The Risks and Rewards of Self Disclosure
Updated: Jan 10
“I can’t imagine writing about my intimate life for public consumption,” several of my friends have told me. It is indeed scary to leave yourself open for judgment. Self-disclosure of our intimate feelings might happen in the privacy of our homes but not often on the page, not for anyone outside of our trusted circle to read.
As women who love women, society has marginalized us for so long that disclosing intimate details of our personal lives feels dangerous and rightly so. We may fear fallout from our families or even from our friends, should we reveal too much of our inner lives and the full scope of our experience. The intimate details of a heterosexual woman’s sexual life may be taken for granted and accepted as normal by most readers, while those of lesbians are often judged as wrong. We also cringe at the prospect of the expressions of our sexuality being used to titillate men.
Throughout most of history we have hidden our lives, burned our diaries or written them in code. Yet often with little support from mainstream society, lesbians have thrived, leading astounding lives. Why should we not tell our stories of how we overcame what we went through and survived? And how we experienced our lives fully—emotionally, sexually, and professionally?
In Making the Rounds, I have risked telling my coming-of-age story, warts, and all, for the reader, queer or straight. Most of my book stays in character with my youthful self and it is not until the end that the most important insights are revealed.
I know some of my lesbian sisters will be uncomfortable with my vulnerability and honesty in portraying my interpersonal and professional struggles for the wider world. As marginalized people, who are judged harshly anyway, we feel the need to portray only our best selves rather than our faults or dysfunctional behavior.
But for me, the rewards are greater than the risks. I expect many lesbians and marginalized others will see themselves in my story and be comforted they are not alone. Some may be inspired to live authentically and follow their dreams, and some may learn from my mistakes. It is gratifying to find my book is in libraries in North Dakota, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Utah, Indiana, and Missouri---places where the need to feel less alone may be the greatest.
Fortunately, I am at a point in my life that self-disclosure will not result in loss of job, home, or family. For the time being, I might serve as a place holder for other lesbian professionals who I might encourage to tell their stories and proudly document their lives, struggles and triumphs. That, too, will be a reward.