Now that’s a fun title, isn’t it?
When we first start to come out to others, so begins a deluge of feelings, experiences, emotions, desires and dreams. We are no longer holding back our other selves, the years of secrets and loneliness. We are free.
Well, more free than we were before.
Of course, after we come out we wait for the reaction from the person we come out to and it always, always, always better to come out than get caught. I HATE portraying it as being caught but really, that’s what it is. Your sister seeing you at the mall, your significant other finding your panties balled up in a corner of your drawer, your search history exposed.
That’s not to say you need to come out to everyone. I certainly have not and I have no plans to. I believe you should come out to your partner, absolutely. Whether or not you feel the need to come out to anyone else is up to you. Some of us come out to friends and family members and I think it’s wonderful to have people in your life that you are close to. Of course, you never know how they will react, but that’s another topic for another day.
Sure, you may be “caught” by people you never intended to come out to. I am pretty private about this side of me. Which is kind of a funny thing to say for a girl who has hundreds of photos of herself plastered all over this site and Flickr. There are some people I know that I pray to God everyday that they don’t see me at the mall. But for the most part, I feel I am out to everyone I want to be out to.
Why do we come out? Why do we come out to certain people in our lives? Obviously we need to come out to our partners. Most of us WANT to come out to our partners. Most of us know it’s not fair to withhold secrets from our our partners but struggle with how to tell them. But I also think that many of us want to tell our partners because we want to share this side of us with them. This is a deeply personal side of us and we want to be open and honest with them. It’s stressful to have a secret and when you come out, you will find that it’s stressful to share a secret.
Just make sure you are coming out to your partner in the right way. The only problem is that there’s no real right way to tell your partner besides being honest and gentle. Again, this is a subject for another time.
We come out to others for a variety of reasons. You might be struggling with this side of you and it may be torturous to not talk about it. You might be wondering why you have this part of you and what does it mean. Is it ‘it is what it is’ or is it something more? Are you someone who loves to underdress and that’s the end of it or is transitioning the right path for you? Is it somewhere in the middle? There’s a lot of somewheres in the middle. I am in the middle. Coming out to others for support is probably the main reason we do it.
Some of us come out to others because we are, well, tired of keeping it a secret. We get to a point where it almost feels silly to not be open with them. Some of us come out to others because maybe they are an amazing makeup artist and we could really use their help. Some of us come out to roommates because there’s a good chance they’ll see signs, whether flecks of mascara from the night before or panties in the laundry. Or the big transgender pride flag in your room.
It’s freeing to be out. It’s terrifying, yes, but it’s a weight lifted, however in reality it’s a weight that is shared. Coming out (hopefully) creates allies. You have (hopefully) someone to share this side of you and someone to talk to. The sense of relief that we have SOMEONE is a feeling like none others. We came out to someone and they did not set us on fire.
So, now what?
The biggest mistake we make at this point is burning out our allies. Our confidants. Our friends. Our partners. It’s easy and understandable to do. I’ve done it. It’s easy to do because we finally have someone to confide in about this. Depending on how they react, you may have a new best friend to hit the mall with (in either gender), or someone to just talk to. Either outcome is priceless. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to tell someone about the cute dress you saw online, or someone to share contouring tips with or someone to laugh with about the first time you walked in heels.
At the same time, we have someone we can open up to about the hard stuff with. The longing we felt in high school when girls would talk about shopping for prom dresses. The private struggle as we came to grips with who we are, if we did at all. The isolation we lived with as we believed we were the only ones who felt this way.
Coming out to someone is not unlike a dam breaking. Feelings, fears, anxiety, experience all come flooding out and the person who is listening to us is going to get absolutely drenched. After the shock has subsided they will start to absorb, process, and sort what they learned.
We don’t need to pounce on them and share with them every single thing we have been holding in. We can wait on telling them about every experience we ever had or want to have. Give them space. Let them approach this on their terms.
Let them come to you.
It’s easy to overwhelm those we come out to. I came out to my wife while we were dating but at that time it was all about underdressing. We didn’t talk about it much then. Once “real” clothes, makeup, and a wig came into the picture we talked about it constantly. Or to be clear, I talked about it constantly. My wife has always been my biggest support and helps me with everything from thinking up MN T-Girl events to eyeliner techniques but in those early days every conversation I started was about shopping, asking her to come out with Hannah, and a zillion other girly things.
It’s easy to see why some partners feel they are losing their husbands to another woman.
I burned her out. I learned that when you come out to someone you need to let them process and talk about this on their own terms. When they’re ready. When they need to. When they want to. If they want to. Thankfully my wife is as patient as can be and she, well, put up with me. But she rightfully had her limits and was honest with me about how much I was overwhelming her. I backed off.
It’s important that we respect our allies and the people we come out to. If your mom doesn’t want to talk about this, then don’t. It’s hard, but if she wants to, she’ll let you know. It’s also equally important to find support (and friendship) from others like us. Only a t-girl knows why another t-girl is a t-girl. PFALG is a wonderful place to find support from others like us and from others who are just happy to talk to us.
We need all the allies and support we can get. We will make mistakes, whether it’s wearing opaque tights with open toed heels or wearing our best friend out with nothing but conversations about makeup. But learn from your mistakes. Learn from mine.
6 thoughts on “Destroy Your Enemies, Not Your Allies”
Guilty! I’ve actually noticed it, and backed off the “Alicia” talk with my wife. It’s so hard to do because I feel like I’m holding it all in at a time when it all wants to burst out. But I want her to become comfortable with me, and cramming this side of me down her throat won’t help.
Yet another amazing post Hannah! So… about that book 😉
This is a major reason why I have not fully come out to my wife. She has “caught” me before and has been unhappy with my lack of honesty with her. So any discussion about dressing will be overwhelming for her, never mind the wig, makeup, and excursions that I have done. As far as someone to talk to, I am searching for a new therapist who understands gender identity issues, even as I fall into that vast middle you mention. I do not wish to transition, nor do I wish to dress full-time. I am using your posts to better understand myself and how I can talk about this facet of my life. Thanks Hannah!
Yes certainly, in a more perfect world I would have come out to my wife. I’m 62 and only five years ago after decades of shame, depression, and suicide attempts, did I finally come out a therapist — let alone my wife or anyone else. I had confessed to occasional cross-dressing when we were still dating twenty years earlier but that threw her into such a tail-spin that I swore I’d never do it again, and I meant it.
When I realized that I am trans I told her and she was devastated. We cared so much for each other (and still do) but came to the mutual decision to divorce and move far apart. Now, I’m much happier than I’ve ever been and surprised that I gravitated to a need to fully transition, including GCS. My ex-wife and I are still in touch almost weekly but she struggles.
I feel guilty for not being more forthcoming way back when. But I also forgive myself, as I know that I was also not really aware of my authenticity let alone how to possibly get there. And yes, I’d been living a lie for decades so it had become ingrained.
Bottom line: we must be authentic. Ignore, hide, or wish it away at your own risk.
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Good post but the title I find a bit disturbing.
Hannah, hard subject. Well written – less political, more community/family. KC