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.