Many of us were, or perhaps even still, in denial about who we are and about what we want to wear. Once we stop denying that we want to wear makeup, or heels, or panties, or… a latex french maid outfit, we begin to accept that this is who we are.
Once we accept it, in some ways, we feel a little powerless. We are no longer denying our wishes or desires. We have let our heart decide something for us and we have given something up. We have given up our resistance.
Feeling beautiful has won.
And what’s wrong with that? I think it’s wonderful. We have denied, resisted, and ignored a part of us that wanted to wear a beautiful dress for too long. This feeling became too strong, too loud, too persistent for us to ignore. We have accepted that this is who we are.
You may finally admit to yourself that you are a crossdresser, or perhaps you identify as transgender, or maybe you aren’t ready, or don’t want to use a word quite yet about what this side of you is. Don’t be in any hurry to label yourself. It will probably change over time anyway.
Acceptance is one thing. You have acknowledged that this part of you isn’t going away, you can’t resist it, and despite years of purging, you always find your way back to the lingerie department or shoe store. This isn’t a phase, you are not going to outgrow it, you aren’t going to change.
And why should you? Why should I? I’m not going to change.
Beyond acceptance is embracing this side of you. Many of us take a long time to love and celebrate this part of themselves, if they ever get there at all. The difference between acceptance and embracing comes down to, in my opinion, joy.
Yes, you have accepted you like wearing panties, but embrace this about yourself. Let yourself find happiness in choosing what you will wear each day. Have fun with this side of you. Be excited. Be curious. Let yourself add the prettiest pair to your lingerie drawer.
Move beyond the feelings that haunted you before. You’ve looked longingly at that dress at the mall for too long, now it’s time to add it to your closet. Allow yourself to find happiness in shopping for a beautiful wardrobe.
Embracing this part of us can take a long time, but it can also go very quickly. This is a good reminder to be aware of the Pink Fog. Embracing this part of us is wonderful and its truly the best gift you can give yourself, but it’s important to use caution.
It’s tempting to want to share this part of us with people in our lives. We have gotten over the self-imposed (and hopefully the society-imposed) taboo about breaking out of gender norms and gender roles. We have decided to be happy, to be ourselves, no matter what box is checked on our drivers license. We have conquered something internally, something that we wrestled with for too long. We have made steps (even baby ones) to challenge what the world thinks a boy should wear.
We have become queens.
Or french maids.
We want to share our victory with the world, or at least with the people in our lives. We are ready to say that we have denied this part of ourselves for too long, but we have decided to love ourselves, to stop fighting who we are, and to present as any gender as we wish. We are, and we should be, proud of ourselves.
We are living our truths.
I was at a point where I also wanted to share this side of me with the people in my life. I felt as I had broken through the societal illusions and restrictions and boundaries of what gender was and what we were taught it should be. I felt… enlightened. I no longer thought I should deny who I was and I realized how… silly gender norms were. I was told all my life boys don’t wear skirts but no one really knew why that was. I felt like a rebel in a way, pushing back against something arbitrary but also in a way, strictly enforced.
Yes, this is a little extreme but when we conquer something, especially when we overcome something in ourselves that held us back for some long, a victory can come of as a little…. grandiose.
If I didn’t think it was a big deal to wear a dress, why would anyone?
Of course, it’s not that simple. Coming out to my family resulted in varying, if not disappointing, outcomes. Some of that is on me and the way I came out, but there’s nothing I can do about that now except learn from it for if and when I come out to anyone else in my life.
It’s natural and normal for us as people to want to share our victories and moments of enlightenment with others in our lives. We get a raise, we hit a hole-in-one, go on an amazing vacation… these are things we share on Facebook.
But those are not the same kind of victories as embracing the part of you that wants to wear whatever you want to wear. This is a complicated and at the same time, a very simple thing to understand. It’s complicated because people want to know why we are who we are, but there really isn’t a satisfying answer for anyone. It’s simple because, well, it is what is. We just want to wear makeup, or heels, or panties or a latex french maid outfit and that’s all there is to it.
Still, the feeling of wanting to break free and sharing this side of us persists. It grows, it subsides, ebbs and flows. Like a river, it can rage or slowly flow. This feeling, along with getting lost in the fog can lead to coming out to others in our lives that…well, they don’t really need (or want) to know.
We have to think clearly and thoroughly about who we come out to, as well as why we want to. Being honest with our significant others, partners, spouses, yes, that is a given. But what about the others in our lives? Do our siblings need to know? Do your children? Parents? Friends? Co-workers? Mailman?
Did my mom and siblings need to know? No. No, they did not. So, if they didn’t need to know, then why did I come out to them? Simply put, I wanted to share this part of me, this literal other half of myself. I was happy with who I was, I was proud that I found who I was. I wanted them to know me as both of the genders I identified as.
I wanted to go out for coffee with my mom, to shop with my sisters.
Again, coming out to them was met with an outcome that wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I had to take a chance.
For those like myself who live in-between, it’s a little different than those who feel they want to live full-time, take hormones and/or transition. I do not think that anyone else needs to know about Hannah. If I come out to anyone else it’s because I want to.
So, do I want to? Sometimes. Not often. Sometimes I feel like being honest with a few close friends, not necessarily because I want them to know Hannah (but there is that) but because they are lifelong friends and this is an important part of who I am. I can’t really put my finger on it, but sometimes I feel that I should be honest with them.
There were times in the early days when I was lost in the fog and almost came out to others. Looking back I am so glad I didn’t. Coming out then would have been a mistake. Like coming out to my family, I lacked the perspective that I have now. I didn’t know myself then as I do now. Once you come out, then it’s out there. You can’t unring a bell, there are no second chances. Believe me, I know.
Some of this seems contradictory to my core beliefs. I believe that we are beautiful and whole and who we are should be embraced and celebrated. We should not feel ashamed about what we wear or about our gender identity or how we present. We should be honest with ourselves and with others.
However, I also believe that who we are cannot really be explained. It’s not easy to understand why anyone is the way they are. No one really asks someone why they like to golf or why they like wearing a certain color. These are hobbies and preferences that make someone who they are. But when you come out and say that you love wearing skirts or nightgowns then we are hit with an endless amount of questions.
Yes, I know wearing a dress is not the same thing as driving a little cart around a golf course, but I think you see my point.
Who we are is easily misunderstood. Aside from being honest, there’s no right way to come out to someone. If I had a second chance to come out to my family, I would certainly do it differently. I would choose my words more carefully. I would be more clear because it is important to control the narrative. If you aren’t direct and honest, then it is easy for someone to misinterpret or misunderstand this part of you. I know it’s not easy for us to understand why we are who we are, let alone someone else understanding it.
Coming out to someone is trusting them with something that could have a significant impact on your life. Come out to a co-worker? They could report you to Human Resources and as of this writing it is legal for you to be fired for being transgender in 26 states.
Who we are is beautiful but easily misunderstood. We are feared and hated. We need to be safe at all times and that has as much to do with being aware of our surroundings as well as being careful as to who we come out to. I hope for a day when things gender identity and gender presentation are as boring and as commonplace as golf, but I don’t think that day is coming anytime soon.
16 thoughts on “Unringing a Bell”
Great understanding and philosophy. Must be some thing in the water. Totally agree and have been able to step out into the world learning from and to some degree ignoring the societal ties that confined my early (most of) life. Read somewhere the first half of our life we are generally spent conforming to other peoples expectations and rules whereas the second half we should spend enjoying as we see fit.
Marie Anne Greene
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Thank you Hannah! Well written and truly appreciated. You have an enormous insight into our world.
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Thank you for this very thoughtful and important little essay. Every one who has ever dressed in clothes appropriate to the biologically other gender according to the culture in which they live should read it. I have been reading about and personally exploring genderbending since the 1960s. Keep up the good work.
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Hannah, beautiful article you are right on to the feelings of so many of us. One point you made was wanting to tell your siblings, it would be so nice. All I have is sisters and they are so close, they shop together, take trips, and so on. They come back and talk about it and how I long to be part of what they do, but I am never invited. I am sure if I came out to them I would still be excluded. Perhaps the exclusion would even mean never wanting to be with me at all.
I accepted myself as a CD about 15 years ago and, like you said, my life has been much better, however I still keep it a secret to most except my wife. Once again beautiful article, Carolyn
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Hannah, this is another well written and powerful post about our need for acceptance and balancing it with our need to be cautious. While I am in a protected state (MA) and work for an inclusive company (gender identity and expression are separately and explicitly called out in HR documents), I would not think of coming out to them unless I were moving towards transition (which I am not doing any time soon). Would I love to wear a dress and cute sandals to work in the summer like many others in my building? Sure, but ringing the bell like that is not going to happen for me, given my home situation (unaccepting spouse).
So the first part of your post fits me, I have accepted myself and am happy with it. I also accept that sharing this with others who know the male me is not a path that I am on at present.
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I’ve had to force Alicia back into the closet after a rough conversation with my wife. I’m hurt that I can’t express this part of me as much as I would like 😢
Thank you Hannah for taking the time and effort to write this book! We need this book, society needs this book. As I was reading the chapter I kept thinking to myself, “people are/were hated and feared for presenting themselves in a manner not consistent with societal norms, these individuals are fired from jobs and blocked from further employment, they are made to be outscasts, possibly shunned from family and friends, society doesn’t want or except them and they become pariahs because they wear a certain type of clothing and apply colors to their face.”
It felt for a minute like I was reading an Orwellian novel from another time and place!
Thank you again and I will do my best to present myself with dignity whenever I am out and about to represent our community with pride and do my part to continue the process of erroding the bizarre and engrained expectations of our society.
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You write about second chances to present Hannah to your family differently. I rather doubt if you had a second chance or a 100 chances the outcome would be any different. It’s not about you and how you come out or present it it’s about the people and their learned opinions and feelings towards this issue.
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Great advice Hannah, i am on the pink fog and want to tell my neighbors and daughter, however i can’t put the Genie back in the bottle. Better head your advice
Thanks for your insight. Signed Abbie Michelle EnFemme