Alexis Whitmore, the wife of the former Mayor, is carrying on an affair with Officer AJ Johnson, who's also closeted initially. Progressively more people, by various methods, learn about them over time.
  • In Runaways, Karolina realizes that she's gay in the first episode, but tries to cover it up because she's from a religious family where that's frowned upon. She eventually stops hiding it after realizing that Nico returns her feelings.
  • Schitt's Creek: Played With with the character of Patrick who is not even out to himself when he moves to town, but once he enters into a romance with David he is out to everyone in the small town. However, in Season 5, David invites Patrick's parents to Patrick's birthday Surprise Party only to learn that Patrick is not out to his parents. This leads to a forced out of the closet story for Patrick, who tells David he is afraid his parents would treat him differently if they knew he was gay. Thankfully, the story resolves with Patrick's parents being loving and accepting.
  • The White Lotus: Mark's father, as he learns, was a closeted gay or bi man who lived a double life having sex with men on the side. He died of AIDS, not cancer, as Mark had been told.
  • Why Women Kill: Joan and Grace turn out to be secretly into women (they're in a relationship).
  • As might be expected for the first mainstream show with queer characters, Will & Grace featured a lot of this trope.
    • In the first season, Will was a downplayed example: he was in a long-term relationship with a man, but kept his personal life relatively private. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but he often refused to come out or be open regarding his sexuality among his coworkers and peers. The episode "Will Works Out" featured the Camp Gay Jack joining Will's gym and embarrassing Will with his stereotypical behavior, prompting him to disparagingly call Jack a fag. Jack confronts Will over his internalized homophobia, and Will's forced to admit that he has a point.
    • The tables are turned in a later episode when Will dates a sportscaster (played by Patrick Dempsey) who, whenever they're out, insists on calling Will his brother. Eventually, Will openly declares his homosexuality when they're out at a dinner and makes it clear that he isn't going to hide himself any longer, which leads to the two breaking up.
    • Despite Jack being extremely "loud and proud," it is revealed in one Thanksgiving Episode that he is not out to his mother, instead claiming that Grace is his ex-girlfriend. The sight of the normally exuberant Jack quiet and scared breaks Will's heart, and he gives him the courage to finally tell the truth.
    • The trope is humorously inverted in an episode where a man named Owen (played by Matt Damon) competes with Jack for the last spot in the New York Gay Men's Choir. Jack discovers that Owen is actually a "closet straight" (as in, a heterosexual man pretending to be gay); he recruits Grace to help "in" him and eliminate the competition. The choir ends up accepting Owen anyway through a combination of feeling sorry for him and, well, the fact that he looks like Matt Damon.
  • On Yellowjackets, Coach Ben Scott is gay and hiding it. Natalie, one of the fellow survivors of the crash that stranded him, her and the others on the show figures it out from the fact that he never looks at any of the breasts of the girls on this all-female soccer team. He is a very attractive male and Misty, one of the other girls on the team, has a huge crush on him and has apparently not figured it out, forcing him to pretend that he likes her too but that he doesn't want it getting out because of the implications that would come with that.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: Bryce Dawkins, the largely unseen Deputy Mayor of Liberty City, notorious for his vitriolic homophobic rants (thus pandering to his right-wing voter base). So it is perhaps no surprise that he turns out to be the lover of Bernie Crane, a very Camp Gay fitness trainer. In fact, most of Niko's missions with Bernie involve fending off members of The Mafiya trying to blackmail Bryce. The secret ends up getting revealed anyway (as a post-game radio news feed reveals), but Bryce still insists he's not gay, will not change his anti-gay stance, and instead "visited a rehab", presumably to "correct personal failures", or at least lie low for a while until the issue dies down in favor of celebrity scandals. Quoth a press statement meant to deflect accusations of homophobia against him...

    Webcomics 
  • Suitor Armor: Sir Baynard and his servant Peres are in a Secret Relationship, even though he makes a show of being a ladies' man in public. When Lucia discovers them, she promises to keep it secret, since she was raised by two fathers who were killed in a Homophobic Hate Crime.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Cranked Up to Eleven with Waylon Smithers, Mr. Burns' sycophant assistant, who has spent the entire 31 years and near 700 episodes of the show's run both in the closet and hiding his unrequited love for Mr. Burns. Averted heartwarmingly in much later seasons, however, where most of the other characters (aside from Mr. Burns) know that Smithers is gay, and treat it as a non-issue.
    • From the same show, there's Marge's sister Patty Bouvier, a lifelong spinster until she finally comes out in the sixteenth season episode "There's Something About Marrying." Earlier episodes hinted at her lesbianism—when she saw Homer run by naked, she sighed "There go the last lingering threads of my heterosexuality," and she (along with Smithers) appeared on a Pride Parade float about people in the closet ("We're gay! We're glad! But don't tell mom and dad!").

Alternative Title(s): Closet Bi, Closet Trans

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