Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Coming out trans* pt 3 Saying it ~Sevan

Cyndi and I have both told our personal stories around coming out. Now comes the most difficult post in our four part series. Suggestions and thoughts about the process of coming out. 

Let me first say that there is no possible way I can account for every unique I'm going to do my best to keep this broad. There's no one right way for every person to come out. There just isn't. Since my experience is primarily with transsexuals/transitioning…I think my focus will be there. Not because I’m trying to ignore the rest of the umbrella, but because I want my advice to be sound, and based on personal experience/ knowledge.

The first thing I would to understand what transgender identity is for you. Those who you come out to will want to know if you intend to transition, what that might look like for you, what surgeries or hormones you might undergo, etc. While "I don't know" is a perfectly reasonable response, it tends to upset those you're coming out to. So either be prepared for an afterthought to your "I don't know" or prepare an alternative. 

*Nothing* is ever set in stone. Ever. Especially not transition! It's a path, it's a journey, and minds can change along the way. Prepping those around you for these potential changes is highly advisable. You may decide early on that SRS is required and very necessary, but along the way may decide that it's either not desired, needed or affordable. You may be against top surgery (especially trans woman, much more so than trans men) but find that hormones don't offer what you wanted/needed; and suddenly top surgery appears very likely. 

Some, (such as families) can have a very hard time with transition, and they may need support as well. Knowing where to direct them can help them to help you. Such as:
There are also books on the topic, but I'm much more for personal conversation than reading myself. I'm sure you can find some books if the person you're coming out to is a reader. 

While many would say “Be prepared to lose everyone and everything” to transition…I prefer to be a little more hopeful. I think when we go into conversations with a defeatist attitude…we end up losing. We have already gone through the loss in our own heads and I do agree that one should be prepared for every eventuality; that includes success and support!! That *is* a very possible outcome!

I think that coming out takes some soul searching as preparation. Many don’t do this. I know I didn’t…I waited until I was backed into the wall, mid transition; with my voice already changing…that’s when I came out to my parents. It should come as no surprise that that didn’t go very well! I left them out. I expected them to be unhappy, and they met that expectation.
Take some time to remember what it was like when you *very first* discovered you were trans*. What did that feel like? What did you want to hear? What would help you through that? I know for many (if not most) that this is a painful discovery. Of course we want unconditional love and support. I know some people who have gotten that reaction; and what a blessing! For most though; just like for us trans* people, it’s a process. It will take some time for those you’ve come out to; to come around.

Boundaries are a difficult thing for majority of trans* people. (It’s even mentioned in the Standards of Care!) If you are working with a qualified gender therapist; coming out should definitely be a topic to go over with them. As you will likely be the only trans* person your friend/family will know…they are pretty likely to bring their feelings and process to you. (or if they’re like my parents, the exact opposite and bring nothing to you.) They need to find other places to express their feelings about your transition so that the process doesn’t damage the relationship. This is where strong boundaries come in. Being able to encourage them to take those feelings to a support group, or trans* mentor (if your area has such a program) online forum…somewhere. Especially if they’re having negative feelings they need to process.

With that, accept some boundaries that your friends/family needs to set. I know that early on (heck…often times; still!!) Cyndi and I talked about transition pretty much to the exclusion of all else. That’s taxing for many people. There might need to be some boundaries set around that. I think that compromise can be healthy and contribute to and strengthen relationships. Some compromises are unreasonable and would be harmful. Your therapist can help with these unique and important issues.

Transition can be lonely…but it doesn’t need to be. Support, friendship and family is important to anybody but definitely important for trans* people navigating in an often times cruel world.