Coming out stories

The experience of being in and coming out of the closet,” Ash Beckham says, is universal: It’s scary, and we hate it, and it needs to be done.”

I came out of my closet 28 years ago today.

An ordinary day

When I made that observation to Lone Wolf this morning she asked, “How do you pinpoint coming out to a particular day? What happened?”

It was an ordinary day in the life of a suburban housewife, mother of two young boys. I got the kids up and dressed, fed them breakfast, dropped the older one off at school, and took the younger one to do some Christmas shopping.

I remember Annie Lennox being piped through Hillside Mall:

Why can’t you see this boat is sinking?

It’s just you

A few nights before, the woman I had just jumped off a cliff and professed my love to had told me she was unavailable—but she could help me come to terms with being a lesbian.

“Oh, I’m not a lesbian,” I’d assured her. “It’s just you.”

She chuckled softly and told me she remembered saying those exact words to the woman she’d jumped off a cliff for, many years before.

Still, I was dubious. Happily married. Wasn’t I?

She was right

That night after dinner I left my husband to give the kids a bath and put them to bed, and I drove over to Belmont High for sign language class. I had already learned to sign the alphabet. That’s what led me to jump off the cliff—I’d been jogging alongside the Salish Sea when I noticed my fingers were moving, all on their own. I realized I was signing her name.

I looked around the table at the group of a dozen women and one man in my ASL class. And it hit me. She was right. I felt about women the way I was supposed to feel about men.

I was 34 years old.

Ash Beckham was right, too: Coming out was scary. I hated it. But it needed to be done.

I sometimes joke that I walked into a sign language class a straight housewife and walked out a lesbian, but of course it didn’t happen quite that way. What it felt like for me was cracking open a door—just a few inches at first. But once I saw daylight on the other side of that door, I wanted to walk out into it. Before long, I flung the damn door wide open.

The next few years of my life were incredibly hard and painful and filled with loss. They were also exhilarating. Joyous. Magical. Coming out meant coming home, to myself.

I have never regretted flinging open that door.

A closet is simply a hard conversation

Ash Beckham says we all have closets. A closet is nothing more than a hard conversation we need to have. The good news is, it gets easier with every conversation.

Thank you for being here in this one with me.

Photo of slightly open door by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

13 Responses to “Coming out stories”

  1. carin

    This is simply beautiful, Leslie. I’m thinking about the serendipity, the POWER, of hearing that song playing at the mall, how it must have felt like a laser being beamed right at you. But of course, had you been in another mood you might not even have heard it…

    “A closet is no place for anyone to live.” Your link is my introduction to Ash Beckham; I’m now going to google all the YouTube vids I can find.


    • commatologist

      Carin, to this day when I hear that song I feel the laser. And all of it, really. It all comes flooding back. The power of music.

  2. Theresa

    I remember being at an anniversary party for two of my dearest friends, now dead, who met in 1950 at an Anglican Church social in Paris, and smiling as another friend proposed a toast to them, saying that for them the closet had always been a place to hang their guests’ coats. Of course things were not quite that simple for them but they were so comfortable in their bodies, their choice of each other, and their wide (and diverse) community of friends. Happy anniversary to your true self!

    • commatologist

      I love that story, Theresa. LW and I met a few months after the infamous sign language class, in the basement of the Church of Truth on Superior Street. It wasn’t a church social in the strict sense – it was a monthly women’s coffeehouse named Hot Flashes. Thank you! By the way, your books arrived in the mail this week. I can’t wait to dive in!

    • commatologist

      Thank you, Ama! Finding your blog is like waking up on Christmas morning – Shetland webcams, origami stars, so much beautiful art, and more, and more! I was delighted to see you know Laurie Doctor, who has been such an inspiration and guiding star for me. Your (and Judy’s) examples make fabulous press for her workshops. Thanks for all of it, and for visiting my blog. Leslie


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