I wish I was fun.
Well, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that others wish I was fun.
I get a lot of messages, whether it’s a direct message on Twitter, an email, comments on posts and photos, as well as Ask Hannah questions. I respond to almost every email, and I post about half of the Ask Hannah questions I receive. The half I don’t post are usually just shorter responses, perhaps a link to where one can buy a gaff, for example. If it’s a question I get asked a lot, such as what to do with your voice, then I’ll reply with a link to a previous Ask Hannah question or article.
Sometimes I don’t post a question because, well, the answer isn’t fun. Oftentimes I have a feeling it’s not what the writer is hoping I respond with. For example, a common question I get is along the lines of “I just bought a pair of panties and I love them! Now I want to take hormones. What do you think??” Obviously I love panties and will never have enough lingerie, but going from panties to transitioning is… well, a little rash. Transitioning doesn’t simply mean you’ll be able to wear what you want whenever you want (I mean, you can do that anyway), it is a serious, life-changing process and it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly or without a lot of soul-searching. My typical response to questions like this is me trying to be supportive but realistic. I will usually recommend that the writer seeks out a gender therapist and speak with their doctor. I know, I’m not fun. Perhaps the writer is hoping I provide them with a link to buy estrogen or simply telling them to go for it.
Most emails I get are asking about coming out to their wife. I could write on and on and on and on about this, and I have and will continue to do. Coming out in it of itself is a GIANT, irreversible moment. It will FOREVER change your life and the person you come out to. Coming out to your spouse?? This will forever change your MARRIAGE. In EVERY single aspect. The person you may own a home with. The person who you may be raising children with. It is probably the most serious, relationship-impacting conversation you will EVER have. There’s absolutely no way this revelation can be summarized with a paragraph. Instead I refer the writer to my previous writings about this very thing. I write a lot about the complexities and the potential aftermath of coming out, but I also write about how this will probably make one’s spouse FEEL. I think most writers are hoping and expecting I can provide them with a few key things to say to help make their coming out as easy (and successful?) as possible. It’s not that easy. Most of what I write about when it comes to coming out to your spouse has to do with respecting their feelings, what they may be thinking and feeling, and being prepared for possibly breaking their heart. I know! Not fun at all.
Real life isn’t fun. A lot of what I write about when it comes to this side of us and our gender identity focuses on being realistic about decisions and expectations. It is not realistic to come out to your wife of fifteen years and then expect to jump into the car and head to the mall to go shopping for heels together. But… that’s what some people are thinking that’s what will happen. I mean, I totally get HOPING that’s what will happen, but again, it’s not likely. What will probably happen is tears, confusion, stunned silence. Perhaps anger. Likely a zillion questions. Perhaps never talking about this ever again. Days and weeks of tension. Perhaps even counseling. I wish I could tell people that this talk will be easy-peasy but for those who have come out to their partners know that this (usually) isn’t simple.
And while we’re on the subject, I know how many different emotions and thoughts we can have when it comes to coming out. Excitement, fear, anxiousness, uncertainty, optimism… the list goes on. Sometimes we are blinded by the Pink Fog and we’re not thinking things through. Sometimes we think how coming out to one person went means it will go in a similar direction to another person we come out to. It’s not the case. I know from personal experience. Every relationship and person is different. Coming out to your spouse is not the same thing as coming out to a coworker. Most of my coworkers wouldn’t care how I identify, they just care if I am getting my share of the work done. But my spouse? Yes, my spouse cares about my gender identity because what impacts my life affects hers. When you date someone, you are probably thinking about what you want or need out of a relationship and if this person is the right person for you. As time passes and as relationships (and your own gender identity) evolve, it’s normal to still think about that. What one wants or needs from a relationship can absolutely change over the years. Coming out to your partner will probably cause them to think about whether or not they want *this* in their marriage. It’s a hard realization to accept, but again, real life isn’t always easy. Relationships are sometimes hard.
I think it’s easy for us to forget how our coming out will be processed by our partners. WE may love who we are and we may love wearing lingerie, but this side of us rarely thrills our partners (and yes, I know there are wives out there who DO love this side of us). It’s also hard for us to equate what this revelation can mean to our partners. Us wanting to wear a skirt is not the same thing as our wives wanting to wear pants. In today’s world, it’s normal for a girl to wear pants (this wasn’t always the case but that’s another topic for another time). It’s not (and it won’t be for a billion years) normal for a guy to put on a pencil skirt. Unfortunately, clothes, for the most part, are genderized. Yes, a dress and a boy shirt are both pieces of fabric stitched together, but on the other hand, I would rather wear femme jeans than boy jeans. Not necessarily because femme jeans are softer, but sometimes I want to wear femme jeans BECAUSE they are femme jeans.
I suppose the closest thing I can think of, from an earth-shattering emotional perspective, is learning your partner has been secretly texting an old boyfriend. I have been in relationships before where this happened and it’s thrown my world off its axis. It changed everything. What were they talking about? Is she going to leave me for him? Was she meeting up with him when she told me she was visiting her family? It puts EVERYTHING into question. When I came out to girlfriends in the past, they had similar fears and thoughts. Again, it may not be a perfect comparison but I think you know where I am coming from.
HOW one comes also comes up a lot. Most of these questions are people looking for the right words to say and when to have this talk. To be honest, I don’t think there ARE the right words for every relationship. Again, what “works” for one relationship isn’t necessarily going to work for another. Timing is also subjective. Honestly the best time to have this conversation is BEFORE you get married. BEFORE you get engaged. BEFORE you live with each other. And yes, I know all of this is easier said than done (and may be too late for some relationships), but two people need to have ALL the difficult conversations before the relationship gets too serious. Divorced? Have children from previous relationships? Financial trouble? Gender identity? Struggle with addiction? Spent time in jail? Ya’ll need to TALK about this stuff, even if it’s hard. ESPECIALLY if it’s hard. Again, not a direct similarity but if I was married to someone for a year and THEN I found out they were $75,000 in credit card debt.. well, let’s just say I would have preferred to know that before we walked down the aisle and tried to buy a house together. Your spouse likely will feel a similar way when it comes to the clothes you want to wear.
Although there’s no universal right way or right time to come out, there are a LOT of wrong ways to come out. And this is where I am Not Fun. I get emails from girls like us telling me that they want to come out to their wives by surprising them. Trust me, no matter how or when you come out, this WILL be a surprise. Some ideas others have had and have run by me (ya’ll don’t need my approval, but I am flattered by someone asking my perspective) include going to a drag show and then telling their wives on the way that they want to do drag. Other ideas have included surprising their wives in the bedroom by wearing lingerie or “letting” their wives find their panties in their sock drawer. Although I can understand why one would entertain these ideas, I don’t think these methods are thought out… at all. Coming out is going to throw your partner off-guard anyway, and adding to the surprise in such a way isn’t going to help. Sexy, intimate time is probably not the best moment to come out. See?? I am SO not fun.
Of course it’s possible you may have come out to your partners by doing these things and perhaps it worked out so it’s entirely possible that I have no idea what I’m talking about.
My point in this, as with ANY conversation about this side of you with your partner about your gender identity MUST be taken seriously. Keeping their feelings in mind should be the priority. Doing what you can to make them feel loved and listened to is THEEEE most important aspect to your coming out and every day after that.
And YES! again, I know this is easier said than done. And YES! I know I have a supportive wife which makes THIS side of me in our relationship a little easier. BUT!!! I have had relationships before where this side of me WAS an issue and absolutely made things more difficult and likely contributed to the relationship ending. I’m sure the girls I was dating had reservations about being in a relationship with someone who wore lingerie. I get it. At the same time, I myself had thoughts about whether or not I wanted to date someone where I couldn’t be ME, you know? Relationships have to come with full disclosure. Two people need to put all their cards on the table and show the other what they’re getting into (for lack of a better word). And! doing this also lets your partner know what you need from the relationship. The first girlfriend I had that I came out to didn’t react well to my coming out. So I told her I would “stop”. By the time I came out to the girl I married, I had accepted who I was and knew that this side of me wasn’t ever going to go away. My future wife needed to know that.
I have a lot of fun being who I am. I DO have fun outings and love fun dresses. I LIKE fun. I don’t take life or myself tooooo seriously, but I take my relationships, and my identity, seriously. I have fun identifying as two gender identities, but I also feel that my life/lives come with some responsibility and repercussions which are totally the opposite of fun. I do love reading emails and comments, and I ultimately believe in being true to oneself, but BIG steps, whether estrogen or coming out, must be taken seriously with a lot of things to consider.