Mini Episode 8 Suzette
Elena Joy: Welcome to Out of Queeriosity, your Field Guide to Queer Pride. This is a production of Pride and Joy Foundation, and I'm your host, Elena Joy, pronouns, she her. You have found a bonus episode. Our theme this year is your voice, your power. We are using it to pursue our mission of preventing suicide and homelessness in our LGBTQ plus community by amplifying your voice and your power.
Our bonus episodes feature the voices of the most recent graduates of our keynote queers program. This is our eight week online course just for lgbtq plus participants to learn public speaking skills as well as the knowledge to build public speaking into an extra form of income. Whether our participants were pitching their own small business or upleveling their presentation skills for their corporate career, or just learning how to effectively move audiences to take action.
Our keynote queers gave a hell of a graduation presentation and we are here to share it with you. Can you even imagine squishing an entire keynote into just 10 minutes? This is considered expert level skills in the public speaking world. And it was our graduates Capstone project Check back in the summer of 2023 to hear from another keynote queer graduate.
Now let's get to it.
Our next keynote queer is Suzette Mullen Pronouns, She, her. Suzette is an lgbtq plus book coach, speaker recovering rule follower, and author of The Only Way Through is Out. A memoir forthcoming January, 2024 from the University of Wisconsin Press. Her coming out story inspires audiences both straight and queer, to find the courage to take the next right step toward authenticity in their own lives, no matter their age.
Suzette has been featured on Today all day and published in the New York Times, and is a frequent guest on podcasts including Zestful Aging, coming out and Beyond. The Brave Yes Business show and hashtag am writing with her presentation. It's never too late to change your story. I give you Suzette Mullen
Suzette: Nursery School, what we called preschool in the sixties. One morning I was sitting at the snack table with my best friends, Judy and Deedee, talking giggling. Then I knocked over my orange juice, spilled it all over myself. The nun had to help me change into the spare set of clothes my mother had brought for me in case of an accident. I needed to be more careful.
Nursery school. Another morning sitting on the floor of the music room with those same friends. When the nun began to play the piano, a giant smile broke out across my face. I remembered something. This song had two sets of words as the other children sang. One set of words, I sang the other. Then the music stopped. The nun glared at me. Suzette, that's unacceptable. Go to the back of the room. As I made that walk to the back of the room, my face burned as I felt everyone's eyes on me. I wanted to disappear like Casper, the friendly ghost. I never wanted to feel that that way again, I made a promise to myself. I would follow the rules from now on.
The rules kept me safe. My young father, out of a desire to be a caring and responsible parent, wanted to keep me safe. He and my mom would take me outside in a big white baby carriage. We'd stroll through the streets of New Rochelle, New York. Each time we reached a curb, my dad would lift that heavy carriage over the curb so I wouldn't feel the bumps.
He wanted to keep me safe. He wanted to protect me. We are all imprinted by our beginnings, those early memories we hold inside us. I grew up believing that life was about being careful. Not making mistakes, following the rules and avoiding the bumps. Years later, I was wearing a suit with those giant shoulder pads and that floppy bow tie we women wore in the eighties as I rode the elevator up to the 29th floor of the office tower where I would begin my career as a corporate lawyer.
I clutched my shiny new briefcase, trying to calm my nerves when an inner voice whispered, not this, not this, the voice didn't say, what was it just said, not this. I knew what it meant. I had chosen the easy way out of law school, the safe path of corporate law that the vast majority of my classmates had chosen.
There were other less conventional paths I could have explored in this moment. I wished I had explored. I shook off the voice when the elevator reached the 29th floor. I stepped off. It headed to my office. It was too late to change course. Two kids, a husband, and many years later, my friends were stepping fully into their lives. I was not.
Lisa was writing a novel. Ann had successfully run for city council and had gone after a big job with a Fortune 500 company. My best friend Nie, she glowed like a Renaissance Madonna. When she talked about her work with people in poverty, all those friends had that glow. I wanted that glow so badly.
I didn't have it. I didn't understand why my nest was empty. I determined to live my next chapter differently to find that glow for myself. Once again, that inner voice spoke to me. It said, Suzette, you're a writer. Stop fighting it. Claim your call. And this time I listened. I began writing a memoir about my struggles to create a professional life I was proud of.
Instead, a different story emerged, a story that was dangerous, risky. It was a story about a very intense long-term friendship I had with a female friend. As I wrote, I realized I had been in love with this friend, and I still was. That truth was terrifying. I had to make a choice. Was I going to walk down the risky path to see where that story would take me? Or was I going to stay in the story? I had chosen the safe story, the expected story I wrestled per month, kept myself and my husband in limbo in hell. I came out to my mother, told her I was considering leaving my marriage. She didn't understand. She thought I was too old to start over. Part of me believed she was right.
I'd only lived one way for my entire life. When I confided in my sister, she said, Suzette, you know how obsessed you get with things. She implied, this was a phase that I was having a midlife crisis. It wasn't a phase or a midlife crisis. Still who risks everything for a life they've been living only in their head, who leaves a perfectly nice life for the chance to glow. One day in the midst of my wrestling, my husband turned to me and said, Suzette, you're looking for a choice that doesn't involve pain. That choice doesn't exist. He was right, of course. I was still trying to avoid the bumps, like the ones my father had carried me over when I was an infant. I was clinging to the hope that there was some way out of this without inflicting pain on others and avoiding the pain for myself.
But there wasn't a way out without pain. Eventually, I chose the riskier path. I left my marriage, came out, moved to a new town where I knew exactly one person. Started a new career as a book coach, and I wrote a book. The Only Way Through is Out, a memoir about this journey Fall 2022. A publisher offered me a contract.
Today I got the book deal. So exciting. I recorded a video, posted it on Instagram and Facebook. All those comments. Suzette, you're glowing, positively glowing. I can see the joy radiating on your face. I could see it too. I was glowing the first time I'd ever experienced the glow. The most memorable glow happened. One morning, shortly after I moved to my new hometown, hand in hand with a woman who would later become my wife. I walked through the streets of my new town toward the Pride Festival, my first pride event ever. I was wearing a gray tank top with large white script emblazoned with these words. Nobody knows I'm a lesbian. Now, of course, everyone did. That stroll, unlike the strolls my parents had taken me on, felt both risky and exhilarating that day. I realized the glow happens when we're willing to make mistakes, break the rules, feel all the feels, including the bumps front. It's never too late to experience the glow. It's never too late to live out loud, to live fully and authentically, and it's never too late to change your story. Thank you.
Elena Joy: I hope you enjoyed this bonus episode featuring our keynote queer graduates. Coming this fall is the companion course OUTWrite authors. This online six week course is a path to publishing class for queer authors of non-fiction books. If you're a thought leader, a business leader, or just have some amazing non-fiction words that the world needs to hear, we want you in this class.
Visit outwrite authors dot com for more info. That's outright, O U T W R I T E authors dot com. A limited number of scholarships will be available. Thank you for joining us, pride and Joy Fam, and until the next episode, be good to yourselves. I appreciate you.