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  • Writer's picturetatebholden

Coming Out As Gay VS. Trans

Updated: Sep 8, 2018

When I was 13 my dad asked me totally out of the blue if I was a lesbian. (I'm actually bi, but whatever) It pissed me off. How dare he be aware of something I had not yet come to terms with? No! Nearly a decade later, when I was in college, he came to my apartment one morning to take me shopping for groceries. He was early. Too early. He saw my girlfriend doing the walk of shame to her truck. When I got in the car he asked me about it. I couldn’t do anything. I’d been caught red-handed. I was scared, but he was so chill about it. I think he was actually proud. At 21 I was finally getting laid.

My mom was quiet about it at first. Then about three days later she called me and said that initially she was sad, but then she realized she wasn’t losing a daughter, but gaining one. I eventually found out that both of my parents had at some point in their lives had some bisexual leanings.

Telling family was only a little harder. I sent an email to my mom’s sister to let her know I was seeing someone, and was sure to clarify the gender. The news filtered through the rest of the family. Eventually I was asked if I needed counseling, like the Christian kind. Some wondered if it was just a phase. After all, I was in art school, was/is a democrat, and a vegetarian. Why not lesbian, too. Well, that “phase” lasted almost eight years. And I still think boobies are where it’s at (as long as they’re not on me). I was lucky. Despite their discomfort, my family didn’t reject me or my girlfriend.

Coming out in other facets of my life was a non-issue. Homosexuality was just not an issue at my university, at least not in the art department, which is also where I worked. Everyone I interacted with was a raging democrat all about equal rights, or they were gay themselves. I really didn’t have to say anything. People figured it out.

Coming out as trans was infinitely harder. In my twenties I felt invincible. Now, less so. The recklessness and impulsivity probably helped me when coming out as bi. But the story was quite different this time around.

When you’re gay, you don’t really change when you come out. You might feel a little freer or more honest. And a family member’s idea of what your future should look like might have to change. But that’s about it. When you’re trans, however, everything changes, at least on the surface. You’re still the same person you’ve always been, but how people experience you changes. Your pronouns, your names, your appearance all change dramatically. It’s amazing how ingrained gender is in our expectations of other people. And because of this stark difference in features that are actually pretty superficial, you can lose your job, house, friends, partner, family. Everything.

I spent a year after I finally decided to transition researching the topic so I could come out as smoothly as possible. I wrote a five page opus for my family listing out possible questions they may have and answers. With sources. All to help them understand. Looking back, I think I worried and delayed too much. But at least, by the end of that year, I was beyond certain of what I was doing and more capable of standing up for myself.

They are accepting it. Again, I haven't been rejected. But it’s not going as smoothly. Not everyone knows what transgender means or how that will change me. And it’s too big of a change for some. But we’re working on it.

I still haven’t come out at work. I want to wait until after I’ve gone to my top surgery consultation so I can tell my employer how long I’ll be out for recovery and when. I’m a little nervous that they’ll fire me. I really have no idea where their political and religious beliefs fall. But I’m not so scared that I won’t do it. I’m finally at a place in my life where I can acknowledge that I am more than just a job. It would suck to get fired. It’s a great company to work for and I worked hard to get that job. But if I lose it, it won’t be the end of the world. My husband and I can squeak by on his income until I find something else and/or transition enough to pass. A few years ago I would have been too terrified, too tied up in the idea that I am nothing if not for my successes. My trans-ness has taught me otherwise.

Now that I’ve come out, I feel braver, prouder, more confident. It’s improved my self esteem and will power and health, mental and physical. It’s made me want to be annoyingly vocal, active in the community, an unrelenting activist. And that is why this blog and website exist. I’ve found my voice and my cause. I am no longer just my degree or just my job or just someone’s wife. I have thoughts and beliefs and I can do something meaningful.

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