Ash Beckham is an LGBT advocate, who gave a TED: Ideas Worth Spreading (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk a little over a year ago about the experience of “coming out of the closet,” incidentally not in the conventional sense that people would usually assume. She describes “Coming Out” as an experience that anyone and everyone goes through, and in her opinion coming out is any time that someone is dealing with an often difficult topic or struggle that they need to handle or manage before it gets out of control.
Throughout her talk, she refers to her own personal experiences with being gay, and commonly refers to what she calls a “gay grenade,” a symbolic metaphor that signifies the inevitable awkwardness and situational discomfort that arises when controversial or ambiguous topics are being dealt with. From listening to her talk (which I highly recommend to all), I learned a few things about myself and about how we ultimately associate our struggles and challenges with others in life.
Throughout life, I often considered my life to be a bit more of a struggle than many of the other people that I have met in life, and after listening to Beckham’s talk, I learned the humility of life and that everyone’s experience are unique and challenging in their own right. She declared that the difficulty of “hard” is not relative, “hard is hard,” no matter how you spin it. And that there is no such thing as one’s own life experiences being “harder” than someone else’s.
It sprung a connection with the common phrase, “Everyone is fighting their own battle,” but helped to identify the specifics of what a “battle” is considered. She also outlined a few traits that she believes are essential to dealing with difficult situations, and effectively, life.
This is an excerpt from her talk that illustrates and highlights the three main points of what she considers to be what she dubs the three “Pancake Girl Principles.”
“1. Be Authentic. Take the armor off. Be yourself. That kid in the cafe 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.
2. 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.
3. Be Unapologetic. You are speaking your truth. Never apologize for that. And some folks may have gotten hurt along the way,so sure, apologize for what you’ve 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 keyholes 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.“
While the talk itself is relatively short, the implications and the notions that underline her motivation and that guide her to ultimately deliver the speech in its entirety create a sense of understanding that is much bigger than you or her or I, as many things in life usually are. Beckham claims that, “a closet is no place for a person to truly live” and I couldn’t agree with her more.
Fear has an incredible power to manipulate and constrain people in ways they never thought imaginable; and while it may not be an easy take, fighting fear head is one of the only ways to effectively overcome it’s prowess and stature. I know I’ve gussied up the description of battling fear, and in most cases it’s just as simple as initiating confrontation. But if I know anything about dealing with fear, it’s always “easier said than done,” and if the goal is overcoming fear, avoiding it by using excuses is not the appropriate cause of action.
Being scared is one thing; it’s natural, it’s inherent, it’s often automatic. But being afraid is an entirely different thing. Being afraid means you are anticipating the fear, you are giving in to its consumption. When you act afraid, you are giving power to fear, and you are making it a more difficult adversary to battle. Fear can never be impossible to battle; but the longer you wait to fight it will only make the battle more ferocious; but it will make the victory that much sweeter.