Transgendered Substantiation #2: Coming out

Transgendered Substantiation #2: Coming out

by Lucy Rose.

A few words before we start…

Firstly, I want to thank you for taking the time to read the latest entry of my series, Transgendered Substantiation. The series has been adapted from blogs I wrote for my website during my transition, based on my thoughts and feelings at the time. They almost represent, then, a time capsule for that period of my life. I have done my best to edit and update them for this publication, but some areas may be out of the date, especially regarding the administrative side, as some parts of the process may have changed since I went through it myself.

My ultimate aim with this series is to help people by shedding a light on the transition process. While everyone’s experiences are different, and this is but one person’s perspective, if this is something you are going through yourself, it is my hope that it helps you know that though it may be a daunting process, it is not insurmountable and there is nothing that cannot overcome. Or, if you are a friend or loved one of someone going through the process, it helps you understand what they may be thinking or feeling or the challenges they are facing.

With everything said, please enjoy this week’s entry.

Volume 2: Coming out

Whenever I had a chance to present as female back in those early days, such as a for a night-out, I’d be terrified that when I put on the dress and did my make-up I’d no longer feel the same buzz as I once did, that I’d be emptier for the time that had passed between disparate chances. And came then the relief whenever I looked in the mirror and knew it was all still true. This was me.

Coming out was perhaps the most difficult step of the journey so far. Until now, it’d all been self-contained; there was an escape if necessary, a way to go back and pretend like it’d never happened. But this was where I had to put myself out there and have others hold up my new view of myself. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to survive this inquisition, but I was afraid that if I left alone it’d eventually fade, and I’d go right back to where I started. 

How to come out?

But how do you come out? There’s no single answer to that question. It really depends on your personal situation and the context of your family and friends. I’ve always been a theatrical person myself and have been in theatre and musical groups as long as I can remember. As the stereotype is perhaps right to claim, the theatre is very LGBT friendly. Coming out to those friends who weren’t part of my LGBT circle was therefore no big deal. I chose a drag pub-crawl and there you go.

But of the friends I left behind, such as from before university, I’m only just now starting to reconnect. It goes back to self-identity. It was as a male that they knew me, and I didn’t know how they’d react. The dynamic would shift. How could I be anyone else but who they’d known? I didn’t want to revert back to how I’d fit into their group but didn’t know if all these previously unknown parts of me had a place within this old circle. Maybe I’d prefer it if we all remembered the good times we used to have rather than risk it now. This is doubly true for family. The risk only grows with the amount of time before the big day.

Coming out to family

Coming out to family is the hardest by far. It may be that you have accepting parents/siblings/extended-family members, but it’s quite common for the older generations to be more conservative in nature. For me, I came out via a handwritten letter to my parents and then let them spread the news how they wished. I didn’t want to leave it impersonal, such as in a text or e-mail, but couldn’t face up to doing it in person, so went with the compromise. How and when you do it is up to you and I wish you the best of luck. I will say, however, that you will experience backlash and doubt, the ‘it’s just a phase’ line, and any other number of excuses to make it not real. And you’ll have to face the wall once more.

I know I doubted myself endlessly in the days running up to ‘the moment’. I questioned whether this was right for me, whether I should burden those around me with this knowledge, and I wondered whether I was strong enough to stand up their probes. So, I fell upon the shame of the lie; either way, I was a deceiver. 

This is who I am

But in the end, their words weren’t my validation. This wasn’t a plea for help, a cry for attention, or even self-ratification. It was a statement of intent. This is who I am. This is how I can best invest myself in the world. And my memory of deceit was merely my evolution. Because I’d come this far. I’d passed every test I’d set myself. I was the sum of all that had led me here. Instead of melting into the background as I have for most of my life, I’ve the flexibility now to track how I change, and with an awareness of the fallacy of a single, permanent identity comes the desire to step outside my sanctuary and seek change, to experience all life has to offer. I want to go places I’ve never been, do things I’ve never done, and meet people and make friends I might never have met. How can I be ashamed of that?

All this informs who I am and whatever pinnacle I reach and that for which I’m remembered, not the lonely fortress I was scared to leave. For that reason, I’m more terrified now of staying the same. And while the transition process does involve a lot of waiting around, it’s nothing compared to what I had before. I know what it’s like for the years to pass you by with naught but accreditation to show for it. All I needed was the room to explore and be sure of myself, and support for whatever came next. But this is a challenge for those who love you, and I’ll expand my thoughts on this in a future entry: Strangers, Friends & Family.     

The law is on your side

On another note, for those who have a job and will need to reconcile that with their new gender, thankfully the law is on your side. Due to anti-discrimination acts, an employer is unable to use gender identity or sexual orientation,  race, religion or ethnic background as grounds for letting you go. As a result, most businesses now, I believe, have the mindset of acceptance. For me, I waited until after my probationary period just in case I needed the law at my back. I really needn’t have waited. Despite my company’s relative youth and small size, they accepted me. They made a real effort to get my details changed on their domain as quickly as possible. My boss even called me up to say it affected nothing.

As a sales writer, I was lucky that my job allowed me to work from home, but for those who work in an office and have a commute to work, this will be a struggle you will need to undertake and overcome. Public transport was trying for me; the interrogation of halogen spaces. It may be possible to ask for some change to your working circumstances to aid in this. Understanding of LGBT people is pervading ever further into the corporate world and while it may seem daunting, I’ve found it to be an accepting place due to its inherent pragmatism. If they want you, they’ll do whatever they can to keep you.

Professional help

Lastly, I’ll talk about professional help. When I came out, my parents advised that I speak to someone, so I sought out the psychiatrist at my university’s mental health service, while I was still a student there. For some, this may be something you want to try, to gain an impartial sounding-board. If that’s the case, I’d recommend it. They know what they’re talking about and only want to help. For me, they said something that stuck, and which I’ve mentioned before, and will no doubt mention again. 

They spoke about the labels we let ourselves be given, especially when we’re young and still unsure of who we are and how we fit into things. They said there’s no sign stamped onto my forehead that defines who I am; it’s by my choices and my actions that I’m defined and even that can change over time. Any label is there only for the time being, to describe how you feel most comfortable and accurately represented in that moment, not something that’s there for the rest of your life. Through my pubertal years, while my body went through hell, I retreated into the safety of the identity I fashioned for myself to please others. But now I’m in control, and I won’t let myself be left behind again.

I’ll leave by saying that while it was hard letting go of the familiar safety net and all the relationships it supported, it was undeniably exciting to think of where I could go from here and to make the most of the time that I had now to live. But to get there, I had to say those words. I had to make it real. And I’m glad I did.