In a charmingly vulnerable yet smartly funny piece for PolicyMic, Orange is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli came out publicly as a lesbian. She credited the safe space of the show's writing room, as well as her evening at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles, as key impetuses in her process.
"In any story worth telling, there's conflict," Lauren writes, recounting how after living her life for 31 years and being married to a wonderful man for five months, she started to wonder if, in her own words, "I was higher on the Kinsey Scale than I previously thought."
The emotional intimacy and honesty the developed among the now-hit show's writers required Lauren to slowly face truths she hadn't even previously realized she held. Lauren names a handful of pivotal moments that led to this realization. One that may resonate with OITNB fans involved writing the scene in which Piper and Alex cautiously admit their lingering feelings for one another, saying they "heart" each other.
"It was a small gesture," Lauren says, "but my first step toward feeling accepted and quietly accepting myself. In Piper and Alex, I'd found a mouthpiece for my own desires and a glimmer of what my future could look like."
Another moment that encouraged Lauren to make her identity known to the public was attending this year's GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles:
I attended the GLAAD awards recently, where I had the privilege of witnessing Ellen Page present Laverne Cox with the Stephen F. Kolzak Award. GLAAD's president, Sarah Kate Ellis, also spoke that evening, and encouraged the room to live their lives openly and with love, in full view of any opposition that might exist.
Mourning the end of my marriage and the identity that I'd known for my entire life, I hadn't yet stopped to consider that I was now a part of this community. I'd been qualifying my own gayness as if it somehow counted less or might be judged if I embraced it fully.
After lugging around a basket full of shame and guilt for the last year, there was a lightness that came with realizing that I could choose to replace my negative framing with honesty and grace.
What stands out most about Lauren's coming out article is its power to resonate with readers struggling/who have struggled with recognizing and accepting an identity that had not always been obvious to them.
The thing is, even when you find yourself in a minority, there's always a majority. If I was really gay, I would have known when I was younger. There was a prescribed narrative, and everything about my own story challenged the accepted one [. . .]
I felt like my life was being rewritten without my permission. I'd checked all my boxes! I was happily married and loved my job!
Things were finally great, for fuck's sake.
Her earnest articulation of the ensuing suicidality, confronting internalized homophobia, and mustering the courage to come out "approximately 5,223 times in the last six months" paint an oft-hidden picture. Rarely are these aspects of such a journey reflected in the media, but Lauren delivers them candidly and with a comforting, relatable humor. Her piece chips away at the shame and secrecy that surrounds coming out in adulthood and she expresses her interest in reshaping the conversation through both personal reflections and fiction writing.
It feels important to say these things in a public way, to record them where they are easily accessible because if I could think and feel them while working in the world's most supportive environment, surrounded by people in the LGBT community, where being a minority of any sort is joyfully celebrated, I can only venture to imagine the pain, confusion and fear that might have existed otherwise […] I am now out to my family, my friends and most of my co-workers on Orange (and now to you, dear reader). Now, when I am in the writers' room or on set, I no longer feel like I am stuck in the middle of two truths. I belong because my own narrative fits in alongside the fictional stories that we are telling on the show: stories of people finding themselves, of difficult paths and of redemption.
Here story reflects the importance of having varied and complex representations of LGBT experiences in the media. She is unafraid to explore the difficulties of her life's suddenly sharp shifts as well as the celebratory lightness at the end of the tunnel. "I went through it all on set: I fell in love with a woman, and I watched my life play out on screen. And now," she writes towards her article's close, "as we are gearing up for the release of season 2, it feels liberating and appropriate to live my life in front of you."
Lauren's narrative—and her willingness to share it--reflects bravery and an emerging resiliency.