We are told “You will know when the time is right. Trust your instincts.”
Well, what if another person takes it upon themselves to decide what time is right for you?
Welcome to Trans 102. Coming out.
Your wedding day. The birth of a child. The day your favorite sports team won the championship. Just like these dates, coming out day is just as important.
In a previous article, I shared the story of how I came out to my wife and the week leading up to it.
Over the next two days, like Jesus before the crowds, I put my entire existence on trial. I honestly don’t think I slept for the next two days. I did what only I could do…. I wrote my words into an email. I poured out my heart. Briefly and to the point, I tried my best to explain everything in one single page.
Driving home Friday night in total silence, I knew I had to tell her when I arrived home.
As we both lay in bed, I asked Beth to check her email.
“Why?” she asked.
“Please” I replied.
I hit send, heard the ‘bing’ of the email notification and muttered one last “Holy Shit!”.
I DID IT!!
Holy freaking shit! I did it . As Beth sat there in silence, I felt as if the car of my life had just sped off of a cliff and into a vast ravine.
It was the most humbling moment of my life. Never before had I opened myself up to someone without any fake walls or misdirection.
The date was January 31, 2015. One of the biggest days of my life.
So often the word “courage” is used when it comes to those in the LGBT community living their true and authentic lives. Courage, at times, can simply sum up the experience behind coming out. The courage to overcome some of our biggest fears. Fear is akin to being frozen like a deer in headlights. Fear grips us and causes us to do shit we normally wouldn’t even think of doing.
I remember once being asked “Did you come out of the closet?” Fear. Panic. Gasp. Fuck.
I lied and replied, “No. I just came out of the shower.” (Which I did)
For six months after starting HRT (hormone replacement therapy), I hid from the world. I knew I wasn’t ready to come out. I did not trust myself enough to know I would be able to defend myself. I had been unable to defend myself for 43 years, how the hell was I going to do it this time? My environment would eat me alive. Not only did I have the usual fears to worry about, I also knew I had hostile forces to face as well. I was anxious, excited and scared shitless. I knew the day I started HRT there was no going back. I had the love and support of my wife. I just needed to figure out how I would tell the rest of my world…even my children.
I never thought I would be ready. One is never ready to face their biggest fears and challenges head on. Trusting yourself takes time and metric shit-tonne of inwards thinking. I like to call it ‘mental gymnastics’. Coming out is the tip of the iceberg. What people don’t see is how much has to transpire mentally/emotionally in order for one person to lower their defenses and trust the recipient to not only respect them but to hopefully understand them as well. You hear the story of how the caterpillar will one day turn into a beautiful butterfly, but what they don’t tell you is how that damn caterpillar has to turn themselves inside out first, breaking down the internal protective barriers constructed over time.
Living in shame for years, I successfully fragmented my life to fit my environment. Growing up in the church, culminating with a stint at an evangelical college, I had no one I could trust. I was afraid of what would happen after the words came out of my mouth (or fingers or through the art of interpretive dance…LOL). My entire world was built on a structure of false pretenses.
During my freshman year of college, a hypnotist put on a show allegedly putting volunteer students into a trance. The audience would bellow in laugher, watching the subjects do the strangest things. I wanted to try that, but what if I opened my mouth and said something to the extent of outing myself, revealing my sexual interests? I’d basically be outing myself. I had no idea of what it actually was, but I knew something was there.
Fear. Fear. Fear.
*COMING OUT IS DIFFICULT. COMING OUT TO YOUR CHILDREN IS EVEN HARDER WHEN THERE IS A LACK OF RESPECT BETWEEN CO-PARENTS*
One is never ready to face their biggest fears. Especially when it involves bearing your soul and sharing your story. Maybe the person you are telling will react in negatively and walk away from the friendship/relationship? Maybe they’ll retaliate and make your life a living hell. (I cannot literally explain how crippling it is to have this fear control you.) I never thought I’d be ready. Sometimes you don’t’ wait until you’re in shape to sign up to run a 5K. Sometimes, you take the leap, sign up, and bust your ass making sure you’re ready for when the day comes.
But what happens when someone decides that day without your permission?
For me, that day was Thursday, October 22, 2015.
Being outed took me by total surprise. There was a tip-off prior, but to think I would be outed in the malicious way in which it was done had never crossed my mind. I faced a non-stop digital barrage of mean and disrespectful comments blasting me for going against what God taught about gender and sexuality. No matter what facts I presented, it made no use. “It’s what I believe” I was told. Facts be damned. It took me every bit of the prior six months to stop myself from falling apart, let alone fighting the off the dark call of suicide. It took me almost a year to recoup the sense of self worth which was stripped away on that day. Others aren’t as lucky.
*BEING ‘OUTED’ IS THE DELIBERATE OR ACCIDENTAL DISCLOSURE OF AN LGBTQ PERSON’S SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY, WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT*
To sum up the experience… It fucking sucked..and it still does to this day.
For those of us who have come out, our stories are our own. It’s personal. These words and thought represent, in its essence, who we are. Outing someone against their will robs them of their voice. It is simply a violation of our sense of self.
In the words of the character Simon from the movie “Love, Simon” “I’m supposed to be the one to decide when and where and who knows and you took that from me.”
The severity of this breach of confidence cannot be underestimated.
Telling someone about your sexuality or gender identity must always be a personal decision. No person has the right to take that decision away.
Publicly outing someone robs that person of the chance to define who they are in their own terms, if they even want to. In extreme cases – as in this one – it can also put the lives of that person and their loved ones in danger.
Outing someone ignores the many valid reasons a person may have for not choosing to be open about their sexuality to every person in their life.
Concerns about personal safety to fears about discrimination at work or in their place of worship all play part in someone’s decision to come out. It can be difficult, takes courage and is not necessarily a one-off event.Jeff Ingold, media manager at Stonewall
I often think back on the words of Fred Rogers during moments like this. “I think those that would try to make you feel less than who you are…I think that is the greatest evil.”
If you are a friend or a loved one, THIS CHOICE IS NOT YOURS. Your role is to support and love and keep Loving. Right now your friend or loved one needs you more than you would ever begin to understand. Trust them.
To those of you still afraid to come out and live your true and authentic life…If you are not ready, you are not ready. Take a deep breath and work on being who you know you truly are.