We All Have a Closet

Alisha OstbergBlog, human rights, personal story

AshRecently I came across a TEDx talk called “Coming out of your closet” by Ash Beckham (2013). In the video, Ash talks about her experience she refers to as ‘hard talk’ while explaining her sexual orientation to a small girl in a restaurant.

Ash Beckham brilliantly tells us why all of us have our own closets, and why we all must come out. Having to disclose issues like sexual orientation, illness, divorce, secrets, are needed in order for us to live authentic lives. Ash refers to our closets as grenades that we have to learn to let go. The long term stress of being in the closet eventually affects our health. This stress breaks down our body’s ability to regulate itself properly because we’re in a constant fight or flight mode.

After watching the video I thought about my own closets and why I was drawn to work in HIV/AIDS. For me my closet includes the same emotions and fear. Fear of not being accepted and fear of being pushed out. For many people these are real and valid fears.

At the same time, how are we to open up about contentious issues like HIV/AIDS if we are hiding. We need to have those ‘hard talks’ of coming out of the closet because it’s those hard talks that open the opportunities for understanding. As a community, we have to learn to nurture the environment of inclusion and be non-judgmental to people so those ‘hard talks’ are not so hard.

Like HIV/AIDS certain issues are still misunderstood, stigmatized, ignored, and wanting to be pushed back in the closet. Ash has three great rules:

1. Be Authentic

2. Be Direct

3. Be Unapologetic

I think as people with our own closets, we also have to learn to advocate and assert ourselves so that our peers do not push us back in. Closets are dangerous; they are a place that forces us to compartmentalize ourselves and intrudes on our abilities to grow as a complete person.

Watch her TEDx Talk here. (2013, October 16). Coming out of your closet: Ash Beckham at TEDxBoulder .

Cherri, Strong Voices Coordinator