My coming out

10 Dec

Changing sexes is one of the only things in life you will do which is nearly one hundred percent for yourself. It’s a very personal, liberating, and yes, a terrifying experience. One of the hardest parts of the process for many is telling their family they are transsexual. I have been asked repeatedly over the course of my life how I told my family I was transsexual and pursuing a surgical reassignment. The simple answer is I planned for months, built up courage and then spent three days vacillating over what to say when the opportunity presented itself. I did some things right and some things wrong. Honestly though what is right or wrong is very individual as we are not all stamped out from the same cookie cutter mold.


Perhaps for me the experience was different from many of the younger gender queer nation of today. I grew up in a vastly different era which was less accepting and knowledgeable than current times. My parents adopted me in their forties making them pre-depression era babies. They were strict Roman Catholics that observed pre-Vatican II reforms until they died which complicated things even more. By the age of five the notion that perhaps I had some gender confusion or was perhaps homosexual, or some combination of things had been raised. As all good Catholic kids do though, I soon learned it was wrong to feel as I did and shouldered the guilt internally. When you are that young you sometimes just don’t know better.


With all that said, moms know. Don’t ask me how, it’s just something they have like spidey sense. Without doubt my mom knew but just didn’t want it to be true. Given a choice she would have chosen I be gay rather than transsexual, and if I must be transsexual be straight, but not a transsexual lesbian. It’s just not one of those things you can decide to be or not, we just are who we are. My father was vaguely aware which meant he had been told of concerns by my mother, teachers, and heard the neighborhood gossip so common in small communities before the advent of cablevision and the Internet. People talked and a queer kid was great gossip.


I spent my teens determined to snap out of this emotional state. I was going to be a man, or at least try to be as there just wasn’t anything I could do about it. My parents were obviously pleased to no end as their little boy seemed to outgrow that weird stage and get a grip on life. In reality I was biding my time. Nothing more. By the time I was in college and exposed to a wider variety of people  which really means I actually met people that were gay and gender questioning and open about it, I decided it was my time to come out too.


Over Christmas Break I decided I would deliver the news. I was a young adult and as such I thought I would be taken seriously. I knew deep down my family was aware that I was putting on a show for several years to appease them. I assumed they would want me to be happy. I assumed wrong.


I had made a list and checked it twice in keeping with the Christmas tradition. I had literature, I had researched and written a paper covering all the aspects of transsexualisim, transition, reassignment surgery and legal issues. I had a speech ready. I had everything but courage. I spent three days tap dancing around small talk. I looked for openings. I tried to create openings. I did everything but just open my mouth and say the words “I am transsexual.”


Finally with time home winding down I became filled with fear, anger, and resentment. I feared if I said nothing now I never would. I knew the longer I waited the harder it would be on everyone. Because of this I was angry at myself and my parents as well for no legitimate reason. Realizing I couldn’t actually be angry at them, at least not yet, I resented them. I reasoned it was all their fault this was so hard. Finally Christmas night while cleaning up the living room of stray wrappers, bows, and wandering tinsel from the tree I just blurted it out.


It’s amazing how quiet a room full of festive people can get quiet so quickly. I thought someone would speak, but it just didn’t happen. That is except for my then 97 year old hard of hearing grandmother that queried “terrestrial?” I said something like ‘no gram transsexual”. That time she heard it clearly and had nothing to say but “Oh dear god.” I could see nobody was interested in anything else I had to say. I could have run a feature length film on the topic, passed out cash, or granted wishes, but I was not going to find an ally. Not then. Eventually. however. I did. But it was several years in the making. The horror story that followed isn’t really relevant here.


Now years later I have come to realize one simple thing. It doesn’t matter how well you prepare, how you say it, or whether or not you have pamphlets or any other informative aids. It just matters that you say it. If things are going to work out they will. Sometimes it takes time for family to allow it to sink in and reflect on the issue. The initial bombshell is usually enough to guarantee that just getting the words out is enough. In a later followup visit is when the facts and real discussion usually takes place.


Of course this isn’t true for everyone, but a couple of decades of experience has shown me that for us older transpeople this is just the way it usually goes. Fortunately for the younger generations their families are often more aware and accepting of at least the concept of transsexualisim and more apt to dive into the discussion right away. Regardless of your situation, remember that people need time. If they aren’t immediately receptive don’t get angry and write them off. Think how you would feel in their shoes and be understanding. The last thing you need at this juncture is an argument.


Ultimately you have to be sure that when you tell your family you are comfortable and confident. You have to be ready for any response under the sun, and I do literally mean any. Be cool and calm, be polite, and be honest. Be prepared for the worst while maintaining hope for the best. Listen to your heart and head and you will know not only when it is the right time for you to deliver the news, but the right way for your family to receive it as well.

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