Friday, February 2, 2018
Being Out is Wonderful
For my entire life I carried a deep and dark secret with me. Even when I was five or six years old, I carried this secret and was terrified of what would happen if it ever got out - if my parents ever discovered how I felt. As I grew into my early teens, my secret tore into me. School was already hell, but if my classmates knew who I really was then my life could legitimately be in danger. Who knows what my parents would have done if they had found out I was transgender. I have always been transgender. Some of my earliest memories are of gender dysphoria. But I could never tell anyone. The idea of ever telling anyone was terrifying. That would bring punishment, ostracizing, rejection by my loved ones and everyone in my life and in my community.
In my evangelical church and school I was taught that I was a terrible person for having these feelings. They were sins. It meant that I was an abomination unto the Lord, worthy only of everlasting pain and torment. So I would pray to the God to take these feelings away. I would bargain with God, offering to be a better person if only He would deliver me from these feelings. Other times I would pray to Him and beg him to turn me into a girl. Then, I would feel guilty about that, and beg for His forgiveness. My gender dysphoria left me wracked with guilt.
Later in life, I would fear what would happen if my friends found out about my transgender feelings. Would they reject me, consider me a freak, make fun of me, and exclude me? What if my employers or coworkers found out? Would I lose my job? If I lost my job would I ever be able to get another job? Would anyone ever want to hire me ever again?
Worst of all was my fear that having transgender thoughts was something that no romantic partner of mine could ever understand. I feared that I was destined to be alone in the world, never able to find love, and endlessly rejected by partners.
None of that was to be the case.
The first person I ever came out to was a friend in high school. Though she was a year under me, she seemed more worldly and adventurous. This was probably because I had a fairly insular upbringing in a seriously conservative and religious family. One day she offered to dress me up as a lark and I enthusiastically went along with it. She didn't reject me. We were still good friends after that. In fact, with her help, I came out to more friends. Eventually I even came out to the girl I was dating.
I've come out to many romantic partners in fact. Some times they've rejected it outright. The old "it's okay if you do it, just don't do it around me. I don't want to see it." Others said they were cool but were secretly bothered by it and let their anger over it fester. It got me dumped a couple times. But, other times, I met people who knew I was harboring transgender inclinations and thought it was cool.
Even when I moved to NYC after college, I was still afraid to come out to friends. My upbringing had left me with a deep sense of shame and fear. I didn't want to be honest about who I was because I thought that everyone would reject me. Slowly, but surely, I came out to my friends. And eventually, when I met my life partner, I came out to her too. Every time I did I feared rejection. But, people always surprised me.
Now that I'm 100% out it feels great because I no longer have to carry that secret with me. There are still remnants, rogue thoughts that leave me riddled with doubts. But my friends, my family, my co-workers, my employer, and most importantly, my partner were accepting of me as who I am.
I've been lucky. I know not everyone's coming out goes so smoothly. I think about Leelah Alcorn and how that so easily could have been me. I could have written her letter, every word of it. It still rips me apart every time I read it. So, I've been lucky.
But I'm glad I finally came out. I still deal with that fear and that shame, but at least I never have to deal with that secret ever again. I love that I have the freedom to just be me.