TOLEDO, OH—Despite the fact that everyone he meets obviously assumes he is gay, 34-year-old Toledo-area homosexual Jeremy Schuitt still thinks he's in the closet, local sources reported Tuesday.
A graphic designer who secretly frequents Cruisers, a local dance club, Schuitt has told only four people about his homosexuality. However, nearly all of his friends, co-workers and relatives are well aware of it, as is the clerk at the neighborhood Starbucks where Schuitt orders a "double mocha 'capp' in [a] paper [cup]" every day before work.
"Jeremy is a very nice guy, and I totally support his sexual orientation," said co-worker Diane Pulaski, one of the countless people to whom Schuitt has not come out. "I think it's great that he's so open about it."
Though Schuitt denies dating men and feigns ignorance of gay culture, his extensive collection of handpainted Italian tiles and love of Stephen Sondheim are well-known.
Among the many other indicators that have tipped off the world to Schuitt's homosexuality include his running commentary on footwear, his constant playing of the Pet Shop Boys' Very on the mini CD boom box at his workstation, his standard greeting of "And how are we doing today?" and the week-long depression he fell into following Princess Diana's death.
"Sadly, we still live in a largely homophobic society, so there are many reasons why an individual would choose to hide his gayness," said magazine editor James Allenby, for whom Schuitt frequently does freelance graphic-design work. "That's why I applaud Jeremy's decision to just let it all hang out. He's so incredibly fun and flamboyant."
As people get to know Schuitt better, however, they inevitably discover that his openness is purely accidental.
"What can I say? I just adore Paris," Schuitt told co-worker Geri Hahn recently. "The Seine, The Louvre, Jean-Paul Gaultier—I'd die to live there someday."
"That is," Schuitt added, "assuming my girlfriend Jackie would want to move there, too."
Schuitt's invention of "Jacqueline"—his French-Canadian fiancée currently touring Canada with the Montreal Ballet—is just one of the many cover stories Schuitt has created to hide his homosexuality from those in whom he cannot confide.
Unbeknownst to Schuitt, every one of his efforts has been unsuccessful. Even those friends who have not accidentally found Manhole Magazine's 1998 Boy-Toy Revue video Schuitt keeps hidden behind his entertainment center have noted the other tell-tale signs of homosexuality around his apartment, such his extensive collection of pierrot figurines and coordinated futon cover and curtain set.
Progressive and open-minded, Schuitt's friends have fully accepted his closeted status and have tried to create a comfortable environment for his sexual denial. But despite their open-mindedness, many of these friends were shocked and uncomfortable upon discovering that Schuitt was not yet "out."
"Of course, I've always respected his right to privacy regarding that very personal decision," friend Erin Chance said. "But there's no doubt about it—he's gay. Not just a little gay, really gay."
Chance is among the many people who, upon meeting Schuitt, told him that they "have lots of gay friends," only to have the closeted man nervously reply that he thinks his sister might have a gay friend.
"I felt a little embarrassed for just assuming, but how was I supposed to know?" Chance said. "My gaydar tells me he's way out of the closet."
Janice Sharperson is among the four friends whom Schuitt, in moments of abandon, has told, "I'm not sure, but sometimes I think I might be bisexual."
"Big shocker, huh?" Sharperson said. "I know it makes sense that he'd be used to hiding it after growing up Catholic in a small town, but we're all secretly rooting for him to come out. It's getting kind of weird acting like we don't know that everyone knows he likes men."
Even Schuitt's distant relatives are aware of his homosexuality.
"Last fall, at his cousin Bryan's wedding, Jeremy stood up to make an announcement," said Bea Langan, Schuitt's great aunt. "I thought for sure he was going to tell us all his little 'secret,' but instead he told us that his girlfriend unfortunately couldn't make it because she had pneumonia. Oh, well. Maybe next time."
Schuitt, who first realized he was attracted to males in high school, has been perceived as gay since fifth or sixth grade.
"Jeremy is one of those students I'll never forget," said Marcia Krause, Schuitt's middle-school drama teacher. "He was so sweet and so talented—you should have seen him in Pippin. I wonder where he is now. San Francisco or the West Village, I suppose."