It’s strange how an off-hand comment can stay with you over time. A while back I read “what someone thinks of you is none of your business”. And goodness was that a lightbulb moment.
And it’s soooo true, especially for someone like us. I know a lot of us wonder what others will think when they see us en femme out in the real world. I know that fear, that uncertainty, haunted me and prevented me from going out for a long time. I was fortunate to have a very positive experience the first real time I went out during the day and did normal things, like shopping and getting coffee. Everyone that I interacted with was either very friendly or at least didn’t react to me, if you know what I mean. No suppressed smiles, no sideway glances, no pointing behind my back. Although one’s actions is a usually reliable way to gauge what someone is thinking or feeling, I ended that day with realizing that no one (as far as I knew) cared that I am trans, but also I had no idea what anyone thought about me.
Of course, I am not so naive (or optimistic) to think that there weren’t some people who thought less than positive and supportive thoughts, but that’s true regardless of the gender I present as. Not everyone is going to like you AND that’s okay. You don’t need them to.
True happiness and confidence comes from realizing that you don’t know what people think AND even if you did, you don’t care. Yes, sometimes it stings, but really, It doesn’t matter. I know a LOT of people and some of them are the kindest people you’ll ever meet, others… well, not so much. I feel no need to tell anyone what I think about them. I mean, I’ll tell someone if I think they are thoughtful or kind or have really great taste in clothes, but those are positive things. Those comments can really make someone’s day. I know how I feel when someone says something kind or complimentary so I try to do the same for someone else.
This is all easier said than done. It’s not as simple as just not caring. Of course we care (on some level, anyway). Of course we are terrified about what others think. Almost every single one of us kept, or still keep, this side of us a secret. I didn’t come out to anyone until I was 21. I was terrified of someone seeing the lace of my panties peeking out of the waistband of my jeans. I was paralyzed with fear when I would look at dresses at Target lest someone sees me. Each time I came out to someone I was very nervous, to put it lightly. It took me months to work up the courage and to think about the right words to say. Why was I terrified to come out? More than likely you KNOW why I was terrified. You can probably relate.
Coming out is not without its risks. Coming out, whether intentionally or by accident can, well, it can ruin aspects of your life. You may lose friends and significant others. In some states you could even lose your job. Losing a friend BECAUSE you are trans (or basically, anything other than cis) is…well, I certainly don’t want to be friends with someone if they cut off a friendship with someone BECAUSE that person is trans. I would be a hypocrite if I chose to be friends with someone who was anti-LGBTQ+. AND! It would break my heart a little every time I spoke with them knowing that they didn’t like a part of me, especially when that part of me is my literal identity.
Keeping this side of us a secret is absolutely exhausting. We protect and hide this from much of the world. And we do so in many different ways. We have to be careful no one can see our bra strap under our boy clothes, we are careful no one sees our browser history, and we are careful to make sure every single fleck of mascara has been washed off. This has been my life for decades. DECADES. On the plus side I’ve gotten REALLY good at keeping this a secret. As far as I know, no one I know suspects that I am not always a boy. Paranoia protects us.
Although I suppose it is possible, I can’t imagine living a life not caring about what ANYONE thinks. The people I know, whether friends, family, or colleagues, they enrich my life. A terrible day at work can be made a little better by a friendly chat with a coworker. A friend helps you through a difficult time. Family loves you. Losing all of that would make my life empty. But on a certain level, I would rather cut off everyone I know if I felt that my non-cis gender identity was a deal-breaker (so to speak) for them. Who I am is very important to me and being true to myself is crucial. I can’t deny who I am, I can’t (and wouldn’t) stop being me.
Just as coming out is overwhelming, let’s acknowledge that keeping this side of us a secret is also exhausting but in a different way. As time passes I realize I could care less about what others think of me, regardless of the gender I present as. If someone hates Hannah as she wanders aimlessly and fabulously around a mall, that’s fine. If a friend found out about this side of me, that’s… well, I’d rather not have that happen. If I am going to come out, I want to do so on my terms.
Right now I am simply tired. The past two years have been emotionally and mentally taxing. The optimism I normally feel going into a brand new year didn’t happen this year. I don’t feel I have the energy to fight every little battle anymore. I feel all my energy is being spent on the BIG things. Although my gender identity is one of THE BIGGEST things in my life, caring about what others might think, whether someone at the mall or a friend “discovering” this side of me is at an all-time low. I used to wonder what I would do if a friend “caught” me. Would I lie? Would I make up an excuse? What would I say? I don’t have the mental bandwidth to think or care about any sort of damage control regarding this side of me (or many other things) the way I did two years ago. However, there are a few people in my life that I will ALWAYS and ABSOLUTELY live in fear of being caught (for various reasons) but the vast majority of people? Well… whatever. That being said, this doesn’t mean I will stop fiercely protecting this side of myself any less than I currently do. My gender identity is my business, and I will (as much as I can) come out on my terms, if I do so at all.
It would be nice if every friend I have would love and understand Hannah. I THINK they would, or at least accept me. OR! at the very least I don’t think any of my friends would end the friendship because of my gender identity. It would undoubtedly… ah, complicate some things, or at the very least inspire some very deep (and exhausting) conversations but these potential talks are not something I have the energy for, if I am being honest.
Looking at my website and my social media, you could understandably assume I am out to the world or at the very least don’t care if I am “caught”. I do care if I am outed. I don’t want that at all. As mentioned previously, it would, at the very least, complicate some things and I just don’t want to take anything else on. Life is hard enough as it is. It’s true that coming out can feel like a weight lifted, but I don’t feel that keeping my gender identity is a burden. It doesn’t depress me or torment me, “hiding ” simply exhausts me, but the conversations (and potential drama) would be even more so. Best to keep this genie in a bottle, you can’t unring a bell.