When you are absolutely anything other than heterosexual, white, able-bodied/minded, cisgender, or mainstream religious, the point in your personal journey that everyone wants to know about is your “coming out” experience. Of course the term “coming out” refers mostly to people openly discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity, but I personally recognize that anyone who speaks publicly about what makes them unique has their own coming out tale to tell. The human population is FILLED with stories of heroism in the face of adversity.
That’s why this post has been running me ’round in circles for weeks now. Seriously, I’ve written this post at least five times and deleted it at least seven.
How the hell am I supposed to talk about my own coming out? How am I supposed to present something that was partly HUGE and partly nothing to me? Would anyone care? Why should I even share it? What right do I have to present myself and my story? What if it’s boring? How can I compare myself to others?
The LGBT community is chock ful off intense emotion and stories of personal struggle and success. Mine? Well…I feel it was kind of easy. I have been trying for weeks to be able to express my experience in a way that I thought would be accessible for people. Then, after I had all but given up on writing this post at all, a friend told me to just talk about how boring and run-of-the-mill my coming out was. He told me that maybe it’s important for people to hear about a person in the community who experienced a transition without backlash and without the pain. A view of what the world will look like one day when education has reached the point where coming out is no longer necessary.
So here goes.
As I said in my first My Story post, I came out as a lesbian at 12 years old. I’ve always been someone with strong personal conviction (thanks, mom!), so I’ve never been one to let people’s opinions dictate what I wanted to do with my life. Yes, I have a lot of self confidence and trust in myself and, yes, I do believe that this was a large part of my peaceful transition process.
My mother raised me to be strong. She raised me to stand up, plant my feet, cross my arms, and say “Try me, I dare you.” That, matched with my own personality, created the Me that doesn’t stand for any fucking bullshit. (Now, there’s a difference between Not Takin’ No Bullshit and being compassionate; you can absolutely be both, so long as you recognize that sometimes people won’t understand the difference between the two.) But, anyway, I digress. Once I knew who I was, I had the confidence to pick myself up and keep walking. I knew in my heart that the people who mattered wouldn’t care, and if they did at first, they would learn and grow until they met me on my level.
After Steff showed me Buck Angel and I began to research on the internet about Trans* people, I started to form a sense of Myself. I started trying out words and labels in my head and imagining myself speaking the words that these transguys said in their coming out videos. I put socks down my pants to make a bulge. I bound my breasts. I peed standing up in the shower (and promptly decided I didn’t want to do that again, thank you very much). I started thinking of myself as a man. Some things gave me a sense of comfort deep down in my gut, and some things didn’t. I weeded through them simply based on that feeling inside me. Does this make me happy? No? Ok, next on the list then.
I began to come out to my friends on campus. I knew I could trust them to keep my personal business secret while I tested out my new identity and got my footing. They were all incredibly supportive and eager to help me along the way. I told them that I wanted to try using male pronouns and they were happy to oblige. For a few weeks, they would try their hardest: “She-, shit, I mean He said the other day..” It made me feel loved.
Then, during my birthday party in November of 2012, my mother accidentally overheard them using these pronouns before I was ready to tell her. The next time I saw her, there was a sudden moment of silence in our dinner-prep conversation and she asked me, very quietly, why my friends had been calling me “he”. I froze and simply said nothing. She asked me, “you don’t want to be a boy, do you?” So of course, I, being the self-confident and strong person I am, promptly began to cry. She hugged me and told me it would be ok. This is the only sad part of my story, for which I am grateful. The first few months of my transition where the hardest for my mother and I. She didn’t want it. She wanted Siobhan, the girl she had known she was going to have before her first pregnancy ultrasound. I understood this as much as I could and I made sure to tell her I loved her and I was still the same person. We were living in different states and talked much less than we ever had, but when we did, I would gently bring it up in a variety of ways and then continue the conversation like it was nothing more important than the weather – I did this as a means to normalize it, not to throw it in her face and rub her nose in it. I just wanted her to see that my life was getting BETTER. I was happier every day, I felt real joy and comfort for the first time in my life. She needn’t worry that I was going through some terrible experience.
Finally, after months of awkward telephone conversation dodging and occasional
emotional outbursts, the conversation came where she told me that she thought of me as her son unconsciously for the first time. I held the phone tighter to my ear with both
hands and closed my eyes. She told me that she had been thinking about calling me and she had realized that her mind called me her son. I leaned against the refrigerator and listened to her explain while my breathing quieted. I knew at that moment that it was all going to be ok, just like she had told me it would be.
The rest of my family didn’t turn much of a hair to my coming out. If they had qualms, they dealt with them quietly behind closed doors, because I am happy and grateful to say that they were never anything but supportive to my face. I will say that my grandmother is the exception because she is a naturally hateful and spiteful person. She didn’t hate me for being transgender, she just hated me for being independent and refusing to bow down to her narcissistic personal attacks. That’s an important lesson I had to learn: the difference between transphobia and just purely being a vicious person. When I walked away from her, I saw just how supportive my family truly was, because they understood and encouraged me to be true to myself and my personal health.
I am part of the LGBT community, but I have been very fortunate. I have always stared my privilege in the face and understood it for what it is, so I will never pass judgement on the experience of anyone else. Coming out is not a one time process, it is something that everyone does continuously and at various rates. I am so proud and have incredible respect for those who face hatred every day from their own families and communities, but I am also a proponent of the idea that you choose your family. I was lucky with my biological family, but it is not imperative that you allow yourself to be abused because you share DNA with someone. You deserve love, from yourself and from those around you.
Hopefully, in the future, there will be more boring coming out stories like mine.