Out Like a Lamb: Day 2: Coming Out

by tigermanifesto

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When I came out to my partner, I cried in a hostel in Istanbul. Exhausted, depressed, the furthest I had ever been from her, I was so off-balance I couldn’t keep composure. I wept for hours, up until 5 in the morning. The rest of my week was a haze, but I had been openly gender nonconforming with my partner for months before that happened.

When I came out to my friends, it was in a casual Facebook message. They all pledged support despite their surprise.

When I came out to my sibling, I sent this:

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Part of a pamphlet I sent explaining my story and my thoughts about gender.

Since most of my friends were queer, trans, or otherwise inclined to accept me, I felt little trepidation in coming out. Coming out to family members––religious, not well-informed about gender, much more accustomed to my masculine presentation––was much more difficult. I ended up making an error by coming out to my sibling months before coming out to anyone else. I was not prepared at all to come out to my parents, and I knew that it would require an even more delicate approach, but I felt more comfortable with my sibling because we had been good friends for so long. I was wrong in my assessment, but at that point I was exasperated, tired of lying and pining to come out to someone. So much so I ended up coming out in a way that was too confrontational and complex. I was trying to have too many conversations at the same time when no one related to me was even ready for one of them.

One notable difference in coming out to my parents as opposed to anyone else was the emotional content. With my partner and my friends I could be either frank and matter-of-fact or elated and relieved. There are two reasons for this. One is that I was relatively certain of acceptance. The other is that peers have relatively less power over you than parents, especially in terms of finance. My parents both being fairly strong Christians was certainly a concern, but not the most important one. Mainly, I was worried because I had no evidence of what they believed about transgender people, if they knew who we were at all, and what their reaction would be. Knowing the harsh forms of rejection that many queer and trans people endure, I mentally prepared myself for the worst outcome. I had already established a fairly independent life, and had built up a support network of friends who would be able to give me some space or help if something terrible happened. Without those affinities and friendships set up, I am not sure I would have had the courage to say anything.

“Even when the messenger knows she has good news to deliver, she can’t know for sure that the recipient is going to take the news well…

eight years of fear

eight years of silence

eight years of acting like I was “just like everyone else,”

eight years of suppressing the basic joy of being myself.

eight years of knowing that there was a chance that if I shared the beautiful and radiant news I had learned, I might be kicked out of the house and scorned.”

I wrote these words late at night and sent them on pure impulse. If I had thought it over too long, I probably would have delayed it longer. The initial reception was mostly shock. I don’t think it’s entirely dissipated.

This might seem morbid, but one of the reasons I finally broke down and told my parents that I was trans, even preparing for a complete rejection, was that I was afraid I would die and that my gender would be a matter of controversy. If I were still closeted, my memory would conceal all the truths I had learned about myself. I was terrified of dying, and still am, but I was far more afraid of being buried under the wrong name. Not that it would matter to me when I was dead, but it would most definitely matter to my partner and my friends if a huge fight broke out over my name and my gender after I died. I wanted to spare everyone the heartache, and to feel better about myself. So I said it. I’m a woman and there’s nothing to be done about it now.

When it came time to come out to everyone else, publicly, I did so in a Facebook post. The occasion was last year’s massacre at the Orlando nightclub. So many dead, and I couldn’t tolerate being silent anymore. I wrote:

“We’re not just afraid of rapists who want to “fix” us or preachers who say we should be locked up in camps or thrown in mental institutions. We’re afraid of our families, of being deprived of love and friendly faces, friendly pats on the back. We’re afraid of well-meaning friends and family who say they love us but won’t acknowledge who we are or call us by our right names

I’m afraid because when I look into someone’s eyes, even someone I should trust and has known me for twenty years, I can never know if they would still love me if they knew I’m a woman. I’m afraid of other people’s fear. I’m afraid that people will use their religion as an excuse to take revenge––demonic and bloody or tiny and biting––on someone who made them feel uncomfortable.”

And the fear has only tightened, constricted further since then. I’m thriving, but I see the frailty and the impermanence of it all. With all that said, however, coming out was an immense relief, a real transformation that relieved some of the pain I felt about my own life.

Coming up in the next three days of journal prompts:

  • March 13: Stories about getting clothes/wearing clothes and my terror of dressing rooms. Scavenging free feminine clothes from fellow students.
  • March 14: A general description of my process of getting ready each day and how I move about in the outside world.
  • March 15: At the movies! How I see myself (or not) in films and other media and I’ve dealt with being invisible to most people.