Author and New York Times “Modern Love” contributor Suzette Mullen is all too familiar with the challenges inherent in coming out. At fifty-something, Mullen’s brave decision to come out later in life meant leaving a safe, comfortable thirty-year marriage to a man and risking her relationships with her two adult sons. “[Coming out] was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” she tells Tagg, “but the cost of authenticity is worth it.”
Mullen recognises the difficulties queer women of all ages face when coming out. “Young people are just beginning to figure out who they are, and when they recognize that they are outside the heteronormative paradigm, it can be very difficult to come out when they are desperate to fit in. When you come out later in life like I did, the stakes and cost of choosing authenticity feels high for different reasons. You’re stepping away from an established life, personally and often professionally, a life that you’ve built for decades,” Mullen explains.
In her new memoir, The Only Way Through Is Out (University of Wisconsin Press, Feb.13, 2024), Mullen shares her story with an openness which is sure to inspire and empower readers. Describing coming out as stepping into the fullness of who she is, Mullen also acknowledges the importance of being visible as a queer woman. “If you have already come out, be brave and live out loud. Seek out opportunities to be visible. Use your voice. Women, young and old, are still hiding in closets, feeling alone and hopeless. When you show up in the world as a proud queer woman, you show them that there is a path forward for them,” Mullen says.
Mullen practices what she preaches through her work as a book coach, where she amplifies the voices of members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies by helping them become published authors. As well as writing tips, Mullen shares the life lessons she has learnt along the way. “It’s okay to make mistakes and take risks. It’s okay to have your own desires and go after what you want. It’s okay to seek guidance from others, but ultimately the voice you need to listen to is your own. Trust what you are feeling and hearing inside yourself, then find the courage to act. It’s never too late for a new beginning,” she says.