This is the fourteenth article of the series: “Coming Out, Going Within.” Published with LinkedIn Articles, Medium, and the Dr. SWL Blog.
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.
“Would you rather be the best of the worst? Or the worst of the best?” My new super cute queer millennial friends, Amelia and Pearl asked me.
“What do you mean?” I said back, slightly annoyed.
I asked them to clarify what this meant too many times, and then Pearl looked annoyed.
I typically don’t like riddle-like questions. Or prompts that make me answer something in dualities like this. But something about this one stuck with me. And for some reason, I didn’t actually “get it” for a day or two. When I finally did, I realized that being annoyed and dense about the riddle. It said more about me. Than the riddle itself. I flashed on a bunch of qualifiers for my feelings: My Uber-competitiveness when I was closeted and performing straight for 20+ years. And was supremely unhappy. Or my imposter syndrome and feeling I was lackluster when I was in my Ph.D. program because no one seemed to ever understand what I was saying. Only later to find out, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! I wasn’t speaking to perform or to look good. I was working out real-world problems. That mattered to me. And what would become my QPoC, QWoC and GNC communities.
I turned the question around tonight, and thought about it while I was in the shower. As I always do when I’m afraid to write about a topic. But then, as my business coach once taught me when I first started as a soloprenuer and thought leader. And really made a commitment to do this!
She said, “If you’re afraid of something, that’s a good thing.”
“Isn’t that counter-intuitive?” I asked.
“You’d think. But actually it’s just your survival instinct telling you you’re breaking new ground. When you fear something run straight toward it!”
The version of this millennial riddle then had to be for me tonight,
“When do you write? When you’re at your best? Or when your guts are hanging out, and you feel the most vulnerable and exposed? Or when you feel you might be at your lowest?”
I tend to vie for the second option! When I woke up this morning, I was not prepared for the shock of seeing my status on Facebook no longer reading “coupled.” And my partner whom I had been with the last year and a half was no longer standing by my side. And I realized that I haven’t been alone. Like not in a relationship in I don’t know how long. I don’t know how to stand on my own feet without someone else helping prop me up. Or me helping them. And I don’t know how to maneuver the world and especially the new frontiers of this queer world on my own.
I’ll get back to the riddle in a moment…indulge me…
I also thought about my own personal life and when I have always felt the most creative and alive. And it has always been in the face of passion, conflict, rigorous problem solving, excitement! I love love. And I love change. But many times more than not. These things don’t lead me back to myself. Not my true self. But they lead me to a series of lovely off-road adventures. Dead ends. Traffic jams. And when that happens, I might wander for a while until I find my way back.
When I look at some LGBTQ branding, I often see the #loveislove message taken quite literally with what I call “homonormative” and sentimental photos of attractive same-gender couples kissing under waterfalls. Sorry for the cynicism. But, well, mid-breakup. I’m allowed. I never wanted to go that Norman Rockwell route with my own work and brand. Queerness to me, which is part of my brand, is edgy or cutting-edge, untethered, subaltern, critical, emergent, radical, thought-provoking, artistic, literary, musical, electric, nerdy, silly, etc. And yet I did share my innermost creativity with my partner who just took me off Facebook. And wrote a play for them specifically, performed it with them, and had planned to write more. And yet, still I lost myself in that relationship and ended up in a really unhealthy place. And so here I am, for the first time. Queer, out within just the last year. And I guess, based on what I’m told, an infant in my development. Who had been trying to date adult, grown women or adult gender non-conforming people (who are not cis-gendered men). No wonder I walked right into raging fires (willingly). And no wonder why I was consumed by it all. Time for me to take my adolescence for what it is now and explore! But perhaps not in the way I had before. I plan to seek out a new spiritual community. To get absorbed by my creative passions. My LGBTQIA+ communities. To get lost in work.
So I’ll end this stream-of-consciousness article with where I started. And let me answer Amelia and Pearl’s question. Yes, historically I’ve been the person who feels the worst among the best. Because I have always put myself in very competitive programs with graduate school, working environments, ridiculously ambitious goals I somehow mostly met. But then I realized that those environments and/or projects don’t always teach you how to think for yourself. How to be an individual. And how to care about the communities around you. Which is more who I am today. They teach you to make or break. To crash and burn. And to work so hard and long, you effectively are running from yourself.
And if I go to my adaptation of their riddle question which is closer to who I am today, then I would have to say, I am also the second writer. I like to create, and I like to find empowerment in the (seemingly) worst of situations. I like to imagine I am having conversations with all of you as I write this. Mind you, I’m not at my best tonight. And I haven’t been all month. But I still went to the office every day. And I still did my work. And I did it by being honest with myself and all of you. To me, that’s the only way to not pretend to be the “best among the worst” or the “worst among the best.” But instead, to feel alive. To feel truly alive! To feel grateful for what you’ve been handed that day. Even if it seems like total crap. To be present with whatever life hands you. And every day to love fearlessly knowing you don’t have control. And that just as much as you love, you have to be willing to also let go.
Dr. Shannon Wong Lerner portrait, Taken by Matthew Gordon
BIO: As a longstanding multicultural coach & thought leader 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.
Dr. Shannon also works as a keynote speaker and provides trainings on a variety of different subjects between DEI and communication.
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.
Dr. Shannon also offers her services for keynote speaking events, talks, and trainings. She speaks and trains on topics surrounding communication, public speaking, DEI, AAPI, BIPoC, and LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities.