Monday, September 17, 2012

Coming out trans* pt 1. It's personal ~Sevan

This is a tough topic for me to cover because of how vast and individual and unique each person, and each coming out is. It's going to vary depending on what state (with what rights) you're in. How old you when you start coming out you are; will play a role. Plus many other things will come into play when we talk about coming out. 

I think I’ll be splitting this up into a few different entries because otherwise this large topic will be either far too long, or not properly covered. So I want to start first with my personal experience with coming out.

I was asked once which was easier; coming out as lesbian or coming out as trans*. (I've done both, and that had come up in this conversation.) For *me* it was easier coming out as trans*, and while difficult, I feel that there are many things that helped my coming out to be successful when I compare the two experiences. 

When I came out as lesbian I was in church, all my friends, all my music...were church. All my social events were through the church. So when i came out as lesbian (back in 2000) and was given the choice to "apologize to the whole of the church for your sins against the church, and move out of the apartment I lived in with my spouse to save me from "sin" and "temptation. Or, I could leave. I chose to leave. I felt, and still feel; that I had committed no sin. Especially against the church. Once I left, all of my Christian music brought pain of being kicked out of the church. All of my friends who were part of the church immediately stopped being friends with me. All my social events were gone. I was alone. I had not sought LGBT support because I didn't expect to need it...and once I did need it, I didn't know where to turn. 
Shortly after, I lost my job because of the stress of being proselytized at work by my co-workers, being shunned by co-workers. My father once showed up at work screaming at me about my "fruity life". My partner showed up at my work suicidal a few times, and needed me. 

My anxiety was through the roof.

At only 18 years old and in my first apartment; having a strained relationship with my parents, not able to see my sisters, friendless and jobless...yea; that was REALLY tough. 

After coming out lesbian to my parents our relationship was severed. For many years after  I had no contact with them. Almost never saw them. We patched things up after I left my partner of three years but under the patches were some scars left behind. I have had a very difficult time being open about most personal issues and pieces of my life.

When I came out as trans* I chose carefully who I would tell. How I would tell them. I had the support of my local LGBT center, and trans* support group. I had online support and read how others had come out, what had worked, what hadn't. 

As 28 I had a much better idea of how people might possibly respond. I knew myself much better; I knew what I needed in order to give voice to what was going on in my life. Has it gone well? Not really. My parents haven’t accepted my gender variance and don’t recognize my new name. I didn’t have that many friends, but those that I did have I was very very close and honest with, and it was easy to tell them. Luckily for me, they took it in stride and it wasn’t that big of a deal.

With my parents I sent them an email. That may not work for everyone, but I was fearful that if I tried to tell them over the phone, or in person, that I would stutter, or stumble over my words, or not say the hard things and not tell my full truth. Writing an email allowed me to do all that. I was able to save it, edit it, think about it, re-word things and include links that might help them to understand from sources outside myself.

When a person comes out (as anything, trans*, lesbian, bi, or gay) they often are exposing something they’ve kept secret. Something so integral about themselves, something they’ve buried and hidden; sometimes for many many years. To expose that piece of themselves, to bring it into the light when it has been buried for so long is to show you – the person we’re coming out to; a core part of ourselves that has no protection around it anymore. We had to tear that protection away in order to bring it to light. It’s altogether freeing, scary, amazing, and terrifying.

At the start of coming out, this piece of ourselves (at least, for me it was this way) it was as a new born baby. It is naked, exposed, and without much defense. Something that is so important, but has remained a carefully kept secret.

When someone close to me rejects this about me, they have struck out at that new born baby who is lacking any defense. That hurts in a huge way.

In the next few blog entries Cyndi and I will be talking more about coming out. More personal stories, more information for the trans* person who wishes to come out, and some information for those who might have someone come out to them. How to behave in that moment, what things you might consider saying, and how to follow up with that. This is a huge topic as I said at the top. Hope you’ll stay tuned.