We cannot change who we are.
No matter how many times we purge our closet, we are still crossdressers, t-girls, and however else you choose to identify as.
You can toss out your wardrobe but you cannot walk away from who you are.
And why should you? You’re perfect the way you are.
Once you give yourself the gift of accepting yourself (yes, that sounds a little corny but it truly is a gift), you will feel a huge weight off your shoulders. You are no longer fighting yourself. You are no longer putting the time and energy into denying who you are. You are no longer consumed with wondering why you want the things you want.
And it’s wonderful.
Since you’ve accepted this side of you, you may as well embrace it. You are no longer hating yourself for who you are. It’s time to do the opposite. Love who you are. Love yourself by buying that dress, wearing those panties, waking up in a nightgown, getting a manicure. How long have you been wanting to do that? How many trips to the mall have you walked past that cute dress shop wanting to go in? Probably a million times. Or at least it feels that way.
Going from accepting who you are to full on embracing yourself can be a slow process, but it can also go very quickly. Every step of our journey (ugh, that word) is likely going to be overthought and analyzed to death. It’s true we can overthink this part of us. We can spend years wondering why we are who we are, why we want to wear those patent red heels. But really, there is no why. This is who we are.
Of course, not thinking things through is risky. Remember the Pink Fog?
Being lost in the fog can very quickly lead to making decisions that might not be the best choice to make at that time. Sure, we might go a little crazy with shopping online and our credit card bill takes a hit from building our shoe collection, but hey, a t-girl needs shoes.
The biggest risk when we are lost in the fog is outing ourselves to others when it might not be the best time. Yes, we can overthink and over-analyze ourselves to death, but we need to be very clear and comfortable about who we are before we out ourselves to someone. Sometimes this takes time, sometimes it takes the help of a support group or a therapist.
When coming out to someone, one should be prepared to discuss their sexuality (because you will very likely be asked if you are attracted to men) as well as if you want to transition. We might have very quick responses to these questions, but… are you sure? I don’t think there is much of a connection between gender identity/gender presentation and sexuality, but I think for many of us, especially at first, we are pretty sure this is all about clothes.
“I just want to wear lingerie/dresses/whatever. I don’t want to be a girl, I don’t want to wear makeup, I am not transgender.” How many of us have said this to ourselves or someone else? Sure, it’s impossible to predict or guess what we might want in six months or in ten years, but we need to give this side of a us a little time once we’ve accepted ourselves before we can make such statements.
Go into these conversations thinking about why you are coming out to them. Do you need support? Are you coming out because you are considering transitioning? Are you simply tired of keeping a side of yourself a secret?
Before you come out to someone, I encourage you to live with this part of you for a bit. Try different things. See what feels right. For some of us, this is absolutely about lingerie. They might branch out into dresses or getting a makeover and realize that is not who they are. For some, and this was my experience, I completely thought this was about underdressing. Then I tried makeup. And dresses. And heels. And a wig. I kept going. I stopped identifying as a crossdresser and started to identify as transgender.
And then I stopped. There was no next step. One would imagine I was probably heading towards hormones or living full time with the progression I had. But the idea of hormones or anything “permanent” never appealed to me. I love who I am, and I love being able to go back and forth between genders. I am always comfortable and happy with however I present. I like not having one gender. I like having options.
I came out to my mom and sisters when I identified as a crossdresser. For me, it was all about clothes at this time. Yes, I had a femme name and went out, but I didn’t realize at the time how my gender identity had really changed. And that’s really the key factor, isn’t it? Identity. These clothes weren’t just fabric, they meant something more. They were as tied into my personality and identity as much as anything else that made me who I am.
When I came out to them, I felt like they just…they just didn’t get it. There wasn’t much of a reaction after the initial shock. There were some questions but that was really about it. I was surprised by what I felt was a somewhat muted response. I felt like I dropped a bombshell but the fallout was unremarkable.
Of course, this is a favorable reaction to being disowned, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. When we want to come out to someone, I believe we need to think about what we want from them. For some of us, we want someone to talk to. We want support, we want someone to confide in, we want someone to get pedicures with. I’ve come out to different people in my life for different reasons. Years ago, I came out to a roommate of mine because I was tired of hiding my clothes in case she happened to see my laundry, or whatever. I came out to my family is because I wanted them to know to know all of me, I wanted them to know Hannah.
But that didn’t happen. It’s not their fault. We need to be responsible for explaining our gender identity to others. We need to be a thousand percent confident with who we are so we can help someone else understand this as best as possible. I came out and talked about, essentially, dressing up.
Looking back, I wish I had come out in a much different way than I did. I wish I had waited a little longer. I could have explained myself so much better if I had given it a few more months. I would have come out as transgender. I would have spoken about gender identity instead of just makeup. I feel I missed the chance for them to get to know me, for them to get to know her. I could have explained why this side of me was important and the support I wanted to find from them. You only get one chance to come out to someone and although there is no right way to do this, there are ways I could have done this better. I should have discussed gender identity. I think I avoided this because I didn’t want to overwhelm them. I wanted to ease them into the conversation. But that was the wrong choice. I had one opportunity to come out and I should have gone all in.
I came out to them because although I had accepted myself decades ago, I had now fully embraced who I was. I had moved from lingerie to…well, Hannah, and I knew I was finished with my…sigh, journey. I thought it was a perfect time to come out. I was happy with who I was and I wanted to share this side of me with others. I wanted my family to meet Hannah. To go to a movie with her. To have coffee with her. But after I came out, I didn’t see that happening. Perhaps if I came out to them a few months later things would be different.
Yes, I could revisit the conversation, but truth be told, my family seems a little uncomfortable with discussing this. Not that they are not good people, they are. They love me, the care for me, they are allies of the LGBTQIA community, and are supportive of all gender and sexual identities. But it is different when a family member comes out. It’s normal to take a little time to process it and come to terms with it. I absolutely understand this.
But as I said, if I came out in a different way, perhaps we would be able to have a different conversation, a different relationship, than we do.
It’s safe to say I jumped the gun, a bit. I was lost a little in the Pink Fog. I was so happy with who I was and I wanted to share me with the people in my life. I had a vision in mind with my sister having lunch with Hannah, I hoped for a day of shopping with my mom. But those invitations did not come. If I came out differently, if I waited a little longer, perhaps things would be different.
It is safe to say I was slowly devastated and heartbroken as I gradually accepted that Hannah would not have the relationships with my family that I had hoped for. I held out for the chance for a long time but despite a few attempts at revisiting the conversation, it became pretty clear that who I am makes them uncomfortable.
And that’s okay. Well, it’s not okay that someone’s gender identity makes someone uncomfortable, but I’ve accepted that this will happen.
You cannot expect someone to love you. To love all of you. We are a complicated community. We are not easy to understand. I mean, we don’t even understand ourselves and we are ourselves (not that we need to understand ourselves, we just need to know and accept ourselves).
It took a long time for me to be okay with this. Sometimes I’m not, but for the most part I have accepted this and stopped hoping for a change. Sometimes I get sad realizing that they didn’t even try to understand me. That no one really wanted to meet Hannah. That they didn’t want to know all of me.
I mean, we know that not everyone in the world will love and accept us, whether we are trans or not. But it stings when your family doesn’t. It stings when they don’t even try to understand. Isn’t your family supposed to at least try?
Again, my family is wonderful, and I shoulder some of the responsibility for how things happened. I could have come out better. But there’s nothing I can do about that now.
So, how do we handle not being accepted by the people we love?
How do we let it go?
I suppose there’s two ways.
One way is just telling yourself that it doesn’t matter, but I believe you have to work your way to that level of acceptance. Pretending it doesn’t hurt just suppresses your feelings and well, that’s just not healthy.
The other way is the longer, harder way. It’s the path I took and it wasn’t easy, but it helped me accept the situation. I swung back and forth between emotions and thoughts. I never thought there was anything wrong with who I was, but I felt different around them. I suppose the thing I felt the most, and the strongest, was that I had one shot, I had one shot to tell my family about who I was and there was always this persistent feeling that I fell short in really explaining who I was. I couldn’t go back and redo what I wanted to say. I had to let it go.
Sometimes feelings would come unexpectedly. I was at Target once and I saw a mom shopping with her transgender daughter. Out of nowhere this feeling of sadness filled my heart realizing I would never have that. I was down for the rest of the day and then I slowly let it go.
I have a friend who has sisters who absolutely love to go shopping with their new sister. I’m happy for her, I am happy for them, but if I am being honest, I am also jealous. I need to let it go.
Sometimes I am angry. Or frustrated. But that’s not really fair. It’s not easy to understand who we are. Who we are makes people uncomfortable. I wish it weren’t the case, but that’s reality. It shouldn’t be this way, but you can’t make someone understand you. You can’t make someone accept you. You can’t make your family love her. You have to feel whatever you feel, and then you need to let it go.
I have always said that all of …this, is something you learn by doing. Want to learn how to do your makeup? Go buy eyeliner and practice. Want to be able to walk in heels? Buy a pair of pumps and walk around your house. Make mistakes, learn from them, and try again. Coming out is no different. I learned from this experience. I learned that although there is no right way to come out, you need to be careful, clear, and direct with who you are.
And be gentle. This isn’t easy for them.
If there’s anything to be learned here is that how you come out matters, and that families can be challenging. Every family is different. Every t-girl is different. How Hannah fits (or doesn’t fit) into my family’s life is likely different than how you might fit (or might not) into your family’s life. We all want to be loved, accepted, and understood. But no one owes us these things. For many of us, this side of us creates tension, conflict, frustration, and sadness. For many of us we turn to the people in our lives for love and support and understanding. Unfortunately, we don’t always receive what we were hoping for.
Let it go.