Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Importance of Coming Out

By Ryan

Coming out is important to me. I know for some people, it’s not a big deal — they can really take it or leave it. For others, it’s this awkward thing that would perhaps better be circumvented by dropping hints, letting people draw their own conclusions, or an offhand remark about their past (prior to transitioning or coming out as not being cisgendered). And all that is fine; however people choose to come out, or not come out, is their business.

For me, though, it’s important to directly, explicitly come out as trans. Part of this is for people who knew me before — before I started to use different pronouns, before I started going by Ryan, mostly before I moved to Chicago. I can drop all of the hints I want, I can go on for ages about how awesome GQC is, and unless I specifically tell them that I’m trans, they’ll still consider me a woman (after all, the clothes can be attributed to me being a “lesbian,” and the interest in trans issues can be attributed either to my involvement with the LBGT community or to my concentration in Gender and Sexuality in college, including my thesis on dismantling the binary systems of gender and sex).

I don’t pass as a guy — mentioning that I went to an all-girls school for high school and one of the Seven Sisters (one of the few that hasn’t gone “co-ed”) for college won’t discreetly out me. Dropping a comment about being a Girl Scout for years in lower school won’t make people realize I’m trans. Saying anything about my girlhood will just reinforce ideas that I am a woman.

Without explicitly saying that I’m trans, or that I don’t identify as a woman, people in general just don’t get it. And I want that recognition. It’s important to me that the people I care about know who I am, and this is part of who I am. I hate — I hate — feeling like I’m hiding who I am. I hate feeling as though I’m trying to censor what I’m saying so that people don’t realize I’m trans — so that I can control how they find out in a way I choose. I hate being in closets.

For me, coming out is like clearing the air. It’s introducing myself as who I am, not who people want or expect me to be. If people take exception to who I truly am, well, I suppose that in the end, it’s best to know that now. For me, coming out is freeing. It’s liberating. It’s the beginning of something new.

When people think I’m a woman, it feels as though there’s this chasm between us that only I can see. They only know so much about me, about who I feel myself to be, about what’s important to me. There are secrets and things left unsaid between us that push us apart. For me, being out is the only way to have truly authentic relationships with people. I can’t really be myself — they can’t really see me as myself — if I’m assumed to be a woman.

Am I placing too much importance on whether or not people know I’m trans? Perhaps. I don’t really care, though — it simply is that important to me, and I’m learning to accept that. Luckily, I’m developing a support network that can help me deal with whatever fallout there may be from coming out. I’m realizing that being out is necessary for me to live an authentic existence.
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