I remember the anxiety of the day I had selected to out my gender identity to the majority of those I knew. The act of doing so was an event that I had anticipated for some time, once I realized my own truth. That was a silent war of its own, but I had conquered that vast terrain of self discovery, so I was ready for everyone else to know. It was supposed to be the last major step, right? Spoiler alert: it was not.
In July of 2018, I wrote a lengthy Facebook post for those that had not been made aware that I preferred to be called by a different name, and my reasons behind that choice. While some might scoff at that, I am a shy person by nature, and discussing it was a huge milestone in itself. That I chose the medium of Facebook did not diminish the anxiety or fear that I experienced over this time regarding the next phase of my life. On the post itself, I received only positive reactions and supportive comments. However, I knew that would not be the end of it.
Since then, I have come out to various people, such as those who I had not known in July of 2018, people who don’t pay attention to Facebook, or others who chose to ignore what I had written. Some of them were easy, while a handful of interactions left much to be desired. Overall, it has gone better than I expected so far, to say the least. However, that, was only the first hill to conquer in my newly found journey of transparency, even if I did not know it then.
From my time on certain sites, such as Tumblr or other LGBT+ spaces across various platforms, misgendering, utilizing the wrong pronouns for someone, or dead naming, are held up as prime examples of being a terrible ally, etc. In my experience, it is not always so, no matter how frustrating or soul crushing it can be when it happens. In truth, I had not anticipated encountering these sort of situations when I began coming out, because I assumed that given the amount of positivity around me, it would have been like a light switch to flip, right?
For people who have known an individual for any length of time in various capacities, especially in closer platonic or romantic relationships, it can be difficult to shift away from years of ingrained habits. I am aware that this opinion contradicts expectations that I have found in other LGBT+ people I’ve known, but it’s realistic in some circumstances. In the beginning, I fell prey to the assumption that if the switch was not automatic, then that meant they cared less about my feelings, and more for their own complacency. However, in some cases, it is not an indication of whether or not your friend or family member cares. The slower reaction to requested change is merely a product of having known someone else by one way for so long.
This is not to say that people should get passes for inaction, because anyone who elects to feign ignorance should be afforded no lee way. However, for those being proactive for the sake of respecting you and how you wish to be identified, but occasionally slip up? They’re the ones worth the time and effort. Despite popular belief amongst some, it is not quite as simple as each of us wish it could be, as past events in my own life have shown.
So, where does that leave me in all of this, and how do I feel now?
Well, I can say that who I am has not changed, but how I present myself has, especially around people who know me. I feel more confident in who I am, because I can be real with the people in my life that matter. For so long, I was unable to do that, and it made me into someone I could not stand seeing in the mirror every single day. Now, whether that be for my actions throughout the previous day due to residual anger, or the depression and anxiety that wreaked havoc on my existence throughout those times of suppression, it all played a part in the loathing of my physical and self images. Since I have been allowed to let everyone in on my secret, that has abated, for the most part. The times it hasn’t, well, that’s a topic for another day. Overall though, coming out to the vast majority of those I interact with on a social level has largely changed my life for the better
With that being said, as I mentioned before, and Jackson Bird did in a video he made a while back, “No matter how it went, I bet you’re relieved it’s finally out there and done with. A big weight lifted off of your shoulders. Well, get ready to do it all over again. And again. And again. And again. For the rest of your damn life.” This, as I have learned over time, could not be more accurate.
In stark contrast to that statement, I feel it is worth acknowledging that regardless of political climate or your confidence in yourself, there will be places or people that are not safe to out yourself around. As hard as that is to face, no matter how open you are in specific portions of your life, there may be others where you cannot be. This may depend upon, but is not limited to, where you live, who you live around, who you are employed to, or how such a revelation could affect you or those around you. It’s heart wrenching, and unfair, but necessary in some cases. However, each person and how they choose to reveal who they are in each setting is up to their discretion, because safety is priority.
In that same vein, I too feel the pressure to conceal who I am at times, for my sake or my family’s. I hail from the Southern portion of the United States where identifying yourself as someone outside of the expected is met with harsh criticism from a good portion of people. In some cases, it is mere hostile words or glances, but in others, hate fueled ignorant rage has led to torture and death for some LGBT+ individuals. I am also a military spouse. These two factors have contributed to my reluctance of who I out myself to, because it does not just affect me, but our entire family. The military in recent times has become more accepting overall, and I am just a spouse. However, given that there is still the possibility of travelling to states that are not as friendly to LGBT+ people as the one we live in now, as well as the fact we interact with people from everywhere across the U.S. and political spectrum, I choose to withhold my identity past my social circles, for the time being. In the future, should it be available, I will change my driver’s license and possibly even my birth certificate. Until then, this is what we have chosen, and I am more than happy to comply.
In conclusion, my experience with coming out is mine. Each person who discovers that it is inevitable for themselves may have similarities, but we are all as unique as each color of the rainbow, and our experiences will reflect that. My expectations leading up to the actual event, and the subsequent time after, were different in contrast to what occurred, but that does not make them wrong. I am grateful for the support network I do have in my life, and even if it’s not exactly how I imagined it, coming out was the right thing to do, because looking back from this side of the fence, I could not imagine going back.