Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coming Out, Why?

This was a question that was posed to me the other day. Why do you feel the need to come out? So I’d like to pose the same question to you all who have come out to others either in your family or at work.

The question for me was mainly associated with work. I first came out to my family (mom and brothers) about 15 years ago. At the time I told them that I was not sure where this journey was going to take me. I also told them that I would have to take some time to figure all these feeling out within myself to really know what the future would hold for me. About the same time I came out to my wife with very mixed emotions about do so. The GID had finally gotten to a point that I felt I could not hold it from her anymore. All those years of knowing I was a women, at the same time feeling I had hide it from everyone because of the body I was given at birth. For the next 10 years or so I kept it within the family.
I guess at the time I hid it well, because she didn’t expect those words to come out of my mouth, I’m transgender.

Well, to say it went over well would be a lie. It didn’t go over well at all. We soon began to have problems within the relationship (she couldn’t separate her religion from the fact I was transsexual), and to make a long story short we separated for about 7 years. She thought the devil got a hold of me. I knew that was not the case. She thought I could just forget about it all and we could go on living the life we were living. I couldn’t do it anymore. I thought many times to myself, “was it worth it to come out to her?”. When I would ask myself that question, many times I would answer, No! I thought I lost the one person that knew me better than anyone else in this world. The only problem was she didn’t know me completely. She just got to know the shell of the person that I let out. It was nowhere near the full person I was. And that went for everyone else also. No one really knew what made me tick. What my true passions in life really were. They only knew one side of me.

During the time we were separated we had many one on one talks with each other. Many focused on what I was feeling and why I felt the way I did. During this time I also had time to discover what it really meant to me to be trans for me. As I came to accept myself for who I was, I slowly saw my wife change also. She began to ease up on the religious beliefs (No, she is not walking away from her religion, she is still a strong Catholic). I believe she finally believed that this was a condition I was born with and came to accept it. Well, a little over a year ago we decided to get back together (knowing my desire to transition) and we have been doing pretty good.

To answer the question, Was it worth coming out to her? Yes and No. It was terribly hard to miss out on the 7 years that we missed out on the time we were separated. But without this time, I truly don’t think that we would have gotten as close as we are today. And I also feel that she would not have gotten the time to think it out for herself. I do wish things could have been different, but it all worked out in the end for both of us. Who knows what the future has in store for us.

Ok, Michelle. What’s the point of the story? For one, it showed me that minds can change with the right. What do all this have to do with the title of this blog? Well, I was asked by a co-work this same question. She was the first one I came out to. She began to question my motives for coming out to people at work, stating “If I get pregnant, I’m not going to go telling the everyone at work, it’s my business and no one else’s.” She also tells me that she know these people, and a lot will not take it well. Sure, I don’t want to loose my job. At the same time, I have not been fired and I started coming out over a year ago. Yes, One person I came out to lost her mind and began to spread false rumors that I was suicidal (she claimed to have done a suicidal assessment of me without my knowledge), and even took it to the owner of the business and I’m still here. Does this mean I won’t be fired down the road as I get closer to gong fulltime. Who knows. They have hired two other trans people I know of (never met them though) and one still works there, the other quit. The point is, I’m so tired of playing this she raid. I’m not ashamed of who I am either. I can finally honestly say that and it feels good.

My co-worker questioned why I felt compelled to tell people that I’m transsexual. Is it for acceptance? Well, If it was only for acceptance I think I could possibly get more acceptance by not telling anyone and going on with my life the way it was before. This has not worked for me at all. All it made me was a bitter person. Bitter for letting others control my life. Bitter at others for allowing there predigests control my fears. Bitterness toward myself for allowing all the above. I spent ALL my life to this point looking for acceptance from others. Doing everything I could to be accepted somewhere in society. From putting up masked to hide the true person I was so that no one would laugh at me. Hiding the fact I felt like a women, just to fit in some were. It never worked. Ok sure, I found places to fit in, but the point is I was not being authentic to my true self. They accepted the facade, nothing else because they knew of nothing else. I didn’t feel whole. I was always on guard that I would slip and let it out and everything I built up around me would come crashing down. Not a happy place to be at all.

So Why? Because I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of not being true to myself. I want to be authentic to my soul and live my life authentically. Is that so bad? Going full time will not happen for at least another year, but in the mean time I can be true to myself. If people can’t accept that, then they will not be friends of mine. If they do, then more power to them. At least we can build a friendship on honesty and trust that will go a lot longer than one in lies. Is that so bad? I also know that without coming out, no one will learn anything new about our community. I have been trying my best to educate someone new, one person at a time. Maybe, just maybe, that will make the transition to full time that much easier for everyone involved and maybe the next person that steps in our doors.


chrissieB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chrissieB said...

Hi Michelle,

The thing about coming out as a transsexual is that much of it depends on circumstances.

In no way is it the same thing as coming out as gay, or telling someone that one is pregnant; I think your colleague is comparing apples and pears.

If I were gay, I'd see no reason to shout it from the rooftops, because my sexual orientation is a private matter. It's invisible, certainly at work.

But being a transesxual is NOT invisible. If one intends to stay in the same job, then coming out to colleagues, with the support of the management, is pretty much vital.

ps. original post deleted because of too many damn typos!!!

Keri Renault said...

Your co-employee had an interesting analogy with pregnancy although she didn't use her example as I will.

It's not at all atypical for a "newly pregnant" woman (or couple) to keep the news under wraps until they're relatively certain the fetus will develop healthy and that the prospects for a full term pregnancy are good. But at some point along the way, the news gets out. It's unavoidable as the pregnant mother advances in her 9 month term. The couple may choose not to share the news with co-workers; however, that option isn’t feasible with close friends, family and neighbors. These close confidants WILL notice.

The same is true for coming out as trans. It cannot be hidden once we begin living fulltime. Until then what we choose to share is a critical, personal gatekeeping decision.

Your problem may be one of timing. You've chosen to come out to folks at work quite far in advance of your actual transition. That may be leading some co-workers---like the one you mentioned to question your intentions. Because to date it sounds like they've seen nothing except "business as usual" in your “gender presentation”. My guess is that she/they're wondering if your news is "real" and if it is...when you're going to make the change---perhaps so they can prepare for your transition with staff.

That's probably why many trans-folk time their coming out to coincide with their own internal sense of knowing and not any sooner. Knowing that transition is a step they must take. Knowing that it cannot be delayed any longer. Knowing that they're absolutely, unequivocally prepared....and knowing that regardless of the outcome it needs to happen HERE and NOW.

Transition is a challenging to say the least. We place ourselves front and center…on display and at risk whether we like it or not. But when the time is right you'll know. In that knowing you’ll find strength you never dreamed you had. However, until you absolutely "know" what your next move will be--and when-- you may want to keep your news more closely guarded for your own short term peace of mind.

All the best on your journey, Michelle.

Michelle said...

Hi Girls,
I have to agree that transitioning on the job is something that you can't do invisibly. sometimes things we do to prepare for going full time are visible, such as hrt, electro, etc..
One thing I know without for sure in every fiber of my body is that transition is right for me. This is something I've wanted since I was a child, and now that there has been a glimmer of hope of it actually happening, I'm not giving up.
My main motive for coming out now (as naive as it may sound), is to reduce the shock value when I do go fulltime. I'm also not going around and announcing it to people I don't even know. The few that I have told I have built a relationship up of some period of time.
Keri, Its good to see ya around again. I will be taking your comments to heart, specially since you've been there.
I hope you all have a good Memorial Weekend.
Hugs Michelle