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  • I’m going to talk to you tonight about coming out of the closet,

  • and not in the traditional sense, not just the gay closet.

  • I think we all have closets.

  • Your closet may be telling someone you love her for the first time,

  • or telling someone that youre pregnant,

  • or telling someone you have cancer,

  • or any of the other hard conversations we have throughout our lives.

  • All a closet is, is a hard conversation.

  • And although our topics may vary tremendously,

  • the experience of being in and coming out of the closet is universal.

  • It is scary and we hate it,

  • and it needs to be done.

  • Several years ago, I was working at the South Side Walnut Café,

  • a local diner in town,

  • and during my time there I would go through phases of militant lesbian intensity,

  • not shaving my armpit, quoting Ani DiFranco lyrics as gospel.

  • And depending on the bagginess of my cargo shorts and how recently I had shaved my head,

  • the question would often be sprung on me, usually by a little kid.

  • Um, are you a boy or are you a girl?”

  • And there would be an awkward silence at the table.

  • I’d clench my jaw a little tighter,

  • hold my coffee pot with a little more vengeance.

  • The dad would awkwardly shuffle his newspaper and the mom would shoot a chilling stare at her kid.

  • But I would say nothing,

  • and I would see the inside.

  • And it got to the point where every time I walked up to a table that had a kid anywhere between 3 and 10 years old,

  • I was ready to fight.

  • And that is a terrible feeling.

  • So I promised myself, the next time I would say something.

  • I would have that hard conversation.

  • So within a matter of weeks, it happens again.

  • Are you a boy or are you a girl?”

  • Familiar silence, but this time I’m ready,

  • and I am about to go all Women’s Studies 101 on this table.

  • I’ve got my Betty Friedan quotes.

  • I’ve got my Gloria Steinem quotes.

  • I’ve even got this little bit fromVagina Monologues” I’m going to do.

  • So I take a deep breath and I look down,

  • and staring back at me is a 4-year-old girl in a pink dress,

  • not a challenge to a feminist duel,

  • just a kid with a question: Are you a boy or are you a girl?

  • So I take another deep breath,

  • squat down next to her and say,

  • Hey I know it’s kind of confusing.

  • My hair is short like a boy’s and I wear boy’s clothes,

  • but I’m a girl, and you know how sometimes you like to wear a pink dress,

  • and sometimes you like to wear your comfy jammies?

  • Well, I’m more of a comfy jammies kind of girl.”

  • And this kid looks me dead in the eye, without missing a beat and says,

  • My favourite pajamas are purple with fish. Can I get a pancake please?”

  • And that was it. Just, “Oh, okay. Youre a girl. How about that pancake?”

  • It was the easiest hard conversation I have ever had.

  • And why?

  • Because pancake girl and I, we were both real with each other.

  • So like many of us, I’ve lived in a few closets in my life, and yeah, most often,

  • my walls happened to be rainbow.

  • But inside, in the dark, you can’t tell what color the walls are.

  • You just know what it feels like to live in a closet.

  • So really, my closet is no different than yours,

  • or yours, or yours.

  • Sure, I’ll give you a 100 reasons why coming out of my closet was harder than coming out of yours, but here’s the thing.

  • Hard is not relative. Hard is hard.

  • Who can tell me that explaining to someone youve just declared bankruptcy is harder than telling someone you just cheated on them?

  • Who can tell me that his coming out story is harder than telling your 5-year-old youre getting a divorce?

  • There is no harder. There is just hard.

  • We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else’s hard

  • to make us feel better or worse about our closets

  • and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard.

  • At some point in our lives, we all live in closets,

  • and they may feel safe,

  • or at least safer than what lies on the other side of that door.

  • But I am here to tell you, no matter what your walls are made of,

  • a closet is no place for a person to live.

  • Thanks.

  • So imagine yourself 20 years ago.

  • Me, I had a pony tail,

  • a strapless dress and high-heeled shoes.

  • I was not the militant lesbian ready to fight any 4-year-old that walked into the café.

  • I was frozen by fear,

  • curled up in the corner of my pitch-black closet,

  • clutching my gay grenade,

  • and moving one muscle is the scariest thing I have ever done.

  • My family, my friends, complete strangers,

  • I had spent my entire life trying to not disappoint these people, and now

  • I was turning the world upside down on purpose.

  • I was burning the pages of the script we had all followed for so long,

  • but if you do not throw that grenade, it will kill you.

  • One of my most memorable grenade tosses was at my sister’s wedding.

  • It was the first time that many in attendance knew I was gay,

  • so in doing my maid of honor duties,

  • in my black dress and heels,

  • I walked around the tables and finally landed on a table of my parentsfriends,

  • folks that had known me for years.

  • And after a little small talk, one of the women shouted out,

  • “I love Nathan Lane.”

  • And the battle of gay reliability had begun.

  • Ash, have you ever been to the Castro?”

  • Well yeah, actually, we have friends in San Francisco.”

  • Well, weve never been to there but weve heard it’s fabulous.”

  • Ash, do you know my hairdresser Antonio?

  • He’s really good and he has never talked about a girlfriend.”

  • Ash, what’s your favorite TV show? Our favorite TV show?

  • Favorite, Will & Grace, and you know who we love?

  • Jack. Jack is our favorite.”

  • And then one woman stumped

  • but wanting so desperately to show her support,

  • to let me know she was on my side, she finally blurted out,

  • Well, sometimes my husband wears pink shirts.”

  • And I had a choice in that moment, as all grenade throwers do.

  • I could go back to my girlfriend and my gay-loving table

  • and mock their responses,

  • chastise their unworldliness and their inability to jump through the politically correct gay hoops I have brought with me,

  • or I could empathize with them,

  • and realize that that was maybe one of the hardest things they had ever done,

  • that starting and having that conversation was them coming out of their closets.

  • Sure, it would have been easy to point out where they fell short.

  • It’s a lot harder to meet them where they are and acknowledge the fact that they were trying.

  • And what else can you ask someone to do but try?

  • If youre going to be real with someone,

  • you gotta be ready for real in return.

  • So, hard conversations are still not my strong suit.

  • Ask anybody I have ever dated.

  • But I’m getting better,

  • and I follow what I like to call the three pancake girl principles.

  • Now, please view this through gay-colored lenses,

  • but know what it takes to come out of any closet is essentially the same.

  • Number one: be authentic.

  • Take the armor off. Be yourself.

  • That kid in the café had no armor but I was ready for battle.

  • If you want someone to be real with you, they need to know that you bleed too.

  • Number two: Be direct. Just say it. Rip the Band-Aid off.

  • If you know you are gay, just say it.

  • If you tell your parents you might be gay, they will hold out hope that this will change.

  • Do not give them that sense of false hope.

  • And number three, and most important,

  • be unapologetic.

  • You are speaking your truth.

  • Never apologize for that.

  • And some folks might have gotten hurt along the way, so sure,

  • apologize for what youve done,

  • but never apologize for who you are.

  • And yeah, some folks may be disappointed,

  • but that is on them, not on you.

  • Those are their expectations of who you are, not yours.

  • That is their story, not yours.

  • The only story that matters is the one that you want to write.

  • So the next time you find yourself in a pitch-black closet, clutching your grenade, know we have all been there before.

  • And you may feel so very alone but you are not.

  • And we know it’s hard but we need you out here,

  • no matter what your walls are made of,

  • because I guarantee you there are others peering through the keyhole of their closets looking for the next brave soul to bust a door open,

  • so be that person,

  • and show the world that we are bigger than our closets.

  • And that a closet is no place for a person to truly live.

  • Thank you, Boulder. Enjoy your night.

I’m going to talk to you tonight about coming out of the closet,

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B1 US TED closet gay grenade girl ash

【TED】Ash Beckham: We're all hiding something. Let's find the courage to open up (Ash Beckham: We're all hiding something. Let's find the courage to open up)

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    Go Tutor posted on 2014/11/02
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