A View from Outside the Closet

Many of us began our lives of civil disobedience by falling in love.

We found that love was more powerful than hate.

We found that gender shouldn’t define your destiny.

We found that we were stronger together­–including every gender expression within our community.

We’d like to offer one tale of love & cannabis today from our Chapter Director, Jenn Dowdy. I hope you’ll share your experiences in the comments for our community, as we mourn from San Francisco…together.

With Love,
Jazmin Hupp, Bisexual
Co-Founder, Women Grow

qtq80-WE0GrKby Jenn Dowdy, National Chapter Director

Equality is often seen as equal access regardless of sexuality, gender, religion, or ethnicity. But it is so much more than that. True equality is unconditional acceptance of others. It means accepting and respecting others for where they are in life and for who they are becoming. It means holding space for everyone to share personal truths that will help the human race evolve. Equality acknowledges that no one person or journey is greater than another.

I remember when I came out as gay to my mother. I was on the phone in Oakland, California and she in Thomaston, Georgia. I finally said what she had known since I was 10: “Mom, I’m gay.” Her response, “I know,” had incredible significance for me. I had come out to others–even trusted friends–and had never experienced a more powerful feeling of acceptance.

Until that point I had hidden my most authentic self. I married a man I thought I loved to meet the expectations of people I believed would only accept me as a feminine-identified heterosexual woman. My ex-husband and I were best friends, but I knew deep inside that my deepest feelings were for women. At one point I even convinced myself that I was crazy and that couldn’t be trusted to make decisions with such a weighted heart. Living out of step with my true self was constant emotional torture.

Two years after divorcing my husband I was a senior in college and in my first lesbian relationship. After graduation, I would go on to attend graduate school in Athens, Georgia and she was about to work for a Fortune 500 company in downtown Atlanta.

Six months into our relationship, my girlfriend had a seizure while we were making dinner at her apartment. Frightened and feeling helpless, I rang her best friend for help. Her friend told me to stay by her side as she drove over to help.  Ambulances just made her seizures worse, with the loud noises and seizure-provoking lights.

I found out that new stress  in her life—in this case, a high-pressure promotion at work— caused seizures. I also learned that only frequent daily doses of cannabis eliminated her seizures. Her doctor unofficially recommended cannabis as treatment, but also said he could lose his license if he made a formal recommendation. I made it my mission to make sure she was never out of cannabis again.

Georgia’s cannabis laws at the time meant that I could go to jail, and even be charged with a felony, if I continued to ensure that my girlfriend had access to the medicine that treated her condition. The experience felt deeply unjust, much like the frequent discrimination we received as lesbians in the Deep South. I aspired to be a clinical social worker but knew that I could lose everything if I was given a significant drug charge, regardless of my good intentions.

We packed our bags and moved to Oakland, California, where patients had easy access to cannabis and lesbians created communes. On the drive to California, we spent six hours in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding cell on the Texas/Mexico border for possession of four joints. It felt like the universe was screaming for us to escape a backwards society and move West towards progress.

My girlfriend received her medical marijuana card one day after we arrived in Oakland. California’s medical cannabis program meant that she could live a more fulfilling life and we could both rest easy knowing her medicine would never land us both in jail.

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California said:

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.

Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your

immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends

if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with.

You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that

we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth,

every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all.”

The same could be said of cannabis. When we come  out of the closet, we find our allies and friends. By coming out we inspire others to lead their communities towards a more compassionate political stance on cannabis as medicine. By coming out we defy unjust laws and conventional medicine. Coming out helps create an industry of acceptance–acceptance that Mother Nature provides healing for our bodies and acceptance for those who need medicinal cannabis.

There are many in the world who feel trapped in a closet. They might be afraid of coming out as gay, or as cannabis consumers, or some other identity stigmatized by the mainstream. If this is your struggle, I implore you to find your tribe and thrive. Show up authentically and your people will find you. Remember that revolution does not happen in the streets. Revolution happens when we reach solidarity in our hearts and through our actions. When it costs more to stay silent than it does to find your true voice, you will find that you have no choice but to bust the door of the closet wide open and declare yourself to the world.