Ask Hannah!

I am in the process of transitioning from male to female and I am wondering whether I should present myself to my friends and relatives in female attire or male attire. No one knows about my decision except my wife. Our daughter is somewhat suspicious but she has not approached either one of us. What is your opinion ?? I will soon need to live as a woman for an entire year before I start the entire process. I am already on hormones and some body changes have already started (subtle). My wife is very supportive and is looking forward to us being best girlfriends. Your help will we greatly appreciated.

Coming out is one of the biggest steps you will ever take in life, and it will have ripple effects impacting everyone you know.  Some relationships may change and may become strained or strengthened.

To almost every one of us, identifying as transgender means something different.  Your transition is a moment in your life that is different than anything I have experienced, and your journey and gender identity is different than my own.  Our situations are very different, so although I can’t speak from experience, I hope I can be helpful.

As I mentioned before, coming out impacts everyone in your life… especially our partners.  Not only does this affect our relationships with our families, friends, neighbors and anyone else, it will also affect our partner’s relationships too.  It sounds like you are doing the right thing and taking each step alongside your wife.  Keep doing that.  When I have come out to others previously it was always after discussing it with my wife.  She’s very good at helping me sort my thoughts and helping me prepare for anything in my life, whether it is a talk like this or everything else.  It’s also a matter of courtesy to give her a heads up about who knows about this part of my life.

If you are working with a therapist, particularly a gender therapist, I would absolutely heed their advice.  They’re more qualified to guide you through this, especially as it pertains to your family.

That being said, if I were to come out to anyone else in my life, I would have a conversation with them first in male mode.  This revelation is a lot to take in, and the talk before them seeing Hannah would be a little less overwhelming.  If the person I came out to wanted to meet Hannah, then I would show them a photo before meeting them en femme.  The photo would also prepare them for what Hannah looks like. Meeting someone as a different gender identity and presenting as a different gender is a lot to process, and a photo first may help.

Plus I look better in photos than in real life.  🙂

Come out to people as you and your wife feel it is appropriate.  If you are already showing changes in your physical appearance you may want to do it sooner rather than later as people will start noticing (and likely talking and speculating about) what they are seeing.  It’s good to be able to control the narrative.  If I had a strong suspicion that someone knew about Hannah, or saw panties peeping out under my jeans, I would have a conversation with them to get ahead of it.  I would want to make sure that they would keep what they noticed, or suspected, a private matter.  Basically I would want to stop them before they started to gossip.

I hope this is helpful and I wish you the best of luck.

Love, Hannah

Support Group for Parents of Transgender Children

Earlier this month the Twin Cities chapter of PFLAG had their final meetingPFLAG is one the longest serving support groups for the LGBTQ+ community and they will be missed.  Thankfully they have many other chapters around the state and the country.

I was happy to hear that a support group for parents of transgender children will continue to meet as a separate group.

They will meet on the 3rd Tuesday of the month, from 6:30-7:45 pm at The Family Partnership, 4123 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406.  For more information, please contact them via email: info@tsupportgroup.com
Love, Hannah

 

New En Femme Blog!

There was a lot of comments and emails after I posted “Meeting your Heroes” not long ago.  Support, or lack of it, from our family was still on my mind as I wrote this article for En Femme.  The holidays can be a tense time for everyone, especially when they know about this side of us.  This thinking helped inspire this article and I hope you like it.

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The latest article with blogger, trans-activist and fashionista, Hannah McKnight is now available on our Learning Center! Hannah’s blog discusses more in-depth her journey as a self-described T-girl.
 
In previous articles for the Learning Center, Hannah has discussed the potential positive and negative consequences of coming out to one’s significant other. In her latest article – “Surviving the Holidays” – Hannah talks about coming out to one’s family members and shares her advice for getting through stressful family gatherings during the holiday season. Read it here>>

As Hannah says, keep your “chin up and heels high!”

Love, Hannah

New En Femme Blog!

My newest blog for En Femme has been posted!

From the Learning Center:
Hannah on Coming Out – A Perfect World

 

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The latest article with blogger, trans-activist and fashionista, Hannah McKnight is now available on our Learning Center! Hannah’s blog discusses more in-depth her journey as a self-described T-girl.

In her previous article for the Learning Center, Hannah discussed the potential negative repercussions of coming out to one’s significant other. In her latest article – “A Perfect World” – Hannah talks about when ‘the Talk’ goes exactly the way we’d hoped or even better than we’d ever dared to dream. Read it here>>

I hope you like it

Love, Hannah

 

Meeting Your Heroes

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.

Love, Hannah

 

 

PFLAG Events in November

PFLAG’s mission is uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies.  PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy.  PFLAG has 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

PFLAG was the first support organization I heard of when I was growing up.  I attended their meetings a few years ago and found it was a supportive and inclusive community.  PFLAG is a wonderful group, especially for our spouses and family members and I am happy to promote the events the Twin Cities chapter has scheduled.

November’s meeting will feature Minnesota author Ali Sands who wrote “Love Appears in Whatever Form It Chooses”.

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Ali Sands shares her experience in finding her own identity as her partner transitioned from female to male. Using humor, education and providing safe spaces for public listening, Ali creates an inclusive environment for learning about gender, identity and relationships

Please join them for their November meeting.
Tuesday, November 19th at 6:30 pm
Union Congregational Church
3700 Alabama Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55416
Love, Hannah

Love and Marriage and Crossdressing

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Hi girls!  I am getting close to finishing my first draft of ‘In-Between’.  Many of you asked for a section about coming out to your spouse after you’ve gotten married.  This wasn’t an easy chapter to write and I really want to thank everyone who wrote in about their experiences with this.  Marriage is not easy, and we all have reasons why we didn’t, or still haven’t, come out to our spouses. 

I do not believe that I am doing any favors by sugar-coating any aspect about who we are.  I would love to say that the entire world loves us, but that is not reality.  The truth is that when we go out into the real world there’s the chance that we will be looked at, laughed at, or worse. Rather I see what I do as a obligation to talk about what might happen in any scenario, whether it is hitting the mall or waxing your eyebrows and how to deal with any sort of comments or criticism.  It’s important to be prepared in everything we do.  Whether it’s making sure you have an extra car key hidden in your purse or mentally preparing yourself for the dude at the coffee shop who suppresses a smirk at seeing us, we need to be realistic, or perhaps even pessimistic, about what happens when we venture out of our homes or when we come out to someone.

I would love to have written an upbeat, completely optimistic book about how the world loves us and that nothing bad will ever happen and there will ever be a syllable of criticism or piece of legislation) towards us.  But that’s naive.  It’s important to be honest about who we are, not only with ourselves but with our partners.  

This chapter reflects the sometimes brutal and uncomfortable reality of not being honest with our partners.  

Love, Hannah 

You have done the impossible.  You have found your missing half, you have met your soulmate.  Until this moment, you never thought you would find THE ONE.  Sure, you’ve had crushes before, you’ve been in love, perhaps in a few relationships, some of them were even serious, but this, this is it.

You have fallen head over (high) heels for someone, someone who brings out the best parts of you, the one whom you would do anything for.

Anything including ignoring and denying this side of you.  You know what side I’m talking about.

You might be anywhere between wearing a pair of panties under your suit to work a couple of times a month to stepping out to the mall or club every weekend, but there’s a side of you that is not out to the world.  And you intend to keep it that way.

Even from the new love of your life.

You can control this, can’t you?  Just… don’t wear lingerie.  Or makeup.  Or that cute dress.  You are so in love that you can do anything, even overcome the pull of beautiful clothes.  This part of you would confuse this new, amazing person in your life.  They might be scared off.  They won’t understand this side of you.

It’s true, they probably won’t understand this side of you.  I’ve been married for over ten years and my wife doesn’t understand this side of me.  I don’t either.  But this is who I am.

It’s easier to put this part of us away.  To tell ourselves it was, or is, a phase.  To tell ourselves that we have (or will) outgrow this.  Better to keep it a secret and never do it again than risk losing your incredible love.  You know you should be honest, you know you should put all your cards on the table.  But part of you tells yourself that you are not *that* person anymore.  You have conquered your desires and since you won’t be dressing anymore, there’s no harm in continuing to keep it from them and from the world.

So, time passes and time moves quickly.  The relationship is amazing and it’s everything you could have ever wanted from life.  You make commitments.  You buy a dog, you move in together, you propose, you get married, you have children.  You have a brand new life, a wonderful life.  You find joy in the routine, you find joy in your new shared life.  You face everything everything together.  You are married to your best friend and life is perfect.

But something is missing.  Your eyes linger on the girl at the mall.  Not because she’s cute, but because her outfit is.  You look longingly at your wife’s panties as you fold laundry.  You admire the shade of the lipstick she’s wearing.

Something is stirring inside you.  Something you thought you moved on from.  You heard that this side of you would never go away and that this is who you are, but you thought for sure you would be the exception.  That you would be able to move on.

But you heard correctly.  This is who you are.  This is not something that can be, or should be, overcome.  Instead this is something you need to be honest about.  Honest with yourself, and honest with your partner.

You find yourself wondering if you can fit into your wife’s new skirt.  You play around with the new eyeliner she picked up.  Your Googling takes you to websites you hope she doesn’t see.

You have started to keep something from your partner.  You don’t mean to, and you certainly don’t look at it that way.  We all have secrets, right?  But you know that this is a little different.  You don’t mean to be deceptive or dishonest, and it’s easy to justify keeping this from them because, well, they won’t understand.  Besides, you suppressed this part of you for the last few years, you can push it back down again.

But you can’t.  Who we are demands to be acknowledged.

Paranoia and guilt and fear seep in.  Terrified she might wonder why one of her bras is stretched out.  Scared she’ll see the browser history on your laptop.  The guilt from keeping this from her.

More justification sets in.  You’re protecting this part of you from her because she wouldn’t understand it.  It would only worry her.  You don’t need to put them through anything else in addition to everything you both have going on in life.  Raising a family is hard enough, she doesn’t need to be worried that her husband is transgender.

But this justification is usually a selfish one.  We think we might be doing something… noble by keeping this from them.  But not being honest with someone is usually done for the benefit of yourself.  Quite simply, you have a wonderful life with a beautiful person and it’s all you’ve ever wanted and you are terrified that this part of you will change everything.  So, just like before you met, this side of you is kept a secret.

This side of you started to stir, but now it’s getting harder to ignore.  You might be doing things you never thought you would do again. Maybe you have a pair of panties hidden in your gym bag.  Maybe you dress up in your hotel room when you are on that business trip.  Not only are you dipping your toe back into the water, you are also doing something you thought you would never do, which is not being honest with your partner.

The guilt grows.  You feel guilty for giving into this side of you.  You thought you conquered this, you thought you were strong enough to never ever do this again.  You are haunted and consumed by keeping something from your partner.  You feel terrible for not being honest with them.  You realize that yes, you should have told them years ago.

But now what?  You are eight years and two kids into a marriage.  You have a solid, wonderful life and you have a giant secret that could upend everything.  What will happen if and when they find out?

Yes, you can choose to keep it a secret.  This is the easiest and hardest thing to do.  It’s also the most dishonest.  It simply isn’t fair to keep anything from your partner.  You can justify something all you want, you can convince yourself you are protecting them, but in reality you are only protecting yourself.

I do not believe that we want to keep this, or anything, from our partners.  I believe that most people are good people and want to be honest with our spouses.  Keeping this a secret is on a different level, or so we tell ourselves.  It’s too late to tell them, we say to ourselves.  The longer we hold this secret the more it consumes us, and, in a way, makes it easier to continue to be dishonest.  It sometimes becomes easier to tell a big lie if you’ve been telling small ones.

And let’s not pretend that this isn’t lying.  You can tell yourself that there is a difference between not being forthcoming with everything and lying, but I don’t think our partners care about semantics.  If you are doing something or wearing anything you don’t want your partner to know about, then it’s dishonest.

I am not here to point fingers or shame anyone.  I know who we are is not easy.  I know how hard it is to come out to someone.  I am not perfect.  I let relationships get serious before I told them.  I learned from mistakes.  If you take anything from what I write, it’s that we need to be honest with ourselves, that there is nothing wrong or shameful about who are, and that this is not something we can stop.

This part of us is not easy to understand, it’s not easy to accept.  It’s not easy to explain.  It’s understandable why we want to, and why we try, to keep this from others in our lives.  But secrets have a way of being found out.  This is one of our biggest fears.

Perhaps your spouse is going through some old boxes in the garage, boxes they haven’t touched in five years.  Pretty safe place to keep your clothes, maybe.  But one day they’re doing some spring cleaning and they find heels that are too big for them.  A skirt that is definitely not theirs.  There’s confusion at first, and soon a slow, creeping realization as to who those clothes belong to.

Maybe your wife needs to use your laptop real quick to look something up and your browser history tells a story.  They always do.  Your phone is left in the other room and your spouse sees you have a notification of an email from Ashley.

Who’s Ashley?

Well, Ashley might be a t-girl you met online one night whom you struck up a friendship with.  But that’s not necessarily the assumption your partner will make.  Ashley is that new girl in your office.  An old girlfriend.  Someone your wife doesn’t know.  Your wife starts to think, and fear, the worst.  Something bad is happening, they think.  Their partner is having an affair.

But no, Ashley is a crossdresser from Pittsburgh and is emailing you a link where you can buy some amazing heels that go up to a size 14.  Whether or not your spouse is relieved by this can vary depending on the person.

Ashley’s email, the box of clothes, your browser history will turn your life upside down.  It’s completely natural for your spouse to perhaps do a little more digging into these revelations.  Yes, I suppose you could call it snooping but at this point you’ve been keeping something huge from them and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone who is lying to their partner.

You have now been caught.  Now what?

Everything is now under scrutiny.  You have lost your credibility.  How long have you been doing this?  (All your life, but that’s neither here or there at the moment).  Do you want to be a woman?  Are you gay?  Why did you lie to me?  That business trip last year?  That really wasn’t a business trip, was it?  You got an amazing makeover and spent the day en femme in Boston or wherever.

In situations like this, a couple deals with two things.  Not only is there the whole “my husband wears panties” fallout, but they also face the reality that you have this other life that you were lying about.

The bombshell has gone off and your life is a mess.  It might not always be a mess, but it probably will be for a while.  It will certainly change things. Not only do you have to come out to your partner, you are also doing it under the worst possible circumstances.  You didn’t want to come out, you didn’t want to be caught, and your spouse certainly didn’t want to find out this way.  They will likely feel angry, hurt, betrayed, and scared.

Be honest, can you blame them?  They may feel deceived because, well, you deceived them.  You weren’t honest with them.  They’re afraid of someone finding out, afraid of losing their husband.  They’re confused because we are not easy to understand.  You might feel that betrayed is a bit of a strong word but think about it.  There was something about you, something significant, that you held back from them.  You didn’t disclose something about yourself that you should have.

The dust will settle.  Slowly.  It will probably take time.  You and your spouse will have some really, really big talks.  Possibly with a counselor or a therapist.  Is your marriage in trouble?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  You did lie about something for a pretty long time.  You may not think that wearing heels is the equivalent as to having an affair or something, but that trust is destroyed.  Hopefully you will have a chance to rebuild it.

Your partner will need to fully grasp what this side of you means.  Why are you who you are?  Why do you want to wear makeup?  Why is this so important to you?  Are you gay?  Do you want to transition?

I am not saying that they will accept or understand this side of you.  This revelation, to be honest, has damaged many relationships to the state of disrepair.  Not necessarily because of your choice in underwear, but the fact that you lied for so long.  Possibly about many things.

I know that this is uncomfortable to read.  I know I am voicing the fears many of us have who haven’t come out to our spouses.  I know many will read this and will resolve to continue to keep this part of them a secret because of this potential fallout.  No one wants to put their spouse through this.  No one wants to put themselves through this either.  I wish I could be more gentle, but I really am not doing anyone any favors by pulling punches or downplaying what could happen if and when you are “caught”.

Getting caught from anyone takes away controlling how you come out to someone.  I wanted to come out to my mom and I’m glad I did because it was a lot easier to do this when I sat down with her one day as opposed to the day I bumped into her at the mall.  Talking to her, as well as talking to anyone, allows you to slowly ease them into this revelation.  It shocked my mom, as it would shock anyone, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like for both of us if she found out that day in JC Penney.

I came out to my wife two years before we got married.  I came out to her because she  needed to know exactly who she was marrying.  It wasn’t necessarily the same as needing support, but it was more like putting all my cards on the table.

If you are already married, then coming out becomes a lot harder.  But I still believe it’s the right thing to do.  I believe in honesty with your partner and I know you do too.  I know that this is on a different level than almost anything else we can possibly imagine, but it’s still important to tell the truth.

Some of us come out to our spouses because of the same reason we come out to anyone.  We come out because we want and need the support.  Perhaps this part of us creates a lot of conflict, tension, and uncertainty in us.  Perhaps we aren’t sure what this means.  Maybe we know that all of this is more than just wanting to feel beautiful from time to time.

I hope everyone is in a relationship with the person they love and trust more than anyone else in their life.  I hope you all have someone who you can turn to for everything, whether it’s sharing a funny meme, fixing a leaky faucet, or a serious discussion about gender identity.

Coming out to your spouse, whether because you are caught or because you get to a point where you feel you must, is not easy.  In both of these situations there will be some very serious conversations and decisions.

Of course, there are always those who have accepted and embraced this part of them and want to come to their partner because they want to share this part of them.  On one hand it’s good that they are comfortable with who they are and they understand where they are in their (ugh) journey, but on the other hand it’s important that they are coming out for the right reasons and have realistic expectations.

Please do not assume your partner is going to be thrilled with this revelation.  They will (probably) not offer to hit the mall with you to expand your wardrobe or dress up with you and go out for dinner as girlfriends.  They aren’t going to look at this as a benefit because you have an expansive array of high quality makeup that they can borrow.

Yes, there are t-girls out there that have supportive and participating partners.  They join their spouses on shopping trips or help pick out clothes.  This will likely take time.  They still may be hurt, scared, and even upset at first.  Yes, it’s good you came out but it’s a side of you that should have been disclosed before your relationship got serious.

Regardless of how your partner learned about this side of you, your relationship has now significantly and irreversibly changed.  You can’t unring a bell, remember.  So, now what?

One scenario is the one every one of us hopes for.  The girlfriend scenario.  You and are spouse shop together, go out together, have girls nights in.  Your spouse is supportive and participates in your en femme activities.  Having supportive people in your life, particularly your wife, is a treasure and not something you should take for granted.

Another outcome is a spouse who is supportive, or is at least tolerant of this part of you.  They may set boundaries on what you do or where you go en femme.  They may request you don’t leave the house dressed up.  Or at least avoid certain parts of the city to reduce the risk of running into people you know.  They may request you do not post photos on line.  Sometimes I think partners in this scenario are the most patient and the most stressed.  They aren’t sure why we are who we are, but they know that this is an important part of us that we can’t deny or change.  They may prefer we don’t have this side, but they understand it’s not going away.

If you have boundaries or restrictions, please, please respect them.  You already put your partner through hell when you came out and there may still be lingering trust issues.  The last thing you should ever do to anyone is give them another reason to not trust you.  Lying about something you lied about before is a pattern.  Why should they believe you?

Coming out is the hardest thing some of us will ever do.  It’s not easy to explain to who we are.  It’s hard to put into words feelings and thoughts and experiences and desires that we have hidden from the world for our entire lives.  Telling someone, especially our partners reveals a side of us that we have protected for as long as we can remember.

Coming out is essentially opening your heart and hoping that it doesn’t get broken.  It leaves us at our most vulnerable.  We hope that our secret doesn’t drive someone away or get met with ridicule or worse.  We pray they keep our secret.  We want to still be loved.

Putting your heart on the line like that can strengthen a relationship.  When I came out to my wife she had long suspected there was… something about me that I kept from her.  She had no idea what and this was certainly the last thing she could have imagined.  But in the days and years after I told her and as my (ugh) journey progressed, we were honest about what was happening and what we were thinking and feeling in response to all this.  I was more open with her than I had ever been before.  Not only with this, but with everything.  I didn’t have any secrets anymore.  I had given her my heart in many ways, and this was no different.

Every relationship will deal with this in their own way. It wasn’t always easy for my wife.  This side of us never is easy for our partners.  Some relationships will find a way to make it work, some will enter into a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ dynamic.  The secret is out, discussions were had, and there is an understanding between two people that this will not be discussed any further.  Usually in this type of, well, let’s call it an agreement, the dressing will continue and they may go out of the house, but their partner doesn’t want to know the details or about anything related to this side of them.  Call it a compromise or an uneasy truce or a comfortable arrangement.

It’s important to acknowledge and understand that every partner will react to this side of you differently.  If they cannot accept this part of you, it does not make them a bad person.  This side of us is not easy to understand and we need to accept responsibility and own up to the fact that we entered into a committed relationship without being completely honest with them.

Yes, I know.  You didn’t want to come out because you thought this would scare them away.  I get it.  But you probably should have done it anyway.  I have had crossdressers tell me that they didn’t tell their wives about this part of them until after they were married because it would be too hard to back out after they said ‘I Do’.

Quite frankly, that is a really shitty thing to do.

I understand it’s terrifying to come out to anyone.  Will we be mocked?  Ridiculed?  Will they share our secret with everyone in your life?  It’s a risk to come out.  Believe me, I understand.  Coming out to your spouse adds a whole new possibility that most people want to avoid: divorce.

Yes, marriages end because of this.  Not every spouse can handle this side of us.  That doesn’t make either of you bad people.  I don’t necessarily think it’s simply the crossdressing that ends a committed marriage.  It does sometimes, but how you come out and the fallout is also a factor.

Nor being honest or forthcoming or being deceptive can damage any relationship regardless of what you are lying about.  If a relationship isn’t sustained by trust, than what is it built on?

Coming out is scary, but it can also be empowering.  It is wonderful to accept and embrace this side of you but we must be careful to not let this newfound confidence blind us to how we relate to others in our lives.  If you come out to your wife and tell her that this is who you are and she can’t change you and that this is how it’s going to be, well, that’s kind of abrasive.  Relationships are two people working and communicating together.  Not being considerate to how your partner is reacting or feeling isn’t fair, to say the least.

There’s no right way to come out.  There are many wrong ways to come out.  I don’t know how you should come out to your partner.  I do know that you need to be honest and kind.  Remember that this will forever change the dynamic between the two of you.  They will never look at you the same way again.  You just peeled back a layer of you that was hidden and to them, you are a different person and they see you in a new light.

Coming out to them is not unlike sharing with them difficult news.  I am not saying wearing panties is the equivalent of finding out that your job is being transferred 900 miles away or that you are bankrupt, but rather knowing that sharing this is something that will impact your relationship in an irreversible way, regardless of what direction the two of you take.

I understand marriage is not easy.  I understand that each relationship is different.  What works with two people will not necessarily work with another couple.  It’s up to you to decide what you choose to do in your relationship.  Coming out should always be a choice and personally it’s a choice I encourage you to make before your relationship gets serious.

Unringing a Bell

Many of us were, or perhaps even still, in denial about who we are and about what we want to wear.  Once we stop denying that we want to wear makeup, or heels, or panties, or… a latex french maid outfit, we begin to accept that this is who we are.

Once we accept it, in some ways, we feel a little powerless.  We are no longer denying our wishes or desires.  We have let our heart decide something for us and we have given something up.  We have given up our resistance.

Feeling beautiful has won.

And what’s wrong with that?  I think it’s wonderful.  We have denied, resisted, and ignored a part of us that wanted to wear a beautiful dress for too long.   This feeling became too strong, too loud, too persistent for us to ignore.  We have accepted that this is who we are.

You may finally admit to yourself that you are a crossdresser, or perhaps you identify as transgender, or maybe you aren’t ready, or don’t want to use a word quite yet about what this side of you is.  Don’t be in any hurry to label yourself. It will probably change over time anyway.

Acceptance is one thing.  You have acknowledged that this part of you isn’t going away, you can’t resist it, and despite years of purging, you always find your way back to the lingerie department or shoe store.  This isn’t a phase, you are not going to outgrow it, you aren’t going to change.

And why should you?  Why should I?  I’m not going to change.

Beyond acceptance is embracing this side of you.  Many of us take a long time to love and celebrate this part of themselves, if they ever get there at all.  The difference between acceptance and embracing comes down to, in my opinion, joy.

Yes, you have accepted you like wearing panties, but embrace this about yourself.  Let yourself find happiness in choosing what you will wear each day.  Have fun with this side of you.  Be excited.  Be curious.  Let yourself add the prettiest pair to your lingerie drawer.

Move beyond the feelings that haunted you before.  You’ve looked longingly at that dress at the mall for too long, now it’s time to add it to your closet.  Allow yourself to find happiness in shopping for a beautiful wardrobe.

Embracing this part of us can take a long time, but it can also go very quickly.  This is a good reminder to be aware of the Pink Fog.  Embracing this part of us is wonderful and its truly the best gift you can give yourself, but it’s important to use caution.

It’s tempting to want to share this part of us with people in our lives.  We have gotten over the self-imposed (and hopefully the society-imposed) taboo about breaking out of gender norms and gender roles.  We have decided to be happy, to be ourselves, no matter what box is checked on our drivers license.  We have conquered something internally, something that we wrestled with for too long.  We have made steps (even baby ones) to challenge what the world thinks a boy should wear.

We have become queens.

Or princesses.

Or french maids.

We want to share our victory with the world, or at least with the people in our lives.  We are ready to say that we have denied this part of ourselves for too long, but we have decided to love ourselves, to stop fighting who we are, and to present as any gender as we wish.  We are, and we should be, proud of ourselves.

We are living our truths.

I was at a point where I also wanted to share this side of me with the people in my life.  I felt as I had broken through the societal illusions and restrictions and boundaries of what gender was and what we were taught it should be.  I felt… enlightened.  I no longer thought I should deny who I was and I realized how… silly gender norms were.  I was told all my life boys don’t wear skirts but no one really knew why that was.  I felt like a rebel in a way, pushing back against something arbitrary but also in a way, strictly enforced.

Yes, this is a little extreme but when we conquer something, especially when we overcome something in ourselves that held us back for some long, a victory can come of as a little…. grandiose.

If I didn’t think it was a big deal to wear a dress, why would anyone?

Of course, it’s not that simple.  Coming out to my family resulted in varying, if not disappointing, outcomes.  Some of that is on me and the way I came out, but there’s nothing I can do about that now except learn from it for if and when I come out to anyone else in my life.

It’s natural and normal for us as people to want to share our victories and moments of enlightenment with others in our lives.  We get a raise, we hit a hole-in-one, go on an amazing vacation… these are things we share on Facebook.

But those are not the same kind of victories as embracing the part of you that wants to wear whatever you want to wear.  This is a complicated and at the same time, a very simple thing to understand.  It’s complicated because people want to know why we are who we are, but there really isn’t a satisfying answer for anyone.  It’s simple because, well, it is what is.  We just want to wear makeup, or heels, or panties or a latex french maid outfit and that’s all there is to it.

Still, the feeling of wanting to break free and sharing this side of us persists.  It grows, it subsides, ebbs and flows.  Like a river, it can rage or slowly flow.  This feeling, along with getting lost in the fog can lead to coming out to others in our lives that…well, they don’t really need (or want) to know.

We have to think clearly and thoroughly about who we come out to, as well as why we want to.  Being honest with our significant others, partners, spouses, yes, that is a given.  But what about the others in our lives?  Do our siblings need to know?  Do your children?  Parents?  Friends?  Co-workers?  Mailman?

Did my mom and siblings need to know?  No.  No, they did not.  So, if they didn’t need to know, then why did I come out to them?  Simply put, I wanted to share this part of me, this literal other half of myself.  I was happy with who I was, I was proud that I found who I was.  I wanted them to know me as both of the genders I identified as.

I wanted to go out for coffee with my mom, to shop with my sisters.

Again, coming out to them was met with an outcome that wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I had to take a chance.

For those like myself who live in-between, it’s a little different than those who feel they want to live full-time, take hormones and/or transition.  I do not think that anyone else needs to know about Hannah.  If I come out to anyone else it’s because I want to.

So, do I want to?  Sometimes.  Not often.  Sometimes I feel like being honest with a few close friends, not necessarily because I want them to know Hannah (but there is that) but because they are lifelong friends and this is an important part of who I am.  I can’t really put my finger on it, but sometimes I feel that I should be honest with them.

There were times in the early days when I was lost in the fog and almost came out to others.  Looking back I am so glad I didn’t.  Coming out then would have been a mistake.  Like coming out to my family, I lacked the perspective that I have now.  I didn’t know myself then as I do now.  Once you come out, then it’s out there.  You can’t unring a bell, there are no second chances.  Believe me, I know.

Some of this seems contradictory to my core beliefs.  I believe that we are beautiful and whole and who we are should be embraced and celebrated.  We should not feel ashamed about what we wear or about our gender identity or how we present.  We should be honest with ourselves and with others.

However, I also believe that who we are cannot really be explained.  It’s not easy to understand why anyone is the way they are.  No one really asks someone why they like to golf or why they like wearing a certain color.  These are hobbies and preferences that make someone who they are.  But when you come out and say that you love wearing skirts or nightgowns then we are hit with an endless amount of questions.

Yes, I know wearing a dress is not the same thing as driving a little cart around a golf course, but I think you see my point.

Who we are is easily misunderstood.  Aside from being honest, there’s no right way to come out to someone.  If I had a second chance to come out to my family, I would certainly do it differently.  I would choose my words more carefully.  I would be more clear because it is important to control the narrative.  If you aren’t direct and honest, then it is easy for someone to misinterpret or misunderstand this part of you.  I know it’s not easy for us to understand why we are who we are, let alone someone else understanding it.

Coming out to someone is trusting them with something that could have a significant impact on your life.  Come out to a co-worker?  They could report you to Human Resources and as of this writing it is legal for you to be fired for being transgender in 26 states.

Who we are is beautiful but easily misunderstood.  We are feared and hated.  We need to be safe at all times and that has as much to do with being aware of our surroundings as well as being careful as to who we come out to.  I hope for a day when things gender identity and gender presentation are as boring and as commonplace as golf, but I don’t think that day is coming anytime soon.

Love, Hannah

Let it Go

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.

It stung.

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.

Love, Hannah