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And You Thought Telling Them You No Longer Went To Church Was Hard

Confess

It just occurred to me that I never talk much about the coming out process in transition. This is mainly because I was already mostly done with that when I began this blog, and because it really sucked and wasn’t ready to be reminded of a highly difficult year. Actually that was the easy part – the self-discovery, the death of a parent, a huge health crisis my ex went through kind of bumped coming out down to a lukewarm 4th or 5th spot.

Coming out as trans is much more difficult than coming out as gay, at least in my opinion. When my gender specialist, in performing his formal assessment of my condition, told me that sometimes gay people delude themselves into thinking they are trans because it seems easier, I laughed in his face. People know what gay is, even if they’ve been indoctrinated into thinking it’s a whimsical lifestyle choice rather than a bona fide status of being. Either way, most people have a good idea what it’s about as it’s pretty straightforward unless you are Dwight Schrute. I love, by the way, when he asks his HR rep where gay men’s vaginas were. When he was told they don’t have them, he followed it up with, “So what determines which of the two penises will open up to accept the entry of the other?” Silly stuff, and totally unrealistic.

Coming out as trans is a bit different. Expect a long conversation as most people only have a dim idea of what trans is to begin with, so a lot of explanation is needed. Also expect a lot of inappropriate questions. The same person who would never dream of asking a gay man who came out to them, “So, are you like a pitcher or a catcher?”, have no qualms freely asking about your genitalia, surgical plans, and sexual orientation. I do suppose many gays encounter push back; questions intended to really make them think about why they are suddenly making this up. We get the same of course, question after question regarding how sure we really are followed by a nice brainstorming session about what might really be wrong with you. I got some of this, with the most common one being that this was just stress from my father passing away. Um, sure, if I correctly predicted this happening when I was 4 and developed a ludicrous plan for coping with it. Not to mention most people don’t attempt to escape stress by diving into one of the most arguably stressful endeavors of all time.

Coming out is super difficult if you are not prepared for it. It sure helps to have talking points lined up and well rehearsed so you don’t stumble through it like an inebriated jackass like I often did. I found the best way to tell people is one on one, which for me reduced the performance anxiety and avoided being ganged up on in the event the group hearing the announcement was determined to make me understand I was going bananas. Now I think the worst way to tell people is to show up at your nieces bat mitzvah dressed as Elvira after huffing paint fumes. Really hard to come back from that one.

My coming out went much better than expected. No one I told in person rejected me out of hand. Now I know some of you are going to think I violated the trans code of conduct with this, but I decided to leave nothing off the table for discussion. Rude and not their business, sure. Being up front and open about everything made it easier for me, and I have to argue that takes priority. Sure, I might have fucked it up for the super unlikely next person to have to come out to them, but chances are it was not going to happen before I got the chance to explain in follow up conversations, providing they were open.

The easiest way to come out of course is remotly. The phone totally sucks for this because not only do you not get to see facial expressions, but there is a good chance the word is going to spread rapidly ahead of you. By the time you call the second person, 12 others will already know. Snail mail letters are the best, except it’s much easier for people to think you are joking or have gone insane. Nothing more deafening than a lack of reply, so try to reserve this for people you really hardly ever see, or are only on your holiday card list. It’s less stressful sure, but remember that it’s much harder to hate you to your face.

The most passive aggressive way to come out is to start a very wordy blog rife with your personal information, and jam packed with information about trans and a light, humorous tone. When rumors start to spread that there is a tranny afoot, someone will find it and hopefully read enough to understand you as a human being and not just some creepy weirdo looking to pull off a fast one. I would not do this, however, if you are the paranoid type because you will only drive yourself crazy wondering when the shoe is going to drop.

Just for fun, here are some openers to a coming out conversation I would probably steer clear of:

1. I have to confess, your wife and I are having an affair. Psych! No, but I am transgendered.

2. Guess what kind of underwear I’m wearing right now!

3. Let’s just say I never get that ‘not so fresh feeling’ down there, but…. eventually I will.

4. Boners, right? Lord what I wouldn’t do to get rid of them forever!

5. So, like imagine my head on your girlfriends body.

6. Sweetie, I have a great idea to save money! Share one wardrobe! Huh?

7. Next summer when I take my shirt off in front of you guys, you are going to get soooo horney!

8. You know those ‘chicks with dicks’ pornos you are into? Welllll…..

9. Wouldn’t it be so cool if you could just carry your testicles around in a jar of formaldehyde?

10. Mom? Dad? Before you react to what I have to say, just remember that you made me this way.

Yeah, just keep it to the facts Ma’am, and you’ll do just fine.

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About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

6 responses »

  1. Kristine Hollander

    You are just so darned astute! As I read through this entry I felt myself smiling and nodding at the recognition of the process. I am not fully out yet, as you know, but slooowwwly working my way there, and it hasn’t been half bad. My family all know, yet they haven’t met the “real me” face to face yet… Oddly the first person I told was my Dad, outside of thinking my wife understood… That is a another story. However, I have been fortunate, because as you say, face to face I have had no bad experiences, barring my wife… Also it is ironic tht some believe that coming out gay is more difficult. I have always realized that while yes it is difficult, gay people aren’t making physical changes to match “who” they are. And it seems that is the biggest shocker to most. My own mother in law proclaimed it would have been easier to take if I had come out as gay. Go figure, and I thought being honest with them, and the fact that I was and still am attracted to their daughter would somehow be more soothing. IE I wasn’t rejecting her based on my feelings for others, but to just be myself. Finally the humor at the end of your posting was perfect and needed. This is not an easy process, and for the life of me it is rediculous tht it is so darned difficult. But it is what it is, and is my hope that our path of pain will make it more common place for generations to come…Out…

    Reply
    • So well said Kristine! I hope the rest of your coming out journey goes wonderfully! The fact that you are a wonderful person by nature helps tremendously, so we can hope that the hardest parts are over. When you are finally done, the last ever person is told and everyone has gotten a good look at you and it loses interest for them, it’s the best feeling! Seriously, the best. Love ya sweetie!

      Reply
  2. The first person I knew that I came out to was y cousin Jan. She barely battered an eyelid at the news, but then we really hadn’t been that close either. Next I came out to my brother mark when he was helping me shift house into a new flat. he paused for a bit, and then asked which bit of furniture I wanted moved next. But the big one was my mother. I knew that once I told her everyone would know!

    I took her to the cinema to see a film called “The Sum of us” which starred Russell Crowe as a gay guy who’s otherwise just an average bloke, with a really understanding father. Afterwards I took her to a cafe and as we were drinking coffee I came out to being trans. She was surprised because she’d been expecting me to come as being gay!

    A few days later I got a phone call from her. She’d compared notes with Mark, who told her that he’d been “in a state of shock for three days”. It time for me family to get their heads around it, but we all moved on. So long ago, in 1994, and things were slightly more, um, conservative, back then.

    I while ago I put together a guide on coming out for a queer student conference. There’s an online copy at http://hunter.apana.org.au/~gallae/QueerStuff/emotions/comingout/ComingOut.doc.

    The biggest bit of advice in it is NEVER come out at someone else’s wedding/21st/important event. It might be convenient because lots of folks who know you both are there, but they’ll never forgive you.

    Reply
    • Hi Elise! Thank so much for posting a link! Every little bit of information helps the next who come along. The big one was my mom as well. I was so freaked in the lead up, but when I finally stammered it out over a plate of her famous garlic shrimp pasta (that I was too nervous to eat), she looked at me and said, “I know”.

      Excellent advice at the end! So very, very true, and truthfully, your big news should be about you, and not a rider to someone’s gig. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Oh yes I remember that day just as clear as ever.
    My wife and I had decided to separate as we both agreed it was the right decision, since we had grown apart and I should spend the remainder of my life as the person I always wanted to be.
    The kids were crushed about the sudden separation decision, but when they discovered that their mom was seeing a married man, the whole issue turned ballistic, has mom gone fu…g crazy?
    The whole separation ordeal turned into weeks of hatred for mom and pity for dad.
    I just couldn’t stand myself for what this thing was turning into, I had to fess up and confess.
    Wow did that ever make things turn quiet. I tried to make my issue less complicated by quietly moving out of town.
    It took exactly one full year for my family and friends to accept me for who I am and had it not been for the trans lady at the other end of the crisis line, the trans world would have absorbed another statistic.
    Michelle keeping a diary or writing a life event story is good advice, in my case whenever someone asks information about me I give them a copy of my life story and then promise to answer any question honestly (after all I have been lying all my life)
    Keep writing, this site is awesome.

    Kimberly

    Reply
    • Hi Kimberly! I’m so sorry your coming out was such a traumatic event! I’m so glad you stuck it out though and are here with us now. Looks like we are sisters in our sharing of lives (I’m kind of doing that right here, though never really expected anyone would be reading it). Totally agree on the lying bit as well. It’s hard at times when panicked not to slip into old habits, but I really have no stomach for it now. Thanks so much for commenting!

      Reply

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