A View from Outside the Closet

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


A View from Outside the Closet

by 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.


  1. Absolutely beautiful, inspiring, and pure. Touched my heart deeply. I’ve been a cannabis user since my teens. I’m proud to be open and honest about it. The acceptance, support, and mutuality is increasing everyday. My best friend of almost 30 years is a gay male. It brings me overwhelming joy to know he is out, open, happy and amongst his tribe everyday. Thanks for sharing your story Jenn. WG is blessed to have you!

  2. Great post Jenn. As a closet cannabis smoker for many years I’ve found that being honest with myself and those around me makes for more authentic relationships and increase in my overall self esteem. I know longer have to hide that I enjoy the many benefits of this amazing flower.

  3. What a beautiful, touching, inspiring share. Thank you.

  4. Brought tears brought power Thank you

  5. Powerful. Thank you from this cannabis loving lesbian

  6. Great post. I served in the Navy under DADT. I had known I was lesbian for several years, but because it wasn’t accepted, I hid it. I had dated girls in high school, but pretended we were just friends. Most people think it’s the same thing, but pretending the person you love is just a friend comes with its own consequences. While I was in the Navy, I dated men because Inwas terrified to be found out about. I would always break up with them before I would have sex because I knew I would be so unhappy with myself. I eventually began dating a woman who was a civilian. She ended up becoming extremely violent and abusive. I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid of being discharged under DADT. Months went by, I was being abused, going to work with black eyes and bruises, and still, said nothing. Eventually it turned into a life and death scenario and I almost lost. I ended up in the ER of a Naval Hospital with a shattered eye socket, her sitting next to me, not allowing me to call anyone (she broke my phone) or go anywhere (she scares me to death) unless she came with me. So, she did… And despite military police seeing my face and neck covered in strangle marks after the doctors called them when my CT scan results came back, I said nothing. There’s a lot more to the story, but you get the point…
    Living in the closet can do an immense amount of damage to someone, and in my case, I almost lost my life because of it.

  7. Inspirational! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Wonderful piece Jenn.
    Beautifully written and thought provoking.
    Your girlfriend was fortunate to have had you in her life.
    As the mother of two gay men, one a closeted cannabis smoker, I applaud your your bravery and commitment.



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