Different ways people come out of the closet

23 Jan

It is quite possible coming out is one of the most difficult things some people will do in their entire life. On the surface it would seem like saying that you are gay, lesbian, or gender queer wouldn’t be that difficult. It’s just words right? We use words every day. Words however have power, not just the power to convey thoughts, but to empower as well as raise any emotion from elation to terror. The phrase I’m gay/lesbian/transgender is one of the few I know of that touches every chord all at once.

For me coming out was a roller coaster complete with loops and an equipment malfunction. The evening I came out was on Christmas after my first semester of college. The very instant I came out the festive room filled with family and close friends became palpably thick with tension and silence. Not just silent, but the kind of silent you see in movies just before some otherworldly demon rises from the bowels of hell to drag of a pair of teenagers wandering around in the woods at night for no good reason.

After a minute or so that may as well have been a week, I slinked off to my room to lick my wounds. I had established myself as the ultimate party killer. What was so unusual in retrospect about my coming out was not that deep down everybody aside from somewhat senile granny already had a good idea I was different, but this was a coming out they never heard before. When my cousin came out all he had to say was he was gay. I had to say I was transsexual and lesbian. Nobody could figure out how a then physically bodied male could be a lesbian. In a way it was just enough to keep people guessing how that worked long enough to give me some space I dearly needed.

The first person to visit me in my room was oddly enough my father. The first question he had was what was going on with this transsexual talk. I was by all accounts the nearly perfect son. I had excellent grades, over a dozen varsity letters in high school and collegiate sports, a great beard, and a girlfriend. How could I not be man? I did everything men do. I didn’t act or appear effeminate. It was impossible in his mind. So impossible in fact that I was told to just leave the house. Pack a bag and don’t come back.

While I expected a poor reception that was worse than I thought it would be. What could I do aside from what I was told. Not knowing when I would make it back into the house I crammed everything important to me into whatever I could. I was debating whether or not I should try to take the television when my mom dropped in her two cents. Her main questions were bizzare to me at the time but years later I understand she was just confused. She first wanted to know if I could be just gay or just transsexual, being both was in her mind just overkill.

I tried to explain that I had no choice in the matter. I was transsexual, that was not going to change. I liked women and I saw no reason that would ever change. “Yeah sure” she chimed in, “If you have to be a woman just be a straight woman, why be a two time freak?” Freak isn’t a label I’ve ever enjoyed having hung on me, but hearing your own mom call you a freak? Could you feel any lower than that?

I began hauling what I could out to my car and the remaining people in the house cut me a wide clearance. As I brought out my last bag I glanced at my grandma who waved me over. I figured she was going to tell me to go find god as that was her answer for everything but she surprised me this time. With no one else in the room to see she gestured for me to lean down and reached out her arms. No embrace ever felt so safe and warm as that in my life. She said something that has stuck in my mind to this day. ” I don’t understand you, I don’t like what you are doing, but I love you.” She kissed my cheek and pressed into my hand a wad of cash and her credit card.

My first inclination was to refuse but she pushed me away and settled the issue. I thanked her, told her how much I loved her and for the last time in my life walked out of the house I grew up in. The story doesn’t end there though. By sheer luck or maybe karma, before leaving town a couple days later I ran into my father at a gas station. We looked at each other while pumping gas without actually making eye contact. I went in to pay first and lingered a moment pondering how to look like I was busy and not merely waiting on him. I told him that since I wouldn’t be able to afford my next semester without his help and I couldn’t get financial aid yet, I had enlisted in the Air Force the previous day since I could think of no other way to support myself.

He gave me the once over and raised his eyebrow a bit before letting out a sigh. “maybe that’s what you need” he said. He began walking past me and I grabbed his coat tail much like I did when I was little. He stopped as if frozen and finally asked the question on his mind. “Was I that bad a father I made you do this?”

I almost cried but fought off the urge and assured him it had nothing to do with him. I said if it had not been for the way he raised me and pushed me to be the best person I could be I never would have had the courage to be who I am. He reminded me given our families status and in the community as well as being a white male, all the advantages for success, fair or not, were within my reach. To be a lesbian, transsexual, or whatever it was I thought I was, was to give all that up. “Are you sure you are willing to lose everything you’ve worked for?” he asked.

I looked into his eyes for the last time and said “No dad…I’m not losing anything. I’m gaining everything. I will find work. I will find someone to share my life with. I hope one day I will have my own family. I’m losing nothing. I’m not losing my dreams or you or mom or anyone else. You are losing a son, but you are being given a daughter, and she is yours to accept or deny. If you deny her you lose. It is your choice”

We parted ways and spoke only one time over the next several months. It was the last time we spoke as he slipped into a diabetic coma three days later and then died. I sat at his bedside that moment. I talked to him constantly and held his hand but who knows if my words were ever heard. In my own mind I like to think he found peace with me and his life as he slipped away.

After that due to my active duty military status and the odd thought that maybe god or whoever is running the big show had taken my father to punish me I wet stealth. How an educated person could entertain the thought is beyond me but I did it. I not only went back in the closet, I closed the door, locked it, and sealed it so no light could penetrate it. I tried to be who I thought everyone wanted me to be, not who I knew I was.

Years later after what was diagnosed as a psychotic break I came to terms with reality. I had to come back out. While my first coming out did cost me many family relations, my retreat nearly cost me mind and life. I had a daughter that needed me. The choice had to be made whether it was better she have a transsexual mother or an insane, or even worse, a dead father? To me the decision was clear, but it was not mine alone.

I had come out to everyone again except the only person that had any say aside from me which was my daughter. After weeks of discussion and countless sessions with a therapist she decided she wanted me to be a happy mom rather than a sad dad. With her blessing, support, and love the process began.

In time more and more of my family found it in their hearts to accept me. Granted it took several yeas for some and for others the passage of two decades hasn’t been enough. I did go on to eventually finish school and attain more degrees than my dad, more than likely so that just in case he is looking from wherever we go when life ends he can see I did make it. I have a wonderful partner. I’ve done what Ive set out to do as the person I was meant to be.

Is it the typical coming out? Hardly, that’s for sure. Not many of us get to do it twice. Some folks I know had it far better, others far worse. The one thing we all share no matter what reception we got is that we all did it and we’ve all survived.

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