Coming Out All Over Again

I’d forgotten how hard and scary it is to come out of the closet.

I’ve been out as bisexual for a long time. Excepting my sexual partners (who perforce had to know) I came out to my little sister first, back sometime in 1993 or ’94 when I was on a trip to Boston. I told her in a hotel room, and the conversation was illuminating, because as much as I’d never been able to pick one gender to be attracted to, she told me she’d always been completely straight. She said she’d tried to be attracted to women, as she had better prospects with the lesbians she was meeting than with the straight men in her circle, but there was just no there there, as it were.

I remember in that same conversation very tentatively broaching the subject of gender identity, and how I didn’t really feel like a girl. And Sister again was pretty definite: she felt like a girl, she’d always felt like a girl, and she never questioned it.

It was an epiphany for me: for the first time I had some evidence that people really could have a preference and a surety about their own gender. It didn’t answer my own questions, but it gave me a yardstick to measure against, and permission to go ahead and accept that I wasn’t mainstream. That I was, in many senses of the word, queer.

I came out to a few others, then a few more. First to other queer people I knew — a gay boss, a lesbian co-worker, then to close friends, then to my parents, then to less close friends, until I got to where I am today, where I’m surprised when someone doesn’t know. Where if someone doesn’t know, I don’t even have a moment of fear before I say I’m queer-bisexual-lesbian-whatever. It’s just who I am, take it or leave it.

And then over the course of the last year I started exploring the secret I’d harbored so close I wasn’t even out to myself. Transgendered. Could that possibly be me? And yet… And yet it’s as obvious as breathing that that is me. And so, cautiously, carefully, I started coming out all over again. And, in fact, it’s not really just in the last year. Four years ago I started having internet conversations with one or two other transgendered people who were born female, wherein we would excitedly discover that we shared a common experience. And I watched like a penniless kid through an ice cream shop window while they embarked on transition.

I came out to and with DK, who’s my partner in crime on this journey on a parallel track. To my friend Sam who had gone all the way through the hoops and come out the other side, fully transitioned before I ever met him. Obliquely to a few other, close friends. RevT asked me several weeks ago whether I was considering transition, which I found eerily astute and secretly pleasing. I came out via this journal to several more, to the ones who could read between the lines of the last post.

It’s taken four years. It’s taken forty-four years. But I’m finally comfortable enough with the new shape of reality to claim it more publicly. I had a direct conversation with RevT about it last week. She asked if I’d talked to my friends and family, and I realized, well… no. Not all of them. So I decided to come out, and it’s scary as all hell.

I called my sister and came out to her again. Actually there’s a funny story there — Facebook forces you to select a gender, and it only gives you two options, but it includes a ticky box that lets you say “don’t reveal my gender”. So I picked male, clicked the ticky box, and thought nothing else of it. Then Facebook put this new feature in whereby you can say someone is a family member, so I marked my brother and sister as family members and again, thought nothing of it. It sent them a notification: Nezu would like to list you as his sister/brother (emphasis mine). Way to not reveal my gender, Facebook. So Sister kind of had a heads up. She hadn’t read that last post, though.

We talked about my recent trip to England to visit DK, and the fact that DK prefers male pronouns came up. And then “Is he considering surgery and hormones and everything?” followed by, “Are you considering that?” (So ok, did I really come out to my sister, or did Facebook and circumstance out me?) I said yes, I was considering it, and asked how she would feel if I asked her to call me brother instead of sister. She thought a moment and said it would be hard, but she’d do it. But it might be like when she changed from going by her middle name to going by her first name, and it took a long time for people who had known her for her whole life to make the change, and some people still slipped up every now and again, especially if talking about the past.

How cool is my sister, right?

I was so scared before I asked her that question. Shaky scared. Flush-faced scared.

And then Wednesday I had my doctor’s appointment with the endocrinologist, another one who sort of already knew, and I asked her how she felt about transgendered people. She asked if I meant in general, or did she manage their treatment, and then answered both questions: she was fine with them and she did manage some transgendered people’s hormones. And there I was, shaky and red, when I asked her if she’d consider continuing to treat me if I were to decide to go on hormones. Her reaction was something along the lines of “Who exactly did you think you were fooling?” and “Duh” and “As long as you have a psychologist saying so, and are following the WPATH standards of care, it’s fine with me.”

How cool is my doctor, right?

Thursday I came out to a pair of good friends from the church. Shaky hands, knot in the stomach, red cheeks time. And one asked me a really interesting question: how was I male? I struggled for a succinct answer and finally settled on this: The me I am inside is male and kind of always has been. Every game of make believe from my earliest days I was a male character; even when I was pretending to be a horse, I was a boy horse. I’m male in a good eighty-to ninety percent of my dreams, and again I have been since I was a kid. I have done a long series of portraits of myself as male. I hand waved.  I wasn’t sure I had said anything convincing. I was scared.

She thought about it a moment, and said. “Oh. I get it. Actually I think my inner me is a drag queen.” To which her wife said, “You are!” in great wonderment at discovering the obvious. And it was okay. It was all okay.

How awesome are my friends, right?

And yet every new coming out I contemplate sets my heart racing. I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten how risky it is to reveal this tender, delicate, newly claimed aspect of my core self, and hope that my friends and family and the people I care about most will accept and nurture it, not call me crazy or sick or wrong.

For everyone I ever encouraged to just go ahead and get your coming out as queer over with, well… I don’t take it back. I still think it’s incredibly empowering and relieving, and a powerful political act to boot. Go for it, if you can. But I get it. It’s not easy. It might even be the hardest, scariest thing you think you’ve ever done.

And now… Whew. I think that’s enough coming out for one day.

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~ by Nezu on 26 February 2011.

18 Responses to “Coming Out All Over Again”

  1. You are an awesome person and an awesome friend, whatever gender, non-gender, or unique gender you are or choose to be. I’m so impressed that you keep figuring out all these important things about yourself. You rock!

    • Likewise you rock! I can’t believe how awesome all my friends are, but then… Yes I can. I knew my friends were awesome. Gold plated awesome. No… Solid gold awesome.

      I love you, Phi.

  2. One of the things I have learned, the hard way mind you, is that speaking from my heart is incredibly hard. I am speaking from a place of vulnerability. I am open and anyone can hurt me. It still scares the crap out of me to consider it.

    However, when I do speak from my heart I find that I empower myself in ways I do not even understand at the time. I become more myself.
    Just like you are doing.

    It may take me a while to change the habits in one side of my mind that still label you “she”, but not to worry. The other half of my brain has been picturing you differently for a while. Its following how you change.

    The journey you are on is amazing and you are amazing. Keep going!

    • I love you. It is incredibly hard, but you are one of the people who has helped me to see that being true to myself and speaking from the heart are indispensable to personal happiness.

      Slip up all you want, I’m still struggling with pronouns myself. 😀

  3. D’you know, the “you” in my head has never exactly matched with the “you” in your body—I realize this sounds incredibly weird, but I think it’s a benefit of internet-first friendships, that we learn to see each other as personalities first rather than as, uh, physicalities? And Nezu, in my head, reads more as a young man (albeit not much like the young men I typically hang around with…) than as a woman. So no, this is not a big surprise. 🙂

    Are we to take it, then, that you prefer male pronouns now? Please forgive us if we slip up—linguistic habits are hard to break.

    • Also, for some reason, your blog does not like double hyphens used as em dashes. I suppose HTML is preferred?

      • It’s stupid that way. I’ve fixed your double hyphens, since its easy to access the em dash on a Mac keyboard. 😀

    • You know, I’m not sure there could possibly have been a better or more welcome response. I’m beaming, and every time I read this over, I glow inside again. Thank you. Thank you for seeing past the exterior and honoring the real me inside. You’re an amazing person and a true friend.

      I’m still struggling with the pronoun issue. Ivan E. Coyote put it best: the available pronouns are like shoes that don’t quite fit — “she” pinches a little and “he” slips off me too easily.

      I’m warming up to “he”… Try it and see how it feels for you? And I will absolutely forgive missteps. Old habits are hard to break.

  4. You, uh, kind of did come out last post. 🙂 And you’ve been moving in that direction for a while now. Like I said, you’re still you, whichever gender(s) you choose. *hugs*

    • *laughs* Yeah, as I said, for those that read the last post, this isn’t exactly a revelation. I love you and am so glad you’re my friend.

  5. Coming out is a funny thing. Seems like some of us have to do it every day of our lives. The casual acquaintances are easy, you can drop a pronoun or a reference to your same sex partner, and if they have a problem you just don’t care. But it’s the important people, that’s the scary thing. You’ve reminded me that I have an aunt I am/was very close to. After coming out to my family (who were categorically dead set against acceptance) I was too scared to tell my aunt. I couldn’t handle any more rejection from someone I love. So I put her out of my mind, stopped contacting her, and now it’s been nearly two years. All she knows is that I’m off at school and staying with a friend. Now my “friend” and I are getting ready to send out engagement notices, and my aunt doesn’t even know (at least, I haven’t told her) that I’m gay. I guess I should do something about that.

    • Wow, I wish you all the best with that frightening coming out. I can completely understand not wanting to face further rejection after your family reacted so badly. I hope your beloved aunt welcomes you as you are with open and loving arms.

      Congratulations on your impending engagement!

  6. The people who love you, love you for who you are – not for the labels you give yourself or society gives you. If it is more comfortable, more true, for me to call you my brother, then I’ll do my best to make that change. It does not, however, change who you are, our history or our future. I love that you are allowing yourself to truly be you and then sharing that self with the world.

    • Sister, my love for you is beyond infinite. Whether you call me brother or sister or just sibling, I’m proud to be related to you. Thank you so much for all the ways you support me and encourage me. And thank you for spilling pastel Easter M&Ms with me in an echoing brick hallway. I love best of all that I can always laugh with you.

      • Attentive sister notices the change of an “i” to a “y” on Facebook. Any thing else you want to tell me????
        Seeing pastel m&m’s this time of year always makes me think of you and smile. *Hugs* *Hits with banana for old times sake*

  7. My dear boy, your courage is so amazing.

  8. Hahaha PK. I’m playing around with the name thing. I may change it back. It just looks so girly with the “i”, but I’m not sure the “y” is gonna stick.

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