Not counting my brother, I have not come out to any of the men in my life, despite the fact that my male friends are all decent, good people. They have the same social views that I do, they are friendly, interesting people and they enrich my life. You know, as friends ought to.
When I have come out to my girlfriends, my sisters, and a few female friends, the reactions have ranged from “OMG that is so awesome” to “Okay, but please never, ever talk about this ever again”. Of course, these reactions are very different from each other, and obviously one was a lot more fun than the other. When you come out to someone you really, really don’t know how they will react.
The first girlfriend that I had that I came out to was (and still is, as far as I know) very liberal, very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and identified as bi when I dated her. She talked about how her ex did drag and how they would borrow clothes from each other. After a few months of dating I knew I had to come out to her because I feel when you are in a relationship and you would like it to be a long-term relationship you really need to put your cards on the table. They need to know who you are. I had girlfriends before her but I was convinced I could, you know, STOP being who I was. After three relationships I realized that I was who I was and I couldn’t, and honesty, I didn’t WANT to change. I liked wearing panties and I didn’t want to stop.
As I gathered the courage to come out to her I was encouraged by the things she said, the things she believed in, and her enthusiasm for the LGBTQ+ community. Sparing you the details, she was not excited about this side of myself. She asked me to stop doing it, she asked we not discuss again. She was glad I came out, but didn’t want to talk about it further or ever again.
This, obviously, crushed me. She was the first person I came out to and it went differently than I had hoped and honestly, different than I had expected based on how she identified and her previous relationship. Given everything she believed and spoken about, I was taken aback. However time has given me a different perspective. When someone in your life comes out to you, it impacts you in a different way than you might expect. My mom and siblings fight for LGBTQ+ rights and support every person that identifies as a letter of that acronym, but when your own brother (or son) comes out, well, it becomes a little more complicated. It shouldn’t, but it does.
I do want to make it clear that I am not criticizing her, or my family, however. This was almost twenty-five years ago and the world has, somewhat, evolved in respect to gender and gender identity. I came out as a crossdresser and I have written about before, the word was usually associated with sex and fetishism. She was young, I was naive, and I would come out differently now than I did all those years ago.
The other girls I have come out to have had a variety of reactions and often the relationship status impacted the response. Friends are supportive, girlfriends are a little more wary. I mean, when two people are in a relationship they consider everything because you’re dating someone and thinking if this person is someone you want to spend time with and energy on. If you dated a musician you would consider if you wanted to be in a relationship with someone who traveled a lot. If you date a crossdresser you will also wonder if that is a deal-breaker or not. Seeing your partner in a nightgown is a little weird for some.
One of the commonalities that girls I have come out to have had is that on some level they “get” it. In a small way. My wife said it best years ago. “You just like feeling beautiful”. And she was right. She’s still right. I don’t think anyone doesn’t like feeling beautiful (or attractive, handsome, sexy, cute, or whatever). Not to say we are all vain, but most people have something that they wear that they feel they look good in. And that’s wonderful! If an outfit or a t-shirt or a pair of jeans boosts your self-esteem and confidence then by all means, wear it. My point is that although the girls I have come out to don’t really understand why I like to wear lingerie or makeup (and to be fair, I don’t understand it either), they have identified with the happiness that a cute outfit can bring. They related to wanting to look cute (or sexy or beautiful). This doesn’t make them (or myself) shallow, but I do feel that most of us like to look and feel good.
Before I continue, I do want to acknowledge that I am not painting all women with a broad brush and stating that GIRLS LIKE PRETTY. Everyone is different, everyone has different ideas and perspectives of beauty. Whether a girl feels cute in a leggings and a t-shirt or a corset and stockings or a ballgown, it’s important that we acknowledge that we shouldn’t judge what someone wears, just as we don’t want anyone to judge (or care) what a girl (or a boy) like us wears.
Based on my experiences, I get a lot less anxiety when I think about coming out to the girls in my life than the men in my life. To be clear, I am not considering coming out to anyone else in my life. I do feel that I am out to the important people in my life and I came out to them for different reasons. I came out to my girlfriend (now my wife) because as I mentioned before, you need to put your cards on the table in a relationship. I came out to my sisters and mom because I had hoped they would want to know Hannah. Regardless of that outcome, I am still convinced I made the right choice although I would come out differently now than I did.
The idea of coming out to A MAN is, well, it’s… it feels complicated. “Society” (whatever that is) tells us that gender, clothes, colors, interests are either for BOYS or GIRLS. I think a lot of men get uncomfortable when it comes to men doing things that “are for girls” or at the very least, things that contradict what a man is “supposed” to be.
Again, I am speaking very broadly here.
Men don’t cry, men don’t have emotions, men stir their whiskey with a rusty nail while they watch wrestling.
And yes, I know, NOT ALL MEN.
I think some men get weirded out when another man shows emotions, or put in some effort in their personal appearance, or order a glass of wine instead of a beer. Of course, you could argue that some men feel that they need to BE A MAN 24/7 and do MAN THINGS and have MAN OPINIONS because society (those bitches again) told them that men HAVE to do these things. When another man does anything that “only girls do” they may wonder why on earth another dude wants to do/wear something that is “for girls”. They may associate anything that isn’t 100000% MANLY as feminine and possibly weak and inferior. Why would a man want to wear or do or think or feel anything that is “for girls”?
When I was in grade school boys made fun of other boys if they cried, or were friends with girls, or jumped rope or played volleyball or did ANYTHING that girls did. Boys would gang up and ridicule other boys if they ANYTHING that didn’t involve BOY things. This social dynamic hasn’t changed much. I think part of that dynamic is meant to change behavior that contradicts what a MAN is SUPPOSED to be. These gender roles are taught at a very young and very impressionable age and they can mess us up for the rest of our lives. I had a co-worker once who said that there weren’t any transgender kids he knew growing up. He said if a boy was acting like a girl he and his friends would beat them up until he stopped acting like a girl. Just as we are taught these gender roles growing up, we are also taught to enforce them.
Although no one really can predict how coming out to someone will go, I don’t think the men in my life would end their friendship with me or ridicule me were I to do so. And honestly that is one reason I am still friends with them. It would be difficult for me to have a friendship with someone that is transphobic/racist/sexist.
I spend waaaay too much time and energy pondering things that have no answer. Things that don’t need an answer. Wondering why men (and yes, I know, not all men) think of women as weak. Why is there an association and link between femininity and weakness? Is it because women tend to show their emotions more? Based on my own experiences it is way harder for me to let down my guard and allow myself to show my vulnerabilities than it is for me to pretend to be strong. Although my dad was “around” until I was 18, my mom raised me. An alcoholic abuser doesn’t do much when it comes to raising a child, after all. At least not in a positive, healthy, supportive way.
For the most part, men rule the world. Men set the narrative. Men tell other men how men should be. And how women should be. Television and movie producers have always been predominantly men. But just think how different the transcommunity could be viewed if movies and television never portrayed us as people to be laughed at or ridiculed. How much easier would our lives be if men wearing “girl clothes” weren’t written as fetishists? What was likely meant as a joke has stained people like us for generations.
Men can, and should, do better. As someone who is bi-gender I am aware of how I represent the transcommunity, but in my male life I know I also have a responsibility when it comes to being a better man.