A few years ago I went to a book release party for a writer I really liked for a long time. The event was hosted by a local bookstore and the author would be there to sign copies of their newest novel. Up to that point I had purchased every book they published and read every word they had written. I was thrilled to meet one of my favorite authors.
I purchased my book and waited in line for an hour to meet the writer. I am not sure if they were having a bad day or what, but as I got closer to the front of the line I could hear the interactions between other fans and the author. The writer was rude, irritable, and clearly did not want to be there.
I got my book signed, went home a little brokenhearted and put the book on my shelf. I was devastated that one of my favorite writers wasn’t who I had hoped they would be. Even today that book is still unread as it reminds me of that day.
I understand that everyone has a bad day and celebrities have no obligation to be friendly and I should get over it, but my point is that it’s a risk to meet your heroes as they may not turn out to be who you hoped they would be.
I think and I overthink a lot about almost everything, especially about gender and my gender identity. I think about how genderized everything is, I think about how society can freak out when a boy wears fingernail polish, I think about how everything for girls is pink.
I think about how in the closet I am, despite how often I go out and how active I am online, not only with my website but with Twitter and Flickr as well. I think about how much this side of me is a secret and how some of my closest friends have no idea (as far as I know) about Hannah.
I go back and forth with wanting to come out to people in my life and being content with who knows. As much as I like shopping or running errands en femme, there are times when it would be nice to have dinner with an old friend. On the other hand, coming out is exhausting and not without its risks.
When I have come out to people in my life, it has (mostly) been for a purpose. I have come out to three significant others because they needed to know all of me. As the relationships progressed and became more serious, it was important that they knew just in case this part of me was a deal-breaker.
When I came out to my sisters and mom, I came out because I had hoped that Hannah would be a part of the family sometimes. Or at the very least be able to hit the mall with them.
Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way. It is what it is.
Coming out is one of the most complicated, hardest things we will ever do. It’s different than coming out as a gay, I think. When I have come out to others the conversation is peppered with things like “I’m transgender but…” as well as “I identify as bi-gender and…”. There are so many facets and nuances that make up who I am and my gender identity.
When my brother came out as gay, everyone knew what that meant. When I came out as transgender, it took (and still takes) a lot of clarification as to what being transgender means to me and who I am.
We all know it’s a risk to come out. Relations could end, friendships could become strained, families could be changed. We know this. It’s frustrating because there is nothing wrong with who we are. We should not be ashamed of our identities or what we like to wear.
If anything embracing who we are should be commended. It’s so hard for some of us to accept that this is who we are, let alone come out to the people in our lives that we love. We want to share this side of us, we don’t want to hide.
But coming out rarely goes the way we think it will go, let alone how we want it to go. It was (and still is) naive to think that after coming out my sisters would enthusiastically plan a day out shopping and having coffee with their new sister. I have come to terms with their reaction, but I still get a little sad that hitting the mall with my sisters will never happen.
I wish to stress that someone’s reaction to this side of us is not necessarily indicative of the person they are. My brother is gay, my mom and sisters are liberal and we have all friends that identify in many ways. However, it’s not uncommon to be a little… uncomfortable? Unsure? Weirded out? when your son or brother comes out.
Having said that, I was a little surprised that my coming out was not met with the… well, enthusiasm and support I was hoping for, especially considering my family’s embracing of the LGBTQ+ community. Like meeting your heroes and seeing that they are not the person you thought they would be, it can be a blow to learn that the person you come out to does not react the way you hoped, or expected them to.
Having a positive experiencing when you come out to someone is absolutely amazing. It’s not uncommon to want to do it again based on a supportive reaction. But coming out is a different experience each time you do it, not only for the person you come to, but for you as well.
Besides being prepared and honest about yourself, there’s really no right way to come out to someone. There are no magic words that work. There is no perfect scenario to bring up this topic. That being said, there are a lot of wrong ways to have this talk.
Expectations are a tricky thing. Often they are based on what we hope the outcome will be. It’s important to not have any preconceived notions of what this revelation will result in. When we do, we put ourselves at risk of being letdown, disappointed, and brokenhearted. It’s not unlike meeting someone we admire. We hope that they are as wonderful as the books they write or the songs they sing and it can be difficult to discover otherwise.