There’s a recent TED video going around by a woman from Kansas named Morgana Bailey, who, after 16 closeted years, came out as a lesbian. What was the catalyst? An article she read in The Advocate called “Quantifying the Effects of Homophobia” (June/July 2014).
The writer was Dominic Bocci, who’d documented that on an individual level homophobia contributes to a significantly shortened lifespan “due to increased rates of heart disease, suicide, and violence.” And on a macro level, keeping silent contributes to stigma.
Below Morgana Bailey describes what happened to her in her college years—along with that budding inner recognition of an identity that felt abnormal and thus something to hide:
I became the opposite of who I thought I once was. I stayed in my room instead of socializing. I stopped engaging in clubs and leadership activities. I didn’t want to stand out in the crowd anymore. I told myself it was because I was growing up and maturing, not that I was suddenly looking for acceptance. I had always assumed I was immune to needing acceptance. After all, I was a bit unconventional. But I realize now that the moment I realized something was different about me was the exact same moment that I began conforming and hiding.
Some other quotes from Morgana Bailey’s TED talk, “The Danger of Hiding Who You Are”:
Hiding is a progressive habit, and once you start hiding, it becomes harder and harder to step forward and speak out.
A 2013 Deloitte study found that a surprisingly large number of people hide aspects of their identity. Of all the employees they surveyed, 61 percent reported changing an aspect of their behavior or their appearance in order to fit in at work. Of all the gay, lesbian and bisexual employees, 83 percent admitted to changing some aspects of themselves so they would not appear at work “too gay.”
How ironic that I work in human resources, a profession that works to welcome, connect and encourage the development of employees, a profession that advocates that the diversity of society should be reflected in the workplace, and yet I have done nothing to advocate for diversity.
I believe that by facing my fears inside, I will be able to change reality outside. I made a choice today to reveal a part of myself that I have hidden for too long. I hope that this means I will never hide again, and I hope that by coming out today, I can do something to change the data and also to help others who feel different be more themselves and more fulfilled in both their professional and personal lives.
The talk in its entirety, about 10 minutes: