We need to stop living in our closets

Ash Beckham at TEDxBoulder in 2013.

Ash Beckham at TEDxBoulder in 2013.

Ash Beckham was shocked when her 2013 TEDxBoulder talk “Coming out of your closet” began to go viral.

“I was walking through Newark and someone just stopped me cold and said, ‘Didn’t I just see you on the Internet?’” Beckham recalls. “It was a completely surreal experience.”

Her talk about coming out of your closet at first seems intended for the LGBTQ community – and it is – but Beckham says the “closet” speaks to a much more universal experience, of not living your true life, whatever the reason, and the fear of letting people know about what you’re hiding.

“All a closet is, is a hard conversation,” she says. “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.”

Beckham also speaks to the ways in which we need to be real with one another, to not judge our experiences against the hardships other people face. “Hard is not relative, hard is hard,” she says during her talk. “Who can tell me that explaining to someone you 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 you’re getting a divorce? There is no harder — there is just hard.”

Since she gave that talk, Beckham has given others, both at TEDx events and elsewhere.

“It essentially launched an unexpected speaking career,” she says. “That wasn’t my life and now it is … now there’s this whole venue for me to get the message out and that continues to happen and resonate; the credibility that TED gave me around that … it’s like a VIP card wherever you want to go.”

“There’s an accidental advocacy that comes from the kind of grassroots nature of what this was and that part has been fun and I think it makes it relatable to people… if you’ve got a good idea, you’ve got to get it out there.”

Beckham is a proponent of being your authentic self regardless of the situation and feels that by doing so, the world can only open up to you. “There is isolation that comes from you thinking you’re the only person that’s going through something and that’s just never the case,” she says.

Beckham says she still feels butterflies in her stomach before speaking, but for her, it’s really part of the process and reminds her of the importance of what she’s about to say.

“I still get nervous but afterwards the responses I get from folks kind of reinforces that what I’m saying is something other people are thinking,” she says.”If you can laugh at that stuff, if you can get people to kind of find humor in the awkwardness of just being alive and laughing at the things they didn’t think that they should laugh at, then you have a basis of a really great conversation and you can start to talk because people feel safe because they can laugh and that’s okay.”

Watch her entire talk below:


  1. Heber

    This sound were terrible

  2. tanya

    Thankyou so much.Hard is relative and we will realise it only if we come out of our closet.I thought I have only faced such hardship and coming out of it was so difficult.But after reading this I feel motivated and it has helped me to stay connected with others and share my thoughts .I have realised it very well that I have to open up .The speech is universal totally,and I would like to be a part of more such speeches .

  3. miguel

    Beautiful and inspiring.

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