“What is the one thing you’re hiding behind; the one thing that is keeping you from being you?” asked LGBT advocate Ash Beckham when she visited Eastern Connecticut State University on Nov. 10.
An outspoken lesbian from Colorado, Beckham shared life experiences and spoke with Eastern students about embracing diversity and living authentically. During her thought-provoking talk, Beckham dissected her coined phrase “giving voice to your truth,” and challenged the students to not just live authentically, but also compassionately. The event was organized by the Pride Room.
Beckham’s public speaking career began just two years ago after a five-minute talk on using the word “gay” went viral. Since then, she has given a talk through the acclaimed conference TED (Technology, Education, Design) about coming out of our various “closets,” and traveled the country speaking about related topics.
Beckham deciphered her mantra, “giving voice to your truth,” word by word. “Truth is the fire inside of us. You have to be selfish when figuring out your truth,” she said. “When I came out, I thought my life was going to be 15 cats, flannel shirts and softball every night,” said Beckham, drawing laughs from the packed Student Center Theatre. While she admits that her life does involve some of these things, when she came out she was thinking in stereotypes, not in accordance with her truth. “Your truth is yours. Live authentically.”
When Beckham realized she had to be true to herself and be “out of the closet,” she then needed to find “voice” and a way to “give” it. “How do we get the words in our heads out effectively, without hurting others?” she asked.
The hardest places for Beckham to be herself have always been in public bathrooms. “Are you a boy or a girl?” little girls would ask, as other women would glare suspiciously at her. One day, she retaliated to an older woman’s accusation by pulling out a tampon and asking her to see for herself. “While that made me feel better for a little while, I soon realized I was hiding behind a tampon,” she said. “Now, when confronted like that, I engage, I smile. The bathroom is no longer my battleground and the tampon is no longer my weapon.”
Beckham closed with a few more words of wisdom. “Don’t wait for the perfect time or place to be authentic; just be honest, quirky, awkward you.” But she warned students to stay humble and compassionate. “Your truth is just yours, not theirs. Sure, there are times when I could have dropped my feminist manifesto, but that would have been a missed opportunity to facilitate change.”