Ash Beckham makes coming out of the closet—whichever one that we find ourselves stuck in—to be simple.
“There is no harder. There is just heart,” Ash explained to her audience at a recent TEDx Talk in Boulder, Colorado.
Ash shows us that being courageous is an act of authenticity that she delivers with spirited humor based upon a lot of self-reflection.
“All a closet is…is a hard conversation,” she told the audience. “We all have closets: telling someone we love them, or we are pregnant or that we have cancer.”
Tonight I am honored to have this video fall into my lap as I work on an article about the late diagnosis of my son with Asperger’s (an Autism Spectrum Disorder).
I’ve shied away from writing about it for a combination of reasons. Mostly, the late-diagnosis of it at the age of 12 (almost two years ago) led our family on path of humbleness—emotionally and financially with relocation back to northern California from rural New York.
Upon hearing Ash’s lively story,Coming Out of Your Closet, I sighed with deep appreciation for words that carried the open-heartedness that our society is moving toward.
She clearly shared a playful openness while describing her experiences of working at a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. The kids—ages four to ten-years old—often innocently asked: “Are you a boy or are you a girl?” Overtime, the frustration built up, so she was prepared to answer with a militant feminist response for the next time a child asked her.
The moment came…when a four-year-old girl in a pink dress asked, “Are you a girl or are you a boy?”
Yet she found herself responding differently.
Ash squatted down, explaining that just as the little girl liked her pink dress, Ash liked to wear her comfy p.j.-like clothes. To which the girl responded that she liked her purple p.j’s with fish on them, and that she wanted a pancake.
I needed to hear her story tonight, as I revisited how my son, at the age of 11, was physically and verbally bullied out of a Blue Ribbon elementary school in rural New York.
He had the wind knocked out of him by another student when he tried stop a boy from teasing him during P.E.
My son was chided over and over again by his classmates, “Are you gay?” The boys perceived his awkward gait, floppy hair, and aloofness as a sign that he was different, and different meant gay in rural New York, or at least to that group of boys.
Unaware of social cues due to Asperger’s (which was yet to be diagnosed), he decided to tell his friends that he might be gay.
Bravery to look into the questioning, he was forced to have hard conversations when he may not have been ready. I encouraged him to reflect upon his feelings and honor himself, yet do it his way as well as take time for reflection.
In addition, I had taken him to his fair share of Ani DiFranco concerts and he listened to NPR every morning and afternoon. My son knew more about the world and politics before we knew about his Asperger’s.
As for now, he is almost 14 years-old, but he doesn’t discuss his sexual orientation because he’s not being forced to look within; he hasn’t been forced back into a closet. He still walks with his awkward gait, obsessive tendencies toward Magic cards and aloofness that the most popular girl found appealing.
My son admits that he isn’t sure where he stands, but that will come with living his path: he’ll unfold into his authentic self, his story. As a mother, I’ll hold that space for him to become who he wants to be; his father honors that space as well.
As a feminist mother, I will share Ash’s TEDxBoulder Talk with my son. I want him to see the Three Pancake Girl Principle.
Ash explained that it’s unhealthy to live in the darkness of a closet. Her conversation with the four-year-old in the pink dress gave her perspective or what Ash calls the Three Pancake Girl Principle for coming out of the closet, any closet.
1. Be Authentic
2. Be Direct
3. Be Unapologetic
The strength of Ash’s words and actions reminds me of a line from warrior feminist poet Audre Lorde, “Your silence will not protect you.”
Ash’s voice speaks the brilliant truth about the risk of having hard conversations, and her words are becoming the protection for the upcoming generations by teaching the older generations that we should and can step out of our own closets because “there is no harder; there is just heart.”
Here she is:
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Editor: Waylon Lewis