This is the second article of the series: “Coming Out, Going Within.” Published with LinkedIn Articles and Medium.
Learn More about “Coming Out, Going Within”: I think we can all agree that the queer / LGBTQIA+ community needs more resources for our self-healing and spirituality. And ways to communicate our lived experiences and truth. Coming Out, Going Within chronicles my journey toward self-love as a newly out bi-racial gay / queer woman. I share my day-to-day life not just as a personal journey, but also as a communication coach and cultural storyteller. I hope with this series, I can hold open a space for the LGBTQIA+ community–and all of my intersections as BIPoC, API, womxn, Jewish, and neurodivergent–to grow toward wholeness and success. Please join me in my storytelling, and feel free to share your own story in comments.
For this second article in the Coming Out, Going Within series, I continue to write about how by healing and learning to let go of my closeted self. I can become who I truly am. And I can live a more fulfilled life. Personally. And as a solopreneuer. I think about how with my sexuality, my own gender expression has been shifting. From performing feminine heterosexuality to settling into its own groove without a clear place on the binary of masculine / feminine or butch / femme. And I think about all of the people who surrounded and supported my closeted self. Especially the more masculine members who at the time, I thought complemented my femininity. And if it’s possible to maintain relationships with them.
Can I maintain relationships with the men in my life, and still move on to be my authentic out self?
The truth is, I am still putting the pieces together as to how I was closeted for so long (about 25 years). And the men in my life, some of whom I had really toxic relationships with. I’ve slowly been letting some of them back into my life. And talking a lot about how dysfunctional our relationships were. Times I felt controlled. Because I wasn’t “behaving” as I should have as a heterosexual-identified woman in a traditional relationship with a man.
And times, I lashed out. Because I didn’t know it at the time. But I was living someone else’s life. Either theirs. In which I let their approval of me dictate whether I was all right or not. Or I was living this generic life based on what I felt I had to do to be a “normal” woman. To look the part. And to be successful as a scholar, a professor, and a businesswoman. Yes, I had three full-time jobs to try to prove myself! But my workaholism is another article!
I’ve been sorting through all of the puzzle pieces that would lead me to where I am today. As an out gay / queer woman who has completely changed my life to fulfill my calling to help others like me. And like a mystery novel that is my life as a closeted woman. Tracing back clues. And trying to understand, how I didn’t know.
I think of my old best friend from graduate school Srinath–who is a gay cis-gendered man– and how he gasped when I came out to him.
“Shannon, how did you not know?”
“Srinath, how did you not know?” I shot back, alluding his self-proclaimed “perfect gaydar” should have picked it up over a decade ago.
“I just thought you were a very unhappy straight girl.” He said.
And we both laughed. I laughed again with my ex who recently got engaged. Whom I got back in touch with in January after I went to pick up some important documents that were accidentally sent to his house. We had been together for 11 years. First, I spoke about my year-long relationship with my partner, Mirah. When he spoke about his new fiancé, who sounds like a much better fit for him. (Aside from me being gay, and me being the wrong orientation.) I imagined her as beautiful. Probably gorgeous. Feminine. Accommodating. Supportive. Sensitive. And not with the hard edges I had used to strike out during our daily arguments. He said there are no long-standing conflicts. And there’s just peace. Harmony. Stillness.
“I think you were always looking for a wife. And I tried to be that person for you. And failed miserably. I didn’t realize at the time I was really wanting the same thing.” I said in response.
The other men in my life include my recovering alcoholic father whom I had been estranged from for over 20 years. My new collaborator Matthew Gordon, my photographer who is collaborating on my rebranding. And Zach Raines, my health and wellness coach.
In my next article, I’ll cover how these relationships are helping me heal my past toxic patterns with men. To confront my reliance upon patriarchal values to be visible in the world. And helping me move on to more fully embody my out self.
For my dad, I am working on healing and letting go of the hurt, neglected little girl inside. For Matthew with photography, I am learning how to appear to the public sphere as authentically myself. And allow for myself to be in the liminal space of the “in between” gender expression. And for Zach, I am learning how to deal with my issues with food. And the fact that according to him, I was “starving myself” with my previous diet. I feel this was part of my closeted self trying to be the “perfect” attractive heterosexual woman. That relied upon thinness. In all of these conversations, I will share how these relationships are helping me let go of my closeted self. So I can be more fully grounded and present in who I am today as a gay / queer woman. To be healthier and more sustainable in my habits and practices. And to show up more authentically for myself, my clients, and my loved ones.
BIO: As a longstanding multicultural coach & personal brand storyteller who brings full-service, high-level communication courses to diverse clientele – Dr. Wong Lerner is a 🦄!
She has 20+ years of academic and industry experience.
Across several Fortune 500 companies, engineering and Ivy League universities, non-profit organizations, and U.S. and international government entities.
Her clients have remarkably high success rates as professionals, entrepreneurs, public speakers, and presenters.
As a queer API coach, she meets you from your unique starting place. To better support you as women, BIPOC, WOC, non-native speakers, nontraditional learners, allies, & LGBTQIA+ talent. Inclusive of genderqueer, non-binary, & trans individuals. Dr. Shannon specializes in helping her clients tell their coming out stories at their place of work and as business owners or public figures. She curates her content not just as an expert in her field. But as vulnerable and intimately bound to her topics, to open up spaces for others to speak as their authentic selves.
Dr. Shannon uses a whole-person, holistic method for all and any speaking situation that considers:
WHO you are
WHERE you come from
HOW you orient and identify
HOW you process information
and HOW you sound as a communicator.
So you don’t sound like a version of someone else. But you sound like a better version of yourself.
To help others with their personal brand storytelling to host your own podcast and write your own content to level up, attract new employers and clientele — she enjoys hosting: The Intersection: Diverse Folx Converse, eFEMeral: Voice Matters, and Queer Home Meditation.
**”Coming Out. Going Within” started as the LGBTQIA+ meditation project, Queer Home Meditation, as a private Facebook group airing on Facebook Live. Intermittently, QHM videos are shared to LinkedIn Events and YouTube.
Services: If you are interested in working with a communication coach who values and understands your lived experience, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn through DM. Speak Your Way to Success is Dr. Wong Lerner’s signature program that includes everything you need to become a better communicator in just 3 months. Learn public speaking, personal brand storytelling, intercultural communication, rhetoric and critical thinking, and gain many personal resources. The program is catered to your needs and individualized with supplementary materials and group support. We have spots available and are taking on new clients now.