Friday, 10 April 2015

Coming out (and making transition real)

So, I do not plan – at this moment – to really share specific stories so much. As I ramble this may happen. But really I want to talk about the process. Who, when, why and less of the how.

Coming out is hard to do. Make no mistake. Any of you out there reading this that have come out as gay or trans, I have a remarkable amount of respect. More so if you did it to a hostile or uncertain audience. I cannot begin to image the courage that that would take. BUT  -  if you are reading this and want to come out as something or other – it is a remarkably liberating thing to do. A weight lifts and all the uncertainties disappear. If you are lucky, this allows you to move on without loss – but I know that loss and hardships can follow. Take your time – and be certain about it. And choose your timing and ordering. This is important.

So why is it so hard – or rather why was it for me. I have been so careful over the years with my friends. Not consciously but when someone gives off bad vibes I shy away from them and just want nothing to do. I think I read people well, and act on that. But I am also lucky that those I went to uni with and work with are damn awesome too. I have known rubbish folk, but I drop them as soon as I can. But it is still scary to come out. First up, even though you know the people you are coming out to – sometimes folk surprise you. So that fear will always exist. Especially if you do not really know what to make of your situation yourself. Then it gets really hard. And the other things is – saying “I am trans” to those you know makes it, suddenly, real. And that is hard. We always want the way out, to not have things fixed in place. But once you have said that, people will always have it in their thoughts even if you ‘change your mind’ (?!?!). Also I would suggest that the general populace does not really get what transgender is – as shown but the often follow up question “so are you gay” – which, note, I did not really get.

So I previously mentioned living with two very close friends. I was really struggling with my gender at the time and trying to work out what to do about it. When you have a problem you need to discuss it – it is simple as that. And I thought about it, a lot. I knew my best friend would not judge me. I knew. But I still could not quite bring myself to say anything, despite being so close. On numerous occasions we ended up chatting, me drunk and in tears. Once I said I thought I was gay – for some reason this felt easier and more understandable than being trans. But it was not true and he knew it – and said so. That was the closest I got. Had I said what I really thought I would have been able to discuss it afterwards. Maybe I would have then told the counsellor I was seeing at the time, been passed on to the gender clinic etc. and got this whole ball rolling a lot sooner. I didn’t. And whilst I wonder what would have happened, it is what it is and I had awesome experiences from not starting my transition then – so I regret nothing. And, the truth is that I just was not ready. Close, but not ready.

Once I started to transition, my plan was not to tell anyone until I was ready to go full time. Hahaha. Did not happen! A month in, the first few changes showing, and I was too excited. I wanted to get on with stuff and also to be able to share, discuss things – let my friends in on the best time of my life. So I thought about it. Who do I tell, when and how. For all my close friends I would have loved to tell everyone face to face. But being abroad and seeing folks so rarely, this was not really possible. Skype? Well, possible. But then – at first – I was not sure I could really look someone in the eye and say “I am female”.

Before I started on hormones I had had a few discussions. One of my friends is somewhat gender fluid and he has always known I am trans as I used to go out dressed with him and discuss my thoughts. Another friend I drunkenly told I was seriously considering transition. I told both these folks knowing that it would not really impact their thoughts of me being some of the most liberal folk I know. But these chats were pretty speculative. “I am thinking of doing this”. And I was met with positivity and the urge to do what was right for me. This was a great start. But once I started coming out, once hormones had been ingested, it would no longer be speculative. It would be a fact – I am doing this. Eeps.

So I started easy. My two best friends at the time. Who I knew would not judge me and would hopefully provide me with some support. I compiled careful emails, then sent messages to tell them to read them. And waited. As expected, the response was positive. Full of excitement for me, if a little confusion and lots of surprise. A constant theme of my coming out was surprise followed by the sentence “Whhhaaaattt???? But yes, in hindsight, I am not surprised at all”. I still do not know what it was about me the elicited this response! And so I had the joy of being able to share, chat about what was important to me honestly for the first time, have the beginning out of the way – oh how the weight lifted.

Anyways, following those two, and armed with some new confidence, I told a bunch of old friends – part of the crowd I was with when I first realised who I was. Funny – I did not really have much contact with them at that stage. But for some reason, I knew they would accept me and I felt close enough that they were the right people to head to next. And they did. It got easier with each exchange (via Facebook chats – I would not see these folk for a long while). As a result, I feel like I have regained some of the closeness I lost with these folk, and that is amazing. Oh – and a quick note. You send messages and know folks may not read them straight away – that wait is a bit of a mare in truth! But you just have to deal with it!!!

So now those closest to me. The ones that would feel the weirdest from my point of view – my mother and sister. I did not want to leave them out of the loop till the end but at the same time I had needed the confidence from telling my friends before I had the strength to tell my family. I knew I would see my mother and felt that face to face was important. I had a trip planned where I would pass though home twice and the timing was too good. I knew I needed to take advantage of it - I would arrive one night, tell her the next, leave for a few days whilst she mulled it over and then return for a few days later to chat. The timing really was perfect. Telling her was hard though. When I told my friends, it made the situation real. When I told her, it sealed it in concrete. I could always go back – but it would be harder from here on out. And whilst I say I wanted to tell her face to face – I don’t think I actually looked at the her the entire night! It was great. Confusing for her, but she accepted it. Afterwards I sent YouTube vlogs from folk with similar personalities to me, and she has soaked it all up. Amazing.

My mother then tried to push the issue with a sudden trip to my sisters before I left again. I had not expected to see my sister and I just was not ready. You have to be ready and it took a lot out of me to tell my mother. I did not fear rejection from her, but a shift in our relationship. With friends, you will always be friends. But family have raised you. And – more – the terms change son becomes daughter. Brother becomes sister. This is a real shift. More than he and she. And I was the ‘man’ of the family. I have tried, if not so well, to be the rock when needed. Would this change. Time will tell – but this takes a lot out of your head.

So I bailed from that confrontation with my sister. I needed to tell her soon and I knew that it had to be Skype for timing reasons. So I did. I just went for it. Funny, my mum and sister are so different. But they both said “it is up to you. It is your life”. That made me laugh. But she was cool. It will take time to adjust. How can it not? 

I am 30 years in, just coming to terms with it and still not quite there. Why should I expect folk I know to just accept it? I don’t quite, yet. Time is required. But my family and friends know how happy I am – I am told it is pretty obvious. And they love me and are happy for me. Over time, it will become less weird for us all. And I look forward to that. But in the meantime, my family have treated me absolutely normally and I am so lucky to have them as a family.

Oh, I never actually told my brother in law but figured that once my sister knew, he knew. It seemed crazy to then ‘tell’ him. We have talked since and just carried on as normal. I hope he does not feel put out by the assumption – but it just seemed right.

So then I told more and more folk. Slowly. Many online. Some I knew I would see in the near future so I waited to tell them face to face. It meant I left some longer than I planned, but I wanted the chance to do it this way. Ha. As time went on, it almost became fun to tell folk. A few said "ah, yes. Doesn't surprise me." That surprised me - why is it not a surprise?  I had two folk who I told and, basically they said – “that is amazing. Oh wow. So happy for you. We always knew there was something on your mind and this makes so much sense. Perfect. This is amazing for you” (paraphrased). I think this took me by surprise the most – especially as I told the two from the same group separately and said they both said the exact same thing. Makes me laugh so much to look back on it. It was such a strengthening experience – you would not believe.

A lot of people now know, including work folk, and I have not had a single negative or snide comment. I am a very blessed person and this allowed me to start enjoying the process. By now everyone that I want to know does pretty much. The situation is done – out of the way. And as I described in a previous blog – I feel like I can get on with my life and I feel so much lighter and happier than I ever have.

So my friends and family are ace. But what do I expect from the general public…