I realized I was a girl in January of 2008. It felt like the world had been kicked out from under me. I locked the door, drew the blinds, shut off the lights and set up an anonymizing onion router and began ever so slowly my research. Every moment I was terrified, ashamed, exhilarated. It suddenly made sense for me to have increasingly long daydreams about waking up in a girl’s body and being fine with it.
It took me more than a year to feel safe enough to come out of the closet. That’s probably the first surprising thing I learned about being queer: the closet isn’t all bad. At first, it’s kinda nice. It feels safe. You’re hiding, and they can’t see you, can’t see the you that you aren’t ready to show them yet. But then the air gets thick, and the walls start to stifle you. You begin to resent the lies and the omissions and the delicately steered conversations. Eventually, the refuge becomes a prison.
And so in March of 2009, I flew down from Portland to tell my friends in Santa Cruz that I was a girl. It went better than I could have possibly imagined. The first thing that happened to me after I came out was for a very dear friend of mine to hug me and tell me she was proud of me for coming out. The rest of my friends were also supportive, but nothing ever matched that high point. Nothing ever could. It’s the best thing that could have happened to me at that moment, and I cherish it always.
Telling my family has not gone as well. My mother was the first family member I told. She’d come up to visit me in Portland, and we’d walked around the city for a while. I steered us towards a park on the waterfront and we found a tree to sit under. We talked for a bit, and then I told her. I said that I had distanced myself from her for the past several years because I was trying to figure out who I was, but that I had started to find out and I’d like us to be closer from then on. She smiled and reached out to squeeze my hand. I said that part of me figuring out who I am was coming to terms with the fact, and my voice faltered, with the fact that I am transgendered.
She recoiled. She pulled her hand away.
By the end of the trip I’d convinced her that we could get through it, and by the time she was leaving I’d convinced myself that it had gone well.
But she had recoiled.
Months later, telling Dad on the phone was a similar experience. My parents don’t try to stop me, don’t try to stamp the queer out of me, and for that I am grateful. But I can’t help but notice how they act now, like I’m either a misbehaving child or an alien or both. [Edit: I’ve decided that this statement isn’t terribly fair to my father, who I’ve only seen in person once since coming out to him on the phone. To his credit, he didn’t act any differently towards me, but I’m not sure how much of that was because my grandparents were present and I was presenting as male for their benefit. I suppose I’ll learn more about his thoughts on this when I inform him of my intention to transition.]
It makes me wonder if they’ll ever accept me again. I don’t want to lose them. But if I do, I know I have a new family I can go to. My wonderful friends who have stuck by me through this, and who I love very much. I feel so lucky to have them.