To deepen understanding and build empathy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered people who are in the closet (i.e., who are pretending to be heterosexual females or males).
- Explain to students that you are going to ask them to use their powers of imagination to experience what it might be like to live in the closet.
- Ask them to close their notebooks for a moment, get into a comfortable position, relax, and close their eyes.
- Then say: "To those of you who are heterosexual, I'm going to read you a short story and ask that you imagine the details as vividly as possible. To those of you who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you can either go through the exercise or simply close your eyes and think of experiences you or others have had that are similar to the story."
- Read the Guided Visualization story adapted from Warren Blumenthal's book (cited below).
- When finished reading the story, ask students to open their eyes and share their thoughts and feelings as they heard the story.
- Discuss the following topics:
- The toll that closeting and deception take on friendships
- The toll that closeting takes on romantic relationships
- The way that inadvertent heterosexist comments can drive people into the closet
Guided visualization can be used to help students imagine being the target of a wide variety of prejudices beyond homophobia. For example, the technique can be adapted to imagine being an interned Japanese-American during World War II, or a Black Southerner during the days of Jim Crow.
Adapted from Blumenfeld, W. J. (Ed.). (1992). Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.