Ash Beckham, an equality advocate who encourages everyone to be their authentic self, shares the story of the easiest hard conversation she had.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 6, 2022. It has since been updated.
Coming out of the closet is a difficult conversation to have, especially if it's in a perceived hostile environment. While it is up to each individual whether and how to have that difficult conversation depending on their safety and well-being, it is done on the assumption of living a happier and more authentic life. One person who has always advocated for making the world a better place for the LGBTQIA+ community is Ash Beckham. The equality advocate makes compelling arguments about being openly and proudly gay, just as she is. Her public addresses resonate with people for the truth they hold.
Beckham's speech at IgniteBoulder, “I am SO GAY,” became a sensation. Addressing the problem of using the term "so gay" as something derogatory, she urged people to "say something" to bring about change in the way people perceive LGBTQIA+ folks. "You can legislate tolerance—you can't legislate acceptance," she said in her speech. "That takes a societal shift." Encouraging people to be more proactive in educating those around them as well as actively claiming space out of the closet, Beckham's speeches are aimed at not just the LGBTQ community but others as well.
While "coming out" may be a term associated with people telling the world they are gay, Beckham says everyone has a "closet" of their own. The closet, after all, just means the safe space we go to instead of having a difficult 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," she says in her popular TED Talk video titled "Coming Out of Your Closet." She shares a heartwarming story of how she had a conversation she had been dreading for years but it turned out to be easier than she had imagined.
Beckham was no stranger to the question "Are you a boy or a girl?" Over the years, she became very defensive about the question. One day she decided to drop her defenses and have that difficult conversation with a little girl. So she took a deep breath and said: “Hey, I know it’s kind of confusing, my hair is short like a boy’s, and I wear boys’ 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 a girl.” The kid looked Beckham in the eye and responded, “My favorite pajamas are purple with fish, can I get a pancake please?” It was then that she realized that was the easiest hard conversation she had. It was because both of them decided to be real with each other.
"Not having those hard conversations, that can go on for years, and your body just can’t handle that," Beckham said. She even offered three tips to be out of the dark closet and in the big wide world. First, "Be authentic, take the armor off, be yourself." Second, "Be direct, you 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 that hope that this will change. Do not give them that sense of false hope." And the third tip, she said, which is also the most important, "Be unapologetic. You are speaking your truth. Never apologize for that."
She urged not only the people who wanted to come out as gay but also others stalling to have a difficult conversation: "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."