The Next Thing

I recently watched an Upworthy video that was passed around on Facebook.  The video was taken at a Tedx conference in Boulder, CO, and the presenter, Ash Beckham, was talking about closets.  Ash speaks eloquently about closets; she calls them “a hard conversation.”  Her speech is personal and beautiful and I think everyone should watch it.

My blog is not about closets, although I completely agree with Ash that everyone has them and they are “no place for a person to truly live.”  The theme of my blog focuses on what comes after opening the closet door and stepping out.  What happens when you’ve “come out” of your personal closet and embraced who you really are?

My literal “coming out” happened in 2007.  I was married to a man and we were raising two children, and I fell in love with a woman.  I knew I wanted to pursue this new relationship, which meant I had to tell my husband that I was gay and that I wanted to end our marriage.  He was devastated.  I had to tell my family that I was gay and I was ending my marriage.  They were devastated.  My husband and I had to tell our two young children that we were ending our marriage, and they were devastated.

Looking back on that enormously painful and difficult time, I realize that my “coming out” was secondary to ending a marriage and a way of living in the world.  It had everything and nothing to do with my sexuality.  Ending a marriage is horrible and painful for straight people and gay people alike, and I’m still amazed that we all made it through the experience.  I’m surprised that I didn’t turn back or change my mind when things were hard, but the feelings I had about this woman were incredibly powerful.  I understood love in a completely new way.  I understood myself in a completely new way.

But I never had the chance to embrace my newfound sexuality, figure out what it meant to me, and celebrate it with loved ones.  I was ashamed that my marriage was ending.  I was terrified of what I was doing to my children.  I was too busy looking at the mess I had made of my previous life and trying to ease the process for everyone else, putting out little fires while the forest burned to ash within me.

It has been six years and I am living openly as a lesbian.  I am in a beautiful committed relationship with a woman I adore, who encourages me and inspires me to be my best self.  My children are incredible people who amaze me with their insights and their absolutely normal attitudes about their lives.  My ex-husband is one of my best friends.  I am estranged from some family members, but I am hopeful that we will be able to create relationships that respect and honor our differences.

I am “out,” but it doesn’t feel like it to me.  I still want back in sometimes.  I want to be what society considers “normal.”  I want to talk openly about my wife at work and with my family.  I want to get married in a state that wants to constitutionally prevent that.  I want to be proud of who I am, and that includes being proud to be gay.  But how do I do that?  What comes next?

My dear friend Marg talks often about doing “the next thing.”  I don’t have to have a plan for the rest of my day or the rest of the year or the rest of my life; I just have to do the next thing.  This blog is the next thing for me.  I invite you to join me in seeing where it goes.

12 Comments
  1. Stephanie Reply

    I am so proud of you and honored to be your friend. Thank you moja sastrah

  2. Jenni Reply

    So proud of you and your next thing. Sky’s the limit!

  3. Hannele Reply

    Way to go!!! Step by step, on to the next thing!!

  4. Andrea Reply

    You are so brave for sharing your story and pain. Amazing! I want you to have the things that you want, too.

  5. Josh Reply

    Looking forward to reading your about your journey and your observations! You’re awfully special, Kathryn Courtney.

  6. Amy Reply

    Lovely!! Very proud of you 🙂 Congratulations!

  7. marg Reply

    Looking forward to the ride!

  8. Mama Lisa Reply

    Casey!!! First I love the forest burning to ash within.

    This sounds like you were telling my story. Exactly, except no children. I am very very happy to be on the other side having reconciled with disbelievers, and talking happily about Marg, without hesitation and worry, everyday and everywhere with my heart still pitter pattering. My wish for you as you step through the next door is you reconcile with yourself saying NO to internalized homophobia and find peace in all corners of your universe.

    Much love.

  9. Jayne Reply

    Total flexibility; no compromise. Live to the fullest taking each “next thing” with courage, love, and trust that it will only make you, and yours, happier along the journey!

  10. Kenetha Reply

    So very glad you are blogging, Casey! I love your focus on what comes after the closet. It’s a topic that needs more attention. Thank you!!

  11. Casey O'Leary Reply

    Thank you so much for all of the encouragement! You’ve made something very scary into something very exciting! I am blessed to have you all in my lives. Thank you.

  12. Rexene Reply

    You are such an amazing woman. I love “After the closet!” Thanks for sharing your next step with us.

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