Even after proclaiming my preferred pronouns, few people had come on board. Or rather, I’d made little effort to change the status quo. People had no way of knowing that my pronouns weren’t what they used to be, unless I would explicitly tell them. And “explicitly telling others” is not my strong suit.
For over a year I’ve been trying to find a way to come out, to shout from the rooftops that I’m trans – my gender is not what you think it is. But every time I saw a slight opening, the chance slipped by me. “Perhaps I’m not ready” I assured myself. Indeed, I believe things happen when you’re ready; conversely, if you aren’t making them happen yet, you’re not really ready. At least that’s how it works for me.
I wanted to come out, and at the same time avoid telling people directly. What a conundrum! My solution was to come out in a very public yet subtle, way.
I was in the process of redoing my personal online portfolio – given my profession of web person extraordinaire, this is essentailly your resumé. So I made a few key decisions: to display my new name prominently, to showcase my spunky personality, and to clarify, among other things, my gender. So in a quirky “super secret FAQ section” (which is not so secret, it’s just at the very end) I explicitly laid out that I live authentically as gender neutral, that I prefer the use of masculine pronouns, that I am an aspiring transgender activist who wishes to remain semi-anonymous, and that I’d gladly answer any further non-intrusive questions about this in person.
Once complete, I posted my new portfolio for my friends (and the world) to see.
For someone who has been extremely private about their entire transition for nearly two years, this was a big step. The nerves piled up as to what types of undoable consequences this would bring upon all facets of my life.
Long Distance Friends
There are a few close friends who I interact with primarily online. Once I posted the link, a couple of them commented or sent me a message about my new portfolio. Since I keep smart friends, it was no surprise they all pointed out some typos. What was curious is that they all chose to call out the same particular section – specifically, the one where I mention I’m trans – although they were treating it as just any other sentence with a grammar faux-paus.
Much like my own style, they were indirectly trying to let me know the message had been received, and all was well. I even shared the blog with one of them!
One of my (now-ex) co-workers was ecstatic to finally uncover the truth behind my “secret double life,” as I usually refer to my mysterious trips and absences. Labelling the FAQs as “secret” further enabled her to feel like a proud insider who was finally “in on it,” forgoing the fact that this is now public information and that I hadn’t quite revealed everything.
The timing of my public coming out was ideal in that I was preparing to leave my job for another one. When she took on the task of sending my goodbye email to the entire company, she informed me she was going to draft it without pronouns. Upon realizing this was a much more difficult task than had been foreseen (but boy did she try!) she stated, matter of factly, that she’d simply refer to me as “he,” and the matter was settled. She even prepared to ward off any possible consternation from other coworkers.
I didn’t want to bother coming out at this job because it would be a major hassle, and I was leaving soon anyway. But in the end, I not only came out to the whole company, I didn’t even have to do anything myself.
One of our closest friends here is a husband and wife couple who share our love for computer nerdery and people watching. He had already caught on to my discomfort with the gender binary, but is way too polite to ever ask about anything remotely private. He awkardly chugged along, avoiding pronouns as he went and generally trying his best to be respectful without really knowing what he should be doing.
He and I met up that Friday to catch up. He kept looking towards me expectantly, waiting for me to make the announcement official. Sure, I had just published this publicly, but I still wasn’t prepared to bring it up at dinner. Finally, he broke down and said “It’s killing me. Will you just tell me already what name and pronoun I should call you by?” All he wanted was to know the right way to refer to me. With my ever-signature move of saying nothing with a lot of words, my unconscious found a way to sneakily reply without actually answering his question. Sometimes I’m such a terrible friend. He was forced to ask the question again, this time phrasing it as a yes-or-no question, to which I meekily responded “yes.”
Later next week his wife kept trying to schedule lunch or dinner. It was unusual for her to be so insistent, but I just assumed it was because we hadn’t seen each other in a while. Which is why when she brought up my coming out at dinner I was slightly taken aback, especially since usually she’s the oblivious one (clearly I’m not far behind). As she was trying to wrap her head around the notion that now I’m suddenly trans even though nothing has really changed (she really was pretty oblivious to it) we ordered sushi and talked about this and that and the other.
One thing that has stood out is that, very early on in the conversation, everybody asks the same question: “and what does your significant other think?” What do you mean what does she think? It’s not like this suddenly came out of nowhere and she had no idea! I honestly don’t know what to respond, so I stare blankly back, until they realize that what they’re asking is completely ridiculous.
My good friend eventually answered herself: “Well, I guess if my husband told me he wanted to be a girl, I wouldn’t care either.”