For me, coming out has been a long process, really starting with coming out to myself some years ago (self-acceptance), then coming out to a therapist when I felt near a mental breakdown, then to my girlfriend, and finally a few years later to my parents, brother and sister, and one family friend. Recently I came out three others; a friend who has only known me for a few months, and to two other friends who have known me for nearly two decades.
I’ve been fortunate in that all the individuals I’ve come out to so far have been supportive, compassionate, and understanding (as much as is possible). This has deeply moved and inspired me.
Coming out is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Each time I do it, it feels like I’m staking the entire relationship I’ve had with a person on the line in order to be truthful and transparent with them. The moment I start the conversation, there’s this awareness that what is about to be said can either make our relationship stronger, or can be the start of a drifting away if indeed the subject is too difficult for them to handle.
I guess I see it this way because of all the misunderstanding of transgender issues in the world. That misunderstanding can come in the form of simple discomfort some people might feel with trans people, all the way to violence. Having this context, and knowing that there’s so much misinformation, stereotypes, and confusion about the issue that might predispose someone to just consider a trans person “crazy”, or “sick”, or “perverted” I think makes me feel very vulnerable going into the conversation. I can’t know how much someone knows about what being transgender means, nor can I know if they have any experiences or predispositions that may make it difficult for them to come to terms with it.
Coming out brings a mixture of emotions to the surface for me. Fear of being misunderstood, or rejected because of who I am; shame over feeling like I’ve hidden a huge thing from the people closest to me my whole life, or like parts of my character are a fraud; and uncertainty about what the future might be like after this conversation takes place.
In every case so far, I’ve been compassionately accepted by the people I’ve come out to. I know this might not always be the case as I continue on this path; being confronted with the reality that gender isn’t static, and/or as binary as we all pretend it is can be difficult if not threatening for some people. I recognize this, and I will need to accept that some may find it difficult.
But for now, the very small circle of friends and family around me that I’ve come out to have treated me with nothing but compassion, respect, and authenticity. This gives me a great peace inside that I am only beginning to experience after many years of internal turmoil. It also gives me great inspiration that I want to be this kind of person – who others look at and feel like they can come to with the things they hide inside. I want others to know I will engage them with compassion and authenticity. If only I had discovered the depth of relationship that can come from this kind of friendship earlier in life. The kind of authenticity that human beings can share individually, even if it exists at odds with secular or religious stereotypes.
I am filled with gratitude for those individuals in my life who can continue to engage me, and even love me, even though the topic of transgender is new to them.