On Coming Out

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Movies and media tend to make it seem like coming out is sudden, impulsive and celebratory, but in my experience, it was anything but. It was a staggered, starting and stopping process full of self doubts and “screw this” moments that held me back for years. Coming out officially and completely came only after I had sufficiently saturated the people around me with enough information that I felt like I could safely come out, and even then, I wasn’t out everywhere all at once. I made a checklist of things to do with the words "come out" penciled at the bottom like a goal. And it was a goal, but everything had to be perfect first. The big final coming out came in pieces, with my first announcement being to a couple of my genderqueer friends, then to my mother, then six months later to my partner (when we were still just friends, before we were dating) then I started hinting at things and being a little more open across some of my more liberal social networking sites. I changed my bio on my website to include a statement about my being openly transgender in late May, and I finally dropped the bomb across the board (and to my more conservative relatives) on Litha, 2017 (June 21st.) The response was cathartic, but rather unremarkable, which is actually kind of what I was hoping for. The last thing I wanted was fireworks or a fight.

The build-up definitely took time, more time than maybe was needed, but then, I was also battling some pretty intense fears and some bad coding based on my own flawed ideas of what it means to be transgender. I’ve had several false starts and failed attempts at coming out throughout my life, and in reality, the only person I blame for that is myself. If I’d been tougher, stronger, less concerned with what other people think, I’d have come out decades earlier than I did, but there’s no use in mourning the past. What’s done is done. All we can do is reflect on our lessons, learn from them, and share our mistakes with others so that they can proceed forward in their own journeys with more strength and self-love than they might otherwise have to carry them through.

The first time I tried to come out as transgender, I was so young that trans as a concept wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t have an urge to wear female clothing, and that’s probably because all of my female relatives ran around in pants and t-shirts most of the time. My heroes were people like Ripley (of Aliens) and Amelia Earhart, both of whom dressed with a more stereotypically masculine style. I had a concept in my head, an unshakable feeling that, at my core, I was female. I was about ten or eleven, and had no idea how to deal with it. I had one friend who was as liberal and activist-leaning as me, and I remember bringing it up to him one day when we were alone. “I feel like I might be a woman inside,” I said, and I remember the way he froze, his look of shock and his inability to process the data at all. We were both young, both just starting to get to the age where males accused each other of being gay at every opportunity. I remember that we sat there in silence for a moment, and then I changed the subject and never brought it up again.

Ten years passed before I thought about talking to anyone about it again. Instead of opening up, I joined PFLAG, figuring that though I was terrified of homosexuality (and of being homosexual) I could figure out just what was going on in my head and proceed from there. Through PFLAG, I met the first transgender people I had ever seen, and discovered that they were very nice women. They seemed very wary and timid (understandably) and so I didn’t really take the time to get to know them as I worried I might make them even more uneasy. My own fears about what I might find and what I might learn played a part in the fact that I didn’t get to know them better, of course, as did the mistaken information I had at that time that equated gay with trans. During the course of the year that I was involved with the GSA and PFLAG on campus at Sierra College, I spent a lot of time getting to know gay culture and my role within it. I’m really glad that I did, because by immersing myself in something unfamiliar (and, at the time, utterly terrifying) I learned things about myself, and absolved the fear completely. I went from being afraid that I might be gay to wishing I could be attracted to men, as I had met a lot of really great gay guys who probably would have made good and loyal partners. But if immersing myself in queer culture has taught me anything, it’s that we are what we are. We have set preferences, and men just don’t do it for me.

Between the ages of twenty-three and thirty-one, I fell headfirst into my career and my writing. The dysphoria was a constant companion, and though I did go through periods where I conducted extensive research on trans issues and transitioning, I never spoke to a soul about any of it. Work kept me busy, and through my writing, I lived as a woman for 8-10 hours every single day, which made it easy to cope with the dysphoria. By age 27, I was in a relationship that heated up fast and would lead to a very intense marriage with a woman I loved dearly, both wanted and wanted to be with equal intensity. She became the sole focus of my existence for years, and so I didn’t want to do anything that would throw a wrench in the relationship. One transphobic statement from her about an experience she had as a teenager was enough to shut the door on transitioning for me forever. I never breathed a word to her about my dysphoria, or anything even related to it. I was too afraid to.

I suppose it’s no surprise then that I finally began to unpack my psyche when she ran off with an old boyfriend and moved halfway across the US. About two months after we said our final goodbyes, I started investigating transgender perspectives on life and on transitioning on Youtube. I started really living my life, going to concerts, clubs, bars, exploring and discovering myself and my place in the world. There was a period of several months where I came into work with painted nails, shaved arms, shaved chest and shirts with plunging necklines. I got a few weird looks and not much else. In the end, I stopped shaving my entire body (too much work, too much cost of razors) stopped wearing nail polish all the time (too much cost, too much lost time doing the painting, too many weird looks and questions from old men) and with those gone, I didn’t see a reason to wear shirts that were cut for a body with cleavage. Exhaustive research led me to the decision that, though I like the punk and artistic aspect of dressing up as a woman and going out in public, I have no interest in transitioning (I’ve got an article about it over here: [link]) I don’t need to pass as a woman to feel like a woman. I feel like a woman all the time anyway, even when I’m dressed in a tux in a Masonic lodge addressing a room full of brothers. For me, transitioning to full time female is just too much of a pain in the ass.

So here I am now, writing articles about trans issues from a trans perspective while being openly trans. As I mentioned earlier, it was cathartic to completely come out, and though it wasn’t without its little snags, fears and weirdnesses, it was relatively relaxed and easy. I was lucky enough to have a community of people around me that has been more supportive than I expected they would be, and I’ve overcome the worries that plagued me in the past. If you are trans and you’re thinking about coming out, realize that there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is no deadline. Sooner can be nice, but it is not necessarily better. If you’re going to come out, do it in your own way and at your own pace. Only you can decide the course and timing that are right for you. All I can offer is my own experience, and a prayer that you will be strong and confident about your course, whatever you choose to do.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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